Title of the Letter, The: A Reading of Lacan

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This book is a close reading of Jacques Lacan’s seminal essay, “The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious or Reason Since Freud, ” selected for the particular light it casts on Lacan’s complex relation to linguistics, psychoanalysis, and philosophy. It clarifies the way Lacan renews or transforms the psychoanalytic field, through his diversion of Saussure’s theory of the sign, his radicalization of Freud’s fundamental concepts, and his subversion of dominant philosophical values. The authors argue, however, that Lacan’s discourse is marked by a deep ambiguity: while he invents a new “language,” he nonetheless maintains the traditional metaphysical motifs of systemacity, foundation, and truth.
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About the author

Jean-Luc Nancy and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe are Professors of Philosophy at the University of Strasbourg, France. They are the authors of The Literary Absolute, also published by SUNY Press. Nancy is also the author of The Inoperative Community. Lacoue-Labarthe authored Typography.

François Raffoul is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

David Pettigrew teaches philosophy at Southern Connecticut State University.

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Publisher
SUNY Press
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Pages
151
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ISBN
9781438414102
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / General
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This content is DRM protected.
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Christian parables have retained their force well beyond the sphere of religion; indeed, they share with much of modern literature their status as a form of address: Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.There is no message without there first being-or, more subtly, without there also being in the message itself-an address to a capacity or an aptitude for listening. This is not an exhortation of the kind Pay attention!Rather, it is a warning: if you do not understand, the message will go away.The scene in the Gospel of John in which the newly risen Christ enjoins the Magdalene, Noli me tangere,a key moment in the general parable made up of his life, is a particularly good example of this sudden appearance in which a vanishing plays itself out. Resurrected, he speaks, makes an appeal, and leaves.Do not touch me.Beyond the Christ story, this everyday phrase says something important about touching in general. It points to the place where touching must not touch in order to carry out its touch (its art, its tact, its grace). The title essay of this volume is both a contribution to Nancy's project of a deconstruction of Christianityand an exemplum of his remarkable writings on art, in analyses of Noli me tangerepaintings by such painters as Rembrandt, Drer, Titian, Pontormo, Bronzino, and Correggio. It is also in tacit dialogue with Jacques Derrida's monumental tribute to Nancy's work in Le toucher-Jean-Luc Nancy.For the English-language edition, Nancy has added an unpublished essay on the Magdalene and the English translation of In Heaven and on the Earth,a remarkable lecture he gave in a series designed to address children between six and twelve years of age. Closely aligned with his entire project of the deconstruction of Christianity,'this lecture may give the most accesible account of his ideas about God.
The Animal That Therefore I Am is the long-awaited translation of the complete text of Jacques Derrida's ten-hour address to the 1997 Crisy conference entitled The Autobiographical Animal, the third of four such colloquia on his work. The book was assembled posthumously on the basis of two published sections, one written and recorded session, and one informal recorded session. The book is at once an affectionate look back over the multiple roles played by animals in Derrida's work and a profound philosophical investigation and critique of the relegation of animal life that takes place as a result of the distinction-dating from Descartes-between man as thinking animal and every other living species. That starts with the very fact of the line of separation drawn between the human and the millions of other species that are reduced to a single the animal.Derrida finds that distinction, or versions of it, surfacing in thinkers as far apart as Descartes, Kant, Heidegger, Lacan, and Levinas, and he dedicates extended analyses tothe question in the work of each of them.The book's autobiographical theme intersects with its philosophical analysis through the figures of looking and nakedness, staged in terms of Derrida's experience when his cat follows him into the bathroom in the morning. In a classic deconstructive reversal, Derrida asks what this animal sees and thinks when it sees this naked man. Yet the experiences of nakedness and shame also lead all the way back into the mythologies of man's dominion over the beastsand trace a history of how man has systematically displaced onto the animal his own failings or btises. The Animal That Therefore I Am is at times a militant plea and indictment regarding, especially, the modern industrialized treatment of animals. However, Derrida cannot subscribe to a simplistic version of animal rights that fails to follow through, in all its implications, the questions and definitions of lifeto which he returned in much of his later work.
Christian parables have retained their force well beyond the sphere of religion; indeed, they share with much of modern literature their status as a form of address: Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.There is no message without there first being-or, more subtly, without there also being in the message itself-an address to a capacity or an aptitude for listening. This is not an exhortation of the kind Pay attention!Rather, it is a warning: if you do not understand, the message will go away.The scene in the Gospel of John in which the newly risen Christ enjoins the Magdalene, Noli me tangere,a key moment in the general parable made up of his life, is a particularly good example of this sudden appearance in which a vanishing plays itself out. Resurrected, he speaks, makes an appeal, and leaves.Do not touch me.Beyond the Christ story, this everyday phrase says something important about touching in general. It points to the place where touching must not touch in order to carry out its touch (its art, its tact, its grace). The title essay of this volume is both a contribution to Nancy's project of a deconstruction of Christianityand an exemplum of his remarkable writings on art, in analyses of Noli me tangerepaintings by such painters as Rembrandt, Drer, Titian, Pontormo, Bronzino, and Correggio. It is also in tacit dialogue with Jacques Derrida's monumental tribute to Nancy's work in Le toucher-Jean-Luc Nancy.For the English-language edition, Nancy has added an unpublished essay on the Magdalene and the English translation of In Heaven and on the Earth,a remarkable lecture he gave in a series designed to address children between six and twelve years of age. Closely aligned with his entire project of the deconstruction of Christianity,'this lecture may give the most accesible account of his ideas about God.
Jean-Luc Nancy's On the Commerce of Thinking concerns the particular communication of thoughts that takes place by means of the business of writing, producing, and selling books. His reflection is born out of his relation to the bookstore, in the first place his neighborhood one, but beyond that any such perfumery, rotisserie, patisserie,as he calls them, dispensaries of scents and flavors through which something like a fragrance or bouquet of the book is divined, presumed, sensed.On the Commerce of Thinking is thus not only something of a semiology of the specific cultural practice that begins with the unique character of the writer's voice and culminates in a customer crossing the bookstore threshold, package under arm, on the way home to a comfortable chair, but also an understated yet persuasive plea in favor of an endangered species. In evoking the peddler who, in times past, plied the streets with books and pamphlets literally hanging off him, Nancy emphasizes the sensuality of this commerce and reminds us that this form of consumerism is like no other, one that ends in an experience-reading-that is the beginning of a limitless dispersion, metamorphosis, and dissemination of ideas. Making, selling, and buying books has all the elements of the exchange economy that Marx analyzed--from commodification to fetishism--yet each book retains throughout an absolute and unique value, that of its subject. With reading, it gets repeatedly reprinted and rebound. For Nancy, the book thus functions only if it remains at the same time open and shut, like some Moebius strip. Closed, it represents the Idea and takes its place in a canon by means of its monumental form and the title and author's name displayed on its spine. But it also opens itself to us, indeed consents to being shaken to its core, in being read each time anew.
Identity: Fragments, Frankness is a rich and powerful essay on the notion of identity and on how it operates in our contemporary world. In contrast to the various attempts to cling to established identities or to associate identity with dubious agendas, Nancy shows that an identity is always open to alterity and its transformations. Against cynical initiatives that seek to instrumentalize the question of identity in an attempt to manipulate sentiment against immigration, Nancy problematizes anew the notions of identity, nation, and national identity. He seeks to show that there is never a given identity but always an open process of identification that retains an exposure to difference. Thus identity can never operate as a self-identical subject, such as "the French." Ultimately, for Nancy, one does not have an identity but has to become one. One can never return to a self-same identity but can only seek to locate oneself within difference and singularity. Nancy shows the impasse of a certain conception of identity that he calls the "identity of the identifiable," which refers to some permanent, given, substantial identity. In opposition to such identity, Nancy offers the identity of whatever or whoever invents itself in an open process of exposure to others and internal difference. Hence, an identity is never given but "makes itself by seeking and inventing itself." One does not have an identity, but is an identity. Identity is an act, not a state. This important book will provide much-needed philosophical clarification of a complex and strategic notion at the center of many current events and discussions.
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