“Indo-European Thought in Post-War France“, Warwick Seminar for Interdisciplinary French Studies, 31 May 2023 (video)

My talk to the Warwick Seminar for Interdisciplinary French Studies was recorded and is available online – “Indo-European Thought in Post-War France

I begin with two stories – one about the Mission Paul Pelliot and its importance to the early work of Émile Benveniste; and the other about the inquiry into racism and holocaust denial at Lyon III, and the links between Jean Haudry, Alain de Benoist and Georges Dumézil. I use these two stories to frame the project, though most of the talk is on Benveniste, Dumézil and Mircea Eliade in the war and the decade or so after.

There is a lot more information about the project here – the overall scope, updates on the research, publications, and a few textual analyses.

opening slide of the talk - Jacques-Louis David's painting of Le Serment des Horaces, 1784-85
Posted in Books, Emile Benveniste, Georges Dumézil, Indo-European Thought, Mircea Eliade, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

‘Indo-European Thought in Post-War France’, Warwick Seminar for Interdisciplinary French Studies, 31 May 2023, 4pm

Update: the recording is available here

For anyone interested in my new project, I’ll be speaking about some of it in an online seminar today at 4pm: ‘Indo-European Thought in Post-War France’, Warwick Seminar for Interdisciplinary French Studies

This talk will report on preliminary work on a new research project on Indo-European thought in twentieth-century France. It will particularly focus on the post-war period when Georges Dumézil was elected to the Collège de France, Émile Benveniste regained his chair there after his war-time exile in Switzerland, and Mircea Eliade held visiting positions when unable to return to Romania.

This was a period when Dumézil completed his Jupiter Mars Quirinus and Les Mythes Romains series, and published a revision of his book Mitra-Varuna; Benveniste wrote a comparative study of Indo-European nouns; and Eliade started to publish his first books in French, including Traité d’histoire des religions

Using published texts, reports of teaching, memoirs, and some archival sources, the talk will try to situate the intellectual relations between these and other figures, especially in light of a post-war reckoning about political positions.

Stuart Elden is Professor of Political Theory and Geography at the University of Warwick. He has recently completed a four-part intellectual history of Foucault’s entire career. He is currently funded by a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship on Indo-European thought in twentieth-century France.

Posted in Emile Benveniste, Georges Dumézil, Indo-European Thought, Mircea Eliade | Leave a comment

John Forrester, Freud and Psychoanalysis: Six Introductory Lectures, ed. Lisa Appignanesi – Polity, May 2023

John Forrester, Freud and Psychoanalysis: Six Introductory Lectures, ed. Lisa Appignanesi – Polity, May 2023

Editor’s Preface       Lisa Appignanesi

Foreword       Darian Leader

Lecture One: A Whole Climate of Opinion

Lecture Two: The Historical Foundations of Psychoanalysis

Lecture Three: Dreams and Sexuality

Lecture Four: Psychoanalysis as a Theory of Culture

Lecture Five: Psychoanalysis as a Movement

Lecture Six: The Significance of Psychoanalysis in the Twentieth Century


Further Reading

“Clear and compelling, these lectures are at once more than accessible and often startlingly informative. In his characteristically lucid and incisive way, Forrester makes Freud new and intriguing. This book is that rare thing: a collection as much for the curious as for the knowledgeable, and the best book on Freud for many years.”
Adam Phillips

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Le jeune Foucault et la psychopathologie: archives et éditions (2023)

Le jeune Foucault et la psychopathologie: archives et éditions, Paris, 22 June 2023

Foucault News

Le jeune Foucault et la psychopathologie: archives et éditions (2023)
22 juin 2023
ENS de Paris
Intervenants : Elisabetta Basso (Université de Pavie et Caphés), Claude Debru (Caphés), Mireille Delbraccio (Caphés), Henri-Paul Fruchaud, Marie-Laure Massot (Caphés), Vincent Ventresque (ENS Lyon).

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Georges Bataille, Critical Essays 1 – updating the list of English translations of Oeuvres complètes on this site

With the publication of Georges Bataille, Critical Essays 1: 1944-1948 (trans. Chris Turner, eds. Alberto Toscano and Benjamin Noys), English readers now have access to most of the essays in volume 11 of Bataille’s Œuvres complètes.

I’ve updated the list of Georges Bataille – Oeuvres complètes and other French collections; English translations on this site.

Given the very useful “Bibliography and Notes” in Critical Essays, doing this was an easy task. With Volume 11, this site’s bibliography is now mainly of use for showing where the pieces which are not in Critical Essays can be found – mostly in The Absence of Myth and Essential Writings, with a one piece each in The Unfinished System of Nonknowledge; and in Yale French Studies.

We should be grateful to the editors and translator for including all the hitherto untranslated pieces from volume 11, without leaving any missing from the years they cover, and for not providing new translations of ones already in English just for the sake of it. Given the sporadic and inconsistent approach to translations of Bataille before this, this more systematic approach is very welcome.

The two promised future volumes of Critical Essays should cover the rest of volume 11 (essays from 1949) and volume 12.

Posted in Alberto Toscano, Georges Bataille | Leave a comment

Books received – Chestov, Nietzsche, Ginzburg, Rose, Spotts, Bataille

Some recently bought books – Léon Chestov’s L’idée de bien chez Tolstoï et Nietzsche (Bataille was one of the translators); the two most recent volumes of the Stanford Nietzsche translations; Carlo Ginzburg’s The Judge and the Historian; Gillian Rose, Judaism and Modernity; Frederic Spotts, The Shameful Peace: How French Artists and Intellectuals Survived the Nazi Occupation and Georges Bataille, Critical Essays 1.

Posted in Carlo Ginzburg, Friedrich Nietzsche, Georges Bataille, Gillian Rose | 1 Comment

Jonathan I. Israel, Spinoza, Life and Legacy – Oxford University Press, August 2023

Jonathan I. Israel, Spinoza, Life and Legacy – Oxford University Press, August 2023

A massive, 1,344 page study of Spinoza…

A biography of the boldest and most unsettling of the early modern philosophers, Spinoza, which examines the man’s life, relationships, writings, and career, while also forcing us to rethink how we previously understood Spinoza’s reception in his own time and in the years following his death.

The boldest and most unsettling of the major early modern philosophers, Spinoza, had a much greater, if often concealed, impact on the international intellectual scene and on the early Enlightenment than philosophers, historians, and political theorists have conventionally tended to recognize. Europe-wide efforts to prevent the reading public and university students learning about Spinoza, the man and his work, in the years immediately after his death in 1677, dominated much of his early reception owing to the revolutionary implications of his thought for philosophy, religion, practical ethics and lifestyle, Bible criticism, and political theory. Nevertheless, contrary to what has sometimes been maintained, his general impact was immediate, very widespread, and profound. One of the main objectives of the book is to show how early and how deeply Leibniz, Bayle, Arnauld, Henry More, Anne Conway, Richard Baxter, Robert Boyle, Henry Oldenburg, Pierre-Daniel Huet, Richard Simon, and Nicholas Steno, among many others, were affected by and led to wrestle with his principal ideas. 

There have been surprisingly few biographies of Spinoza, given his fundamental importance in intellectual history and history of philosophy, Bible criticism, and political thought. Jonathan I. Israel has written a biography which provides more detail and context about Spinoza’s life, family, writings, circle of friends, highly unusual career and networking, and early reception than its predecessors. Weaving the circumstances of his life and thought into a detailed biography has also led to several notable instances of nuancing or revising our notions of how to interpret certain of his assertions and philosophical claims, and how to understand the complex international reaction to his work during his life-time and in the years immediately following his death.

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Indo-European Thought in Twentieth-Century France update 12: working in some UK archives; Benveniste’s EPHE teaching; some talks on the research

After the last update a friend contacted me with some valuable information – about an archive which was already on my list of ones to try to visit when in the United States next year, but should certainly now be a priority.

I’ve not been able to get back to Paris this month, so have been mainly working at home or UK libraries and archives that can be day trips. One was the University of Reading, to look at the George Allen & Unwin archives they have in the Museum of English Rural Life. This gave an interesting insight into how some of the work I’m looking at was first translated into English or in many cases not translated, as there were several projects declined. All were translated eventually. The trip was more complicated than I’d initially thought – as the train line between Coventry and Reading was part-closed. It was only a few documents to consult, so I spent more time travelling than looking at things, but still worthwhile.

I must have walked past hundreds of times, but I finally walked through the door of the Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick. It has extensive collections for trade unions and political associations, but no obvious collections relevant to my previous projects. I made an initial visit to look at some French correspondence in the Eric Hobsbawm papers, and may go back for some other things. (I’ve read Richard Evans’s biography of Hobsbawm recently.) Somewhat tangential to my project, but it’s minutes from my office, so it seemed worthwhile to at least have a look. They also have Gillian Rose’s papers, and her library is part of the main Warwick collection. Given the number of books I’ve looked at which come from her library, I’d be surprised if there was nothing useful in her papers. So, that’s hopefully something for a future visit.

I also made an initial visit to two archival collections in Cambridge – one University, one private. John Brough’s papers are the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies library, and Harold W. Bailey’s at the Ancient India and Iran Trust. Both were professors of Sanskrit at the University, Brough succeeding Bailey. Bailey’s papers were the more useful, and I’ll try to go back for another visit. The main thing I was looking at is the correspondence between Bailey and Émile Benveniste. Benveniste examined Bailey’s DPhil in 1933, before he had his own doctorate, but they kept in contact for decades. Brough is most of interest to me for some critical pieces he wrote on Georges Dumézil.

I also had a few days in London, mainly working at the British Library, but also going back to UCL’s library for the first time in years, as they have what I think is the only UK copy of a book by Dumézil in Italian – Jupiter, Mars, Quirinus. What’s interesting about this is that it is not a translation of a single book – Dumézil wrote four books in a series of that title – but contains most of the first two books of that series, a sizable part of another book outside that series, and a part of volume IV. I say a bit more about what it contains here, though I still have a couple of questions which I’ll need to check on a future visit.

In the wider work, one interesting thread I followed was the story of what Émile Benveniste did during the second world war. He was mobilised at the start of the war, became a prisoner of war two days before the surrender, but escaped the Frontstalag, moved to the free zone, and later crossed into Switzerland, where a former student, Jean de Menasce, helped find him work as a university librarian. One question is which ancient language he used to correspond clandestinely with the student, now a Catholic priest. Sogdian is one possibility, Pahlavi another. Sogdian would be almost too perfect, given the way I begin my discussion of Benveniste, but Pahlavi seems much more likely. Looking into this story has suggested some more archives which I’d like to consult, one in Paris, one possibly in Switzerland, and perhaps one in the USA.

I also spent some time working through the records of Benveniste’s teaching at the École pratique des hautes études. Reports on the courses taught in both of his subject areas (Comparative Grammar and Iranian languages) are provided in the Annuaire, which is all available online, but I’ve compiled all of these into a single document which will be a useful reference tool. It’s particularly useful when working in the archives to have a place with all this information.I’d already done this for Dumézil, and for both of them with their teaching at the Collège de France. (I say a bit about that in an earlier update.) It helps me to see connections to publications, and it’s also interesting to see the names of those who attended their classes. It also clarifies the periods during the war when both were not teaching, for very different reasons.

One of the benefits of a research fellowship is that I can follow interesting leads where they take me, rather than having to be more restrictive in focus. But it can also take me down long detours – reading about one person, and their relations with another, so read about the other, and follow up on their connections to another person, and so on, taking me further and further away from what I was, or should be, doing. The most recent example of this was that Benveniste gave the first series of Ratanbai Katrak lectures in Paris in 1926, delivered in French, but published only in English as The Persian Religion According to the Chief Greek Texts. The next two Paris lecture series were given by Henrik Samuel Nyberg and Arthur Christiansen. De Menasce gave a series after the war, as did Dumézil’s former student Jacques Duchesne-Guillemin. But the lectures were also given in Oxford, with the first by Louis H. Gray, and then by Harold W. Bailey and Walter B. Henning. I don’t know much about Gray and Christiansen, but all of the others feature in at least a minor way in the story I’m telling. But it took a bit of digging around to find out the early sequence of lectures, especially the year delivered and title, and they are all published but often in quite obscure outlets. Some of the books are available at archive.org or similar, but others are a bit harder to find. The lectures still take place, with the ninth Oxford series by Alberto Cantera currently underway.

I say a bit about the work of Marie-Louise Sjoestedt on Celtic languages and mythology here, and about Claude Lévi-Strauss’s Fondation Loubat lectures here.

I also spoke a bit about this research at the Translation and the Archive in the Continental Tradition workshop in London on 19 May, though there I mainly spoke about Lefebvre and Foucault. The talks were supposed to be recorded but unfortunately there was a technical problem which means that didn’t work. I did record my own talk on my phone so I’ll try to clean up the recording and share if anyone is interested. I’ll next be speaking about the Indo-European research to the Warwick Seminar for Interdisciplinary French Studies on 31 May. The focus will be on the period immediately after the war. It’s an online event, open to anyone interested, and details are here.

Previous updates on this project can be found here, along with links to some research resources and forthcoming publications, including the reedition of Dumézil’s Mitra-Varuna. There is a lot more about the earlier Foucault work here. The final volume, The Archaeology of Foucault, is now out worldwide. The special issue of Theory, Culture & Society I co-edited on “Foucault before the Collège de France” is available open access for a limited time. There are some video abstracts here.

Posted in Claude Lévi-Strauss, Emile Benveniste, Eric Hobsbawm, Georges Dumézil, Gillian Rose, Henri Lefebvre, Indo-European Thought, Michel Foucault, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

François Krug, Réactions françaises: Enquête sur l’extrême droite littéraire – Seuil, March 2023

François Krug, Réactions françaises: Enquête sur l’extrême droite littéraire – Seuil, March 2023

Ils sont trois visages et trois têtes de gondole de la littérature française : Michel Houellebecq, Sylvain Tesson, ou encore Yann Moix. Des parcours différents, mais un point commun, ignoré de leurs lecteurs.
Dans l’ombre, tous ont été, et sont restés, des « compagnons de route » de l’extrême droite. Cette enquête sur l’itinéraire de ces trois « stars », révèle comment s’est constitué une coterie littéraire très réactionnaire où se côtoient, depuis les années 1990, de petits et de grands écrivains, des éditeurs, des journalistes, des animateurs TV et des idéologues peu fréquentables. 
C’est l’histoire d’une génération qui, par goût de la provocation, mépris de son époque ou pure conviction, a franchi la ligne rouge – ou plutôt, brune.
Sait-on que Michel Houellebecq n’a jamais cessé de prendre sous son aile des royalistes de l’Action française puis des blogueurs stars de la « fachosphère » jusqu’aux dirigeants de Valeurs actuelles ? Sait-on que Sylvain Tesson, l’écrivain-voyageur, a fait ses débuts sur Radio Courtoisie, la station d’extrême droite ? Que son premier voyage, un tour du monde à vélo, se fit sous l’égide d’une association d’anciens de l’Algérie française et du FN ? Qu’il entretient des liens étroits avec la Nouvelle Droite ? Sait-on que les liens de Yann Moix avec des antisémites et même des négationnistes ont été plus étroits qu’il ne veut le dire ? Que ses douteux amis ont joué un rôle dans ses plus grands succès ? 
Une enquête implacable sur les dessous d’une histoire méconnue. 

François Krug est journaliste indépendant. Il collabore régulièrement au Monde et à son magazine M, après avoir été journaliste politique et d’investigation pour le site Rue89. Il est coauteur de Benalla et moi (Seuil, 2020).

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Achille Mbembe and Felwine Sarr eds, To Write the Africa World and The Politics of Time: Imagining African Becomings – Polity 2023

Achille Mbembe & Felwine Sarr eds, To Write the Africa World – Polity 2023, trans. Drew Burk

In October 2016, thirty intellectuals and artists from Africa, its diasporas, and beyond gathered together in Dakar and Saint-Louis, Senegal, to reflect on the present and future of Africa in the midst of transformations that are sweeping through the contemporary world. The aim was to take stock of the renewal of Afro-diasporic critical thought and to discuss the new perspectives emerging from the ongoing projects constructing political, cultural, and social imaginaries for and from the African continent. 

This book brings together and makes available to the English-speaking world the material presented at the 2016 Ateliers de la pensée – Workshops of Thought – in Dakar. The authors deal with a wide range of issues, including decolonization, the development of social utopias, and the pursuit of new forms of political, economic, and social production on the African continent. Running throughout is a constant concern to interrogate the categories and frames of meaning that have served to characterize the dynamics of the African continent and a shared desire to produce new frames of intelligibility through which to see Africa’s present realities and its future. The contributions also attest to the view that there is no African question that is not also a global question, and that the Africanization of the global question will be a decisive feature of the twenty-first century.

To Write the Africa World and its companion volume The Politics of Time will be indispensable for anyone interested in Africa – its past, present, and future – and in the new forms of critical thought emerging from Africa and the Global South.

Achille Mbembe & Felwine Sarr eds, The Politics of Time: Imagining African Becomings – Polity 2023, trans. Philip Gerard

As we enter the third decade of the twenty-first century, the world is undergoing a major historical shift: Africa, and the Global South more generally, is increasingly becoming a principal theatre in which the future of the planet plays itself out. But not only this: Africa is at the same time emerging as one of the great laboratories for novel forms of social, economic, political, intellectual, cultural, and artistic life. Often arising in unexpected places, these new forms of life materialize in practices that draw deeply from collective memory while simultaneously assuming distinctly contemporary, even futuristic, guises.

In November 2017, the second session of the Ateliers de la pensée – Workshops of Thought – was held in Dakar, Senegal. Fifty African and diasporic intellectuals and artists participated and their debates unfolded along numerous thematic lines, approached from the standpoints of many different disciplines. This volume is the result of that encounter. Among the many topics discussed were the concurrence and entanglement of multiple temporalities, the politics of life in the Anthropocene, the project of decolonization, and the preservation and transmission of different ways of knowing. At a time when the world is haunted by the specter of its own end, the contributors to this volume ask whether one can, by taking Africa as a point of departure, seize hold of other options for the future – not only for Africa, but for the world. 

The Politics of Time and its companion volume, To Write the Africa World, will be indispensable works for anyone interested in Africa – its past, present, and future – and in the new forms of critical thought emerging from Africa and the Global South.

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