Philosophy:Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe

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Short description: French philosopher, literary critic, and translator
Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe
Born6 March 1940
Tours, France
Died28 January 2007(2007-01-28) (aged 66)
Paris, France
Era20th-century philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolContinental philosophy
InstitutionsUniversity of Strasbourg
Main interests
Literary criticism
Notable ideas
The literary Absolute (L'Absolu littéraire)

Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe (/ləˈk ləˈbɑːrt/ lə-KOO lə-BART, French: [laku labaʁt]; 6 March 1940 – 28 January 2007) was a French philosopher. He was also a literary critic and translator. Lacoue-Labarthe published several influential works with his friend Jean-Luc Nancy.

Lacoue-Labarthe was influenced by and wrote extensively on Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, German Romanticism, Paul Celan, and Gérard Granel.[1] He also translated works by Heidegger, Celan, Friedrich Nietzsche, Friedrich Hölderlin, and Walter Benjamin into French.

Lacoue-Labarthe was a member and president of the Collège international de philosophie.


Collaboration with Jean-Luc Nancy

Lacoue-Labarthe wrote several books and articles in collaboration with Jean-Luc Nancy, a colleague at the Université Marc Bloch in Strasbourg. Early collaborations included Le Titre de la lettre: une lecture de Lacan (1973; trans., The Title of the Letter: A Reading of Lacan) and L'Absolu littéraire: théorie de la littérature du romantisme allemand (1978; trans., The Literary Absolute: The Theory of Literature in German Romanticism).

In 1980 Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy organized a conference at Cerisy-la-Salle, centered around Derrida's 1968 paper Les fins de l'homme. Following this conference and at Derrida's request, in November 1980 Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy founded the Centre de recherches philosophiques sur le politique (Centre for Philosophical Research on the Political). The Centre operated for four years, pursuing philosophical rather than empirical approaches to political questions. During that period Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy produced several important papers, together and separately. Some of these texts appear in Les Fins de l'homme à partir du travail de Jacques Derrida: colloque de Cerisy, 23 juillet-2 août 1980 (1981), Rejouer le politique (1981), La retrait du politique (1983), and Le mythe nazi (1991, revised edition; originally published as Les méchanismes du fascisme, 1981). Many of these texts are gathered in translation in Retreating the Political (1997).

On Martin Heidegger

In 1986 Lacoue-Labarthe published a book on Celan and Heidegger entitled La poésie comme expérience (1986; trans., Poetry as Experience). Lacoue-Labarthe received his doctorat d'état in 1987 with a jury led by Gérard Granel and including Derrida, George Steiner and Jean-François Lyotard. The monograph submitted for that degree was La fiction du politique (1988; trans., Heidegger, Art, and Politics), a study of Heidegger's relation to National Socialism. These works predate the explosion of interest in the political dimensions of Heidegger's thought which followed the publication of a book by Victor Farías.

In Poetry as Experience Lacoue-Labarthe argued that, even though Celan's poetry was deeply informed by Heidegger's philosophy, Celan was long aware of Heidegger's association with the Nazi party and therefore fundamentally circumspect toward the man and transformative in his reception of his work. Celan was nonetheless willing to meet Heidegger. Heidegger was a professed admirer of Celan's writing, although Celan's poetry never received the kind of philosophical attention which Heidegger gave to the work of poets such as Friedrich Hölderlin or Georg Trakl. Celan's poem "Todtnauberg," however, seems to hold out the possibility of a rapprochement between their work. In this respect Heidegger's work was perhaps redeemable for Celan, even if that redemption was not played out in the encounter between the two men.

Lacoue-Labarthe considered that Heidegger's greatest failure was not his involvement in the National Socialist movement but his "silence on the extermination" and his refusal to engage in a thorough deconstruction of Nazism. He also believed, however, that Heidegger's thought offers pathways to a philosophical confrontation with Nazism, pathways which Heidegger failed to follow, but which Lacoue-Labarthe did attempt to pursue.

Theatrical work

Lacoue-Labarthe was also involved in theatrical productions. He translated Hölderlin's version of Antigone, and collaborated with Michel Deutsch [fr] to stage the work at the Théâtre national de Strasbourg [fr] on 15 and 30 June 1978.[2] Lacoue-Labarthe and Deutsch returned to the Théâtre national de Strasbourg to collaborate on a 1980 production of Euripides' Phoenician Women.[3] Lacoue-Labarthe's translation of Hölderlin's version of Oedipus Rex was staged in Avignon in 1998, with Charles Berling in the title role.[4]


French English
Le Titre de la lettre: une lecture de Lacan 1973 ISBN:2-7186-0002-0 with Jean-Luc Nancy The Title of the Letter: A Reading of Lacan 1992 ISBN:0-7914-0962-7 trans. François Raffoul and David Pettigrew
L'Absolu littéraire: théorie de la littérature du romantisme allemand 1978 ISBN:2-02-004936-8 with Jean-Luc Nancy The Literary Absolute: The Theory of Literature in German Romanticism 1988 ISBN:0-88706-661-5 trans. Philip Barnard and Cheryl Lester
Portrait de l'artiste, en général 1979 ISBN:2-267-00162-4
Le Sujet de la philosophie: Typographies 1 1979 ISBN:2-08-226011-9 The Subject of Philosophy 1993 ISBN:0-8166-1698-1 trans. Thomas Trezise, Hugh J. Silverman et al.*
Les Fins de l'homme à partir du travail de Jacques Derrida: colloque de Cerisy, 23 juillet-2 août 1980 (ed.) 1981 ISBN:2-7186-0207-4 with Jean-Luc Nancy see Retreating the Political below for translations of their contributions
Rejouer le politique (ed.) 1981 ISBN with Jean-Luc Nancy see Retreating the Political below for translations of their contributions
La retrait du politique (ed.) 1983 ISBN with Jean-Luc Nancy see Retreating the Political below for translations of their contributions
Retrait de l’artiste en deux personnes 1985 ISBN:2-904546-04-9
L'Imitation des modernes: Typographies 2 1986 ISBN:2-08-226011-9 Typography: Mimesis, Philosophy, Politics 1989 (Harvard), 1998 (Stanford) ISBN:0-8047-3282-5 ed. Christopher Fynsk*
La Poésie comme expérience 1986 ISBN:2-267-00438-0 Poetry as Experience 1999 ISBN:0-8047-3427-5 trans. Andrea Tarnowski
La Fiction du politique: Heidegger, l'art et la politique 1988, revised ISBN:2-267-00531-X Heidegger, Art, and Politics: the Fiction of the Political 1990 ISBN:0-631-17155-X trans. Chris Turner
Sit venia verbo 1988 ISBN:2-267-00565-4 with Michel Deutsch
Musica ficta: figures de Wagner 1991 ISBN:2-267-00863-7 Musica ficta: Figures of Wagner 1994 ISBN:0-8047-2385-0 trans. Felicia McCarren
Le mythe nazi 1991 ISBN:2-87678-078-X with Jean-Luc Nancy
Pasolini, une improvisation : d’une sainteté 1995 ISBN:2-84103-037-7 "Pasolini, an improvisation: Of a Saintliness" Umbr(a) 2005 ISBN:0-9666452-8-6 trans. Steven Miller
Retreating the Political 1997 ISBN:0-415-15163-5 with Jean-Luc Nancy, ed. Simon Sparks**
Métaphrasis; suivi de Le théâtre de Hölderlin 1998 ISBN:2-13-049336-X
Phrase 2000 ISBN:2-267-01561-7
Poétique de l'histoire 2002 ISBN:2-7186-0578-2
Heidegger: la politique du poème 2002 ISBN:2-7186-0593-6 Heidegger and the Politics of Poetry 2007 ISBN:0-252-03153-9 trans. Jeff Fort
Agonie terminée, agonie interminable 2004 ISBN:2-7186-0626-6
Le chant des muses: Petite conférence sur la musique 2005 ISBN:2-227-47528-5
L’«allégorie»: Suivi de Un commencement 2006 ISBN:2-7186-0724-6
Préface à la disparition 2009 ISBN:2-267-02033-5
Ecrits Sur l'Art 2009 ISBN:2-84066-282-5

* contents of this book do not correspond exactly to those of the book it otherwise translates

** collects essays from 1979, 1981, and 1983 and others not previously published

See also


  1. On the influence of Granel, cf., Audio recording of Lacoue-Labarthe discussing Granel.
  2. The performance was attended by, among others, Sarah Kofman, who wrote a review in response. Cf., Sarah Kofman, "L'espace de la césure," Critique 34/379 (December 1978), pp. 1143–50; Tina Chanter, "Eating Words: Antigone as Kofman's Proper Name," in Penelope Deutscher & Kelly Oliver (eds.), Enigmas: Essays on Sarah Kofman (Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press, 1999), pp. 189–202; and Andrew Bush, "María Zambrano and the Survival of Antigone," diacritics 34 (3–4) (2004): 90–111.
  3. Website about Michel Deutsch .
  4. Actor's Metamorphosis Into Oedipus the Tyrant.