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Texts and Bodies

  • Thomas de Zengotita
Chapter
Part of the Political Philosophy and Public Purpose book series (POPHPUPU)

Abstract

This chapter delivers on this book’s promise: it clarifies what the notoriously difficult seminal texts of French theory were saying and doing. Three claims anchor this account: first, these thinkers were abandoning the abstractions of structuralism and returning to performance (parole) and to history—but without allowing the subject to return to the stage. Second, they were preserving the appearance of an affiliation with Marx (or at least with his materialism) when in fact their vision of history was becoming more and more Nietzschean. And third, they were profoundly influenced by radical modernists in the arts—by the surrealists, most of all, but also Mallarme, Artaud, James Joyce, and other violators of literary convention. They were experimenting with academic discourses in analogous ways. The syntactic and lexical contortions for which the seminal texts of French theory are known were determined by these three conditions.

Four thinkers are considered in some detail. Barthes and Derrida represent the textualistes, theorists who pursued their subversive aims in terms of language, writing, and texts. Deleuze and Foucault represent the desirants, who pursued the same subversive aims in collaboration with forces, with desire. Both parties reached for the limits of conventional conceptuality—and beyond.

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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas de Zengotita
    • 1
  1. 1.New York UniversityNew YorkUSA

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