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The End of the World and Other Teachable Moments: Jacques Derrida's Final Seminar

The End of the World and Other Teachable Moments: Jacques Derrida's Final Seminar

Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    The End of the World and Other Teachable Moments: Jacques Derrida's Final Seminar
    Book Description:

    The End of the World and Other Teachable Moments follows the remarkable itinerary of Jacques Derrida's final seminar, "The Beast and the Sovereign" (2001-3), as the explicit themes of the seminar namely, sovereignty and the question of the animal come to be supplemented and interrupted by questions of death, mourning, survival, the archive, and, especially, the end of the world. The book begins with Derrida's analyses, in the first year of the seminar, of the question of the animal in the context of his other published works on the same subject. It then follows Derrida through the second year of the seminar, presented in Paris from December 2002 to March 2003, as a very different tone begins to make itself heard, one that wavers between melancholy and an extraordinary lucidity with regard to the end. Focusing the entire year on just two works, Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe and Martin Heidegger's seminar of 1929-30, "The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics," the seminar comes to be dominated by questions of the end of the world and of an originary violence that at once gives rise to and effaces all things. The End of the World and Other Teachable Moments follows Derrida as he responds from week to week to these emerging questions, as well as to important events unfolding around him, both world events the aftermath of 9/11, the American invasion of Iraq and more personal ones, from the death of Maurice Blanchot to intimations of his own death less than two years away. All this, the book concludes, makes this final seminar an absolutely unique work in Derrida's corpus, one that both speaks of death as the end of the world and itself now testifies to that end just one, though hardly the least, of its many teachable moments.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-6332-5
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. List of Abbreviations of Works by Jacques Derrida
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  2. Introduction: Derrida’s Other Corpus
    (pp. 1-16)

    Those who had the good fortune to attend even a single session of a Jacques Derrida seminar know just what a chance, what a boon—just what an event—the project to publish the entire series of his seminars represents for anyone interested in his work. Admired by readers and scholars the world over at the time of his death in October 2004 for the more than seventy books he had published during his lifetime, Derrida was known to his students perhaps first and foremost as an engaging lecturer and an exemplary pedagogue who, every Wednesday afternoon in his seminar...

  3. 1 Derrida’s Flair (For the Animals to Follow . . .)
    (pp. 17-40)

    You have to hand it to him: He had a certain flair, Jacques Derrida did, and it was for that that he was often criticized, sometimes even denounced, and especially by other philosophers. He had a certain flair in his person, to be sure, but especially in his language, in the way he did philosophy, in what we naïvely like to call hisstyle, and this is no doubt what drew the greatest fire from his detractors. He had a flair for language, true, but also for argument, for the ways in which philosophical argument must always be tracked through...

  4. 2 “If you could take just two books . . .”: Derrida at the Ends of the World with Heidegger and Robinson Crusoe
    (pp. 41-61)

    It began, no doubt, as an exercise in wistful speculation, an entertaining thought experiment, what they call in Frenchune hypothèse d’école, and at some point it became a popular parlor game and a good final-round question for all the dating games of the world: “If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and you could take justtwo bookswith you, what two books would you take?”¹ During the academic year 2002–2003, in the course of what would turn out to be his final seminar, the second year ofThe Beast and the Sovereign, Jacques...

  5. 3 To Die a Living Death: Phantasms of Burial and Cremation
    (pp. 62-82)

    “Do not read until after my death,” “To be opened only after I am gone”: such messages have no doubt been with us in some form or other since the very beginning of writing. Attached to good-bye notes or last wills and testaments of various kinds, they bear witness in a striking and undeniably powerful way to the absence of the author from what he or she has written. But as Jacques Derrida will have taught us from the very beginning of his work,allwriting is testamentary in precisely this way, not just those writings explicitly labeled “last will...

  6. 4 Reinventing the Wheel: Of Sovereignty, Autobiography, and Deconstruction
    (pp. 83-103)

    I begin this chapter—this central chapter on the question of sovereignty and autobiography inThe Beast and the Sovereign—a little closer to home, that is, with a line that comes not from Derrida, Heidegger, or Defoe but from the American poet Maya Angelou.¹ I do so because this brief, elliptical sentence will lead us straight back—though only after a rather long detour—to several of the central themes and concerns of Derrida’s seminar.

    “I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself”: it’s a seemingly simple but upon reflection a rather...

  7. 5 Pray Tell: Derrida’s Performative Justice
    (pp. 104-124)

    If the second year ofThe Beast and the Sovereignseminar seems in many ways to pick up where the first year left off, if it returns throughout the year to its explicit and announced theme, the relationship between the animal and the human, the beast and the sovereign, other themes such as autobiography, burial rituals, the phantasm, and, as we are about to see, prayer, mourning, and the archive, begin creeping in so as to give the seminar a very different tone and orientation. These shifts in theme and tone become in fact so pronounced that it is hard...

  8. 6 Derrida’s Preoccupation with the Archive
    (pp. 125-141)

    “L’archivepré-occupel’avenir,” says Derrida in an interview published in theCahiers du Cinémain 2001, “the archivepre-occupiesthe future.”¹ In this one brief phrase, buried in a relatively obscure corner of the Derridean corpus, we find the already divided essence of Derrida’s thinking inThe Beast and the Sovereignand elsewhere about the archive, about what might be called the two sources or twoarchaiof the archive, that is, the archive as both threat and promise, turned toward both the past and the future, at once commencement and commandment.

    The archive preoccupies the future and so preoccupies...

  9. 7 “World, Finitude, Solitude”: Derrida’s Walten
    (pp. 142-166)

    “World, Finitude, Solitude”: these are, of course, not Derrida’s words but Heidegger’s, words Derrida borrows from Heidegger’s seminar of 1929–30,The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude, and then follows throughout the second year ofThe Beast and the Sovereign. The words are Heidegger’s and yet Derrida seems to have chosen to make them his own, or at least to make them the focus of an entire year of his seminar, of what would be, to repeat it again, his final seminar. What are we to make of this “choice” or this “decision”—and of the event, the...

  10. Conclusion: Désormais
    (pp. 167-172)

    FromJetoWalten, from French to German, from the first-person pronoun to a verbal noun that borders on a proper name that had already been marked and analyzed in “Force of Law” as a sort of signature, Derrida seems to sign with the name and in the language of the other as the sign of an identity or an ipseity that necessarily inscribes itself in the world and, in an autoimmune fashion, loses itself in the world. The countersignature of this sovereignWaltenwould thus seem to suggest that there can never be a sovereign or master term, that...