10:30 AM to 11:45 AM MW
Section Information for Fall 2020
The focus of this course will be the way that the question of language has engaged European thought for the past 50 years. Our points of contact will be key texts by Jacques Derrida, Julia Kristeva, Giorgio Agamben and Adriana Cavarero. These thinkers do not engage with what might be called ‘the science of language’ (concerning e.g. the structure of meaning, the possibility of communication, the logic of grammar, etc.). Instead, in this Continental tradition, language becomes a point of departure for new thinking. That is, language is not an object of a science but a particularly interesting ‘unknown’ (to borrow Kristeva’s description) in the midst of philosophical thought. For Derrida, the opacity of language becomes the fulcrum for a critique of the metaphysics of presence. Kristeva asks how it is that language is possible at all and in so doing develops an account of semiotics that decenters the subject/ego. As part of the next generation of Continental thought, Agamben and Cavarero seize upon the space opened by the postmodern critiques of Derrida (truth) and Kristeva (selfhood) to recast language as politically grounded in an extra-linguistic unsayable (Agamben) or a materiality of the voice (Cavarero). For each of these four thinkers, language is inescapable and therefore must be diligently rethought and continuously re-engaged philosophically.