Untimely medications: periodising recent French thought

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Abstract

Most accounts of recent French intellectual history are organized around a fundamental rupture, which divides thought and thinkers into two eras: ‘modern’ and ‘postmodern’. But the attempts to identify the features which characterise these eras seem, at best, inconclusive. In this paper, I examine this rupture, by way of a comparison of two thinkers representative of the divide. Sartre seems as uncontroversially modern (and therefore out of date) as any twentieth-century can be, while Foucault’s work is often taken to be definitive of postmodern thought. In addition, the two engaged in a brief polemic which concerned, precisely, each other’s relevance to our times. Each attacks the other’s work as untimely, as out of step with today. In the end, however, it is precisely this very aspect of their work - the fact thatit is untimely - which constitutes its strongest claim to being postmodern. If this is the case, however, then the attempt to locate a point of rupture in intellectual history, before which thinkers are irrelevant and after which they speak to us, must fail.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-75
Number of pages15
JournalSymposium : Canadian journal of continental philosophy
Volume2
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes

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