Belated Thoughts on the Avital Ronell Scandal

Justin E. H. Smith in his blog:

In the five years since I moved to Paris as an American philosopher working within the French system, my disdain for what Americans know as ‘French theory’, and particularly for the American reception of it, has only deepened. Sometimes I find it burdensome to be pursuing my work so close to the belly of this noisome beast (my campus of the University of Paris lies on the city’s southeastern border, while the belly, properly anatomically speaking, is two RER stops to the west (its external gonads are up in St. Denis)), but for the most part I am happy to process this unanticipated twist in my career as one of my life’s animating ironies, and to milk this irony for insights that I would not be able to come by if I were either geographically far away from this intellectual culture, or a fawning convert to it.

Other than an isolated sentence here or there, I’ve never read Derrida, and never will. But then again there are countless other former students of the École Normale Supérieure, who spent their later lives riffing in various ways on the texts and authors they learned about at school, but who didn’t stumble, like Chance the Gardener, into some absurd American fame they could neither control nor understand, and I’ll never read them either. Does any American academic think there’s a serious gap in our reading if we haven’t tackled, say, Jean Hyppolite? Of course not.

More here.

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