To the Death? A Re-examination of the Stakes of Encounters Between Philosophy and Literature Since 1945
Kingston University, London
Supervisor: Professor Peter Osborne
This research seeks to examine the state and stakes of the relationship between philosophy and literature by returning to some key moments in the recent history of the two disciplines when their interaction was most productive. The research takes off from the meeting in 1967 between the poet Paul Celan and the philosopher Martin Heidegger, and will use this as a structural motif around which to stage a series of encounters that will provide tools for a reconceptualization of the category of ‘literature’. The second encounter takes place in the 1980s and 1990s when work by Derrida, Nancy, Lacoue-Labarthe and others was received within the context of the Anglo-American academy in the form of literary theory. Literature, at this time, became the site where philosophers who wanted to think outside their disciplinary boundaries found they were able to operate. The influence of Heidegger’s thinking was at its peak within French philosophy at this time. By returning to the intellectual meeting between Derrida and Levinas the stakes of the meeting between Celan and Heidegger may be reframed and brought into the present in order to examine a contemporary manifestation of the earlier debate. The final section will examine ways in which contemporary queer and feminist autofiction can be read through the frame of the relationship between philosophy and literature. Beatriz Preciado’s Testo-Junkie represents an act of both literary mourning and philosophical conceptualization. Preciado him/herself categorizes the work as literature and the book will be used to reanimate the question of philosophy’s capacity for mourning, and whether it requires the literary in order to do so, returning by circuitous routes to Celan’s demand that Heidegger offer a word of expiation that he could not give.