with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Bruno Bosteels in New York,
and Danielle Cohen-Levinas in Paris.
In this seminar, we turn to Jacques Derrida’s essay, Éperons: Les Styles de Nietzsche, translated as Spurs: Nietzsche’s Styles, first delivered at the Colloque de Cérisy in 1972 and published in its present form in 1978. Derrida’s essay is a remarkable engagement with Nietzsche. Unlike other critical thinkers we have read, unlike for instance the Foucault of 1971 and 1973, Derrida does not explicitly seek in Nietzsche a model for critical theory, and does not look, exegetically, for a truth in Nietzsche. Yet Derrida, perhaps more than others, is deeply Nietzschean—perhaps one of the most Nietzschean of our critics. And it’s that paradox that reveals, perhaps, an element of genius in the text. Derrida expresses a Nietzschean understanding of truth, but does not go looking for it in Nietzsche. In fact, he couldn’t. Derrida would not be able to look for truth in Nietzsche, because, for him, to read Nietzsche or to attempt to find truths in Nietzsche would really be nothing more than commenting on the jotted-down phrase, found in Nietzsche’s unpublished manuscripts, “I have forgotten my umbrella.” To help us decipher Derrida’s text and its implications, we are delighted to welcome Columbia professors Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Bruno Bosteels in New York and philosopher Danielle Cohen-Levinas in Paris.