Literary and Critical Theory Jean-François Lyotard
by
Keith Crome
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 July 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190221911-0041

Introduction

Jean-François Lyotard (b. 1924–d. 1998) is one of the most important critical thinkers of the last half-century. His work is closely associated with post-structuralism and postmodernism, and it has been influential across a wide range of disciplines and fields, including literary studies and critical theory, philosophy, aesthetics, and politics. The book that brought him to prominence in the Anglophone world, and which is undoubtedly his most culturally influential work, is The Postmodern Condition (published in French in 1979 and in English in 1984). However, it is one of Lyotard’s less important works, lacking the philosophical depth and provocation of his other publications, which are unevenly spread over a period of forty years. Lyotard published his first book, Phenomenology, in 1954, and his second, Discourse, Figure, seventeen years later, in 1971, and from then on published prolifically. He experimented with manifold modes of writing, and his many works are stylistically and thematically disparate—Lyotard did not so much develop questions and problems left unresolved in his earlier work as break with his previous theoretical commitments (sometimes returning to them later, albeit with a markedly different emphasis or approach). This variety is no mere whimsy; it is called for by Lyotard’s sustained concern to bear witness to that which resists the techno-scientific programming of life—the unpredictable, the aleatory, and the singular (which he found figured in literature and art). Nevertheless, the manifest and provocative heterogeneity of Lyotard’s corpus has challenged scholars, making it resistant to any straightforward, systematic ordering. In response, Lyotard’s commentators and editors have often adopted one of two approaches. They have either ordered his writings around three of his major works (or “real books” as he called them): Discourse, Figure (Discours, figure, 1971), Libidinal Economy (Économie libidinale, 1974) and The Differend (Le Différend, 1983), viewing the lesser publications (shorter works and essays) as preparatory sketches and studies; or, despite overlaps, they have grouped them by their thematic concerns. In order to guide the reader in navigating both Lyotard’s works and the secondary literature on them, this article follows both these ways of classifying Lyotard’s writings. It first identifies Lyotard’s principal works and some key collections of his essays. It then groups his other works by theme, followed by a select list of interviews with Lyotard. It ends with an annotated bibliography of advanced studies on Lyotard.

General Overviews

Partly because of the prominence of The Postmodern Condition (Lyotard 2004, cited under the Postmodern), and partly because of the formidable variety, complexity, and stylistic challenges of Lyotard’s other works, the greatest number of introductions to Lyotard are contained in introductions to postmodernism. Two such introductions are listed here: Butler 2002 is a concise, straightforward overview of postmodernism, while Connor 1997 is an influential introduction to theories of postmodernism, which sets up a useful comparison between Lyotard’s account of the postmodern and two other equally important theories: Fredric Jameson’s Marxist theory of postmodernism and Jean Baudrillard’s account of the contemporary culture of simulation. The other works listed in this section are the most important and helpful general overviews of Lyotard’s work. Malpas 2003, Sim 1996, and Woodward 2002 provide clear and accessible introductions to Lyotard’s thought, and are good places to begin. Jones 2014 is equally as clear and accessible, but in demonstrating the applicability of Lyotard’s ideas to the arts, it will also interest the more advanced reader. Williams 1998 is a more advanced introduction, presenting Lyotard as a political thinker and offering a comprehensive survey and evaluation of his works from this standpoint. Bennington 1988 and Readings 1991 are more challenging overviews. They both provide detailed accounts of Lyotard’s principal works and key arguments, while using stylistic and rhetorical devices to resist the simplification inherent to introductory guides, and also to capture something of the complexity of Lyotard’s writings. Sim 2011 provides an extended glossary of key terms and concepts in Lyotard’s work.

  • Bennington, Geoffrey. Lyotard: Writing the Event. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1988.

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    A seminal work: the first general introduction to Lyotard to be published, it is still influential. Organized around Lyotard’s three major works (Discourse, Figure; Libidinal Economy; The Differend), it is thoughtful and challenging, clearly written, and rigorous. Bennington has himself called into question the hermeneutic privilege he accorded to the linguistic pragmatics of The Differend, presenting Lyotard’s earlier work in its light; nevertheless, it remains a standard reference.

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    • Butler, Christopher. Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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      A good place to start for an overview of postmodernism. It covers a lot of ground, surveying in a brief compass the social transformations, cultural forms, and theoretical ideas associated with postmodernism. Inevitably, there are simplifications and distortions, but if the reader does not give credence to its dubious proclamations about the value of contemporary French philosophy, it is a good orientation to the major issues and concerns of postmodernism.

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      • Connor, Steven. Postmodernist Culture: An Introduction to Theories of the Contemporary. 2d ed. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 1997.

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        First published in 1988, this frequently reprinted study is an influential guidebook to the principle forms of postmodernism in culture and art. It provides short summaries of the theories of the “postmodern” advanced by Fredric Jameson and Jean Baudrillard as well as Lyotard. The presentation of Lyotard’s work is uneven—sometimes careful and insightful, at other times it is hasty and mistaken, particularly when it aspires to criticism.

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        • Jones, Graham. Lyotard Reframed: Interpreting Key Thinkers for the Arts. London: I. B. Tauris, 2014.

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          An excellent introduction to Lyotard’s key philosophical concepts and a reliable and insightful guide to his thinking about painting and the arts. It explains and interrogates the main concepts associated with Lyotard’s philosophy from the early 1970s until the end of his career: the figural, the libidinal, the sublime, and the postmodern. Useful to both new and advanced readers alike.

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          • Malpas, Simon. Jean-François Lyotard. London and New York: Routledge, 2003.

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            A straightforward introduction to Lyotard’s work aimed at students and those with little prior knowledge of philosophy or cultural theory. It is easy to read and follow. Primarily a guide for literary studies, it concentrates on Lyotard’s work on the postmodern, and on the associated ideas of the sublime, the differend, and the inhuman.

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            • Readings, Bill. Introducing Lyotard: Art and Politics. London and New York: Routledge, 1991.

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              Covers much of the same range of material as Bennington 1988, but does so with a view to the impact of Lyotard’s work on literary studies, focusing on Lyotard’s various deconstructions of the presuppositions of representation in art, culture, and history.

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              • Sim, Stuart. Jean-François Lyotard. London: Prentice Hall, 1996.

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                A straightforward introduction to Lyotard’s work, broader in scope that Malpas 2003, covering the development of Lyotard’s thought from his early Marxist writings on Algeria and the struggle for Algerian independence to his writings on the postmodern.

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                • Sim, Stuart, ed. The Lyotard Dictionary. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011.

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                  This dictionary provides extensive definitions of key concepts and ideas in Lyotard’s work, written by experts from a number of different disciplines. It includes a short introductory overview of Lyotard’s career and legacy, and a select bibliography of primary and secondary sources.

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                  • Williams, James. Lyotard: Towards a Postmodern Philosophy. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 1998.

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                    A clearly written introduction that presents Lyotard as a political philosopher. It surveys the major works and periods of Lyotard’s thought, and uses its focus on the political implications of Lyotard’s writings to draw out the differences between Lyotard’s earlier libidinal philosophy and his later postmodern philosophy.

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                    • Woodward, Ashley. “Jean-François Lyotard.” In The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by James Fieser and Bradley Dowden, 2002.

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                      A good resource for undergraduate students wanting an overview of Lyotard’s work. Begins with a chronological survey of the main periods of Lyotard’s thought, before looking at some of his key concerns.

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                      Works by Lyotard

                      The philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy observed that Lyotard had a taste for dispute; it was, he said, part of his ethos, his being. That disposition is at the core of Lyotard’s corpus, which is marked by internal disruptions and discontinuities, abrupt changes in style, and theoretical and philosophical allegiances, as if Lyotard were in dispute with himself. The internal complexity of Lyotard’s oeuvre makes reading him both exciting and challenging, but it also makes classifying his work difficult and contentious, and there is as much disagreement as consensus among scholars. The aim here is to assist the reader in negotiating the complexity of Lyotard’s work: the first subsection lists the books that are generally regarded as Lyotard’s major works (which are often used to periodize his writings), and the following subsection deals with his most important collections of essays. These two sections are then followed by thematic groupings of Lyotard’s other works, which is followed by a section listing interviews and conversations.

                      Major Works

                      All of Lyotard’s major works are now translated into English. Three—Lyotard 2010, Lyotard 2015, and Lyotard 1988—are commonly viewed as key points, punctuating the overall trajectory of his work, and around which his other works can be constellated. The earliest, Discourse, Figure (Lyotard 2010), published in French in 1971, was Lyotard’s doctoral thesis. It is an exploration of the complex relationship between the experiences of reading and seeing, showing how the intelligible order of discourse is disrupted by the incursion of the figure. The latter is regarded by Lyotard not simply as the phenomenal object apprehended by the eye, but also as the plastic space invested by unconscious, libidinal desires. This invocation of the libidinal is taken-up and radicalized in Libidinal Economy (Lyotard 2015), which in its overtly rhetorical mode of writing provocatively stages the affective currents and drives that it theorizes. The Differend (Lyotard 1988) marks an apparently abrupt change of direction, as Lyotard seeks to rid himself of the metaphysical commitments he retrospectively found in his earlier discussions of desire, and draws instead on the critical philosophy of Immanuel Kant and the later Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language games. The last work included in this section, Signed, Malraux (Lyotard 1999), is a “biography” of the 20th-century French writer, activist, and politician, André Malraux. Difficult to categorize, it is often classed as one of Lyotard’s “late works,” and it manifests an emergent interest in the intersection of biography and philosophy.

                      • Lyotard, Jean-François. The Differend: Phrases in Dispute. Translated by Georges Van Den Abbeele. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1988.

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                        Widely regarded as Lyotard’s most important work. Lyotard defines a differend as a case of conflict that cannot be resolved consensually. He shows how the value traditionally granted to consensus in the regulation of argument provokes injustices by ignoring or suppressing differends. It contains a series of analyses of arguments surrounding the events of the Holocaust, which are the occasion of a number of important historical, political, and philosophical differends.

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                        • Lyotard, Jean-François. Signed, Malraux. Translated by Robert Harvey. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999.

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                          An unconventional biography of the French author, activist, aesthetician, and politician André Malraux. It is a work that initially puzzled many Lyotard scholars (“Why a biography?” they asked). Writerly and philosophical, it is a gripping read. Lyotard uses the genre of biography to pose questions about the relation between writing (graphè) and life (bios), and literary style (direct and indirect quotation) to stage a confusion of his and Malraux’s voices.

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                          • Lyotard, Jean-François. Discourse, Figure. Translated by Antony Hudek and Mary Lydon. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010.

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                            One of the most important works in the philosophy of art and aesthetics from the latter half of the 20th century. By deconstructing the relationship traditionally posited between the sensible and the intelligible, it develops significant criticisms of structuralism and phenomenology—which have both had a major influence on literary and cultural theory. Contains important analyses of works of art and literature.

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                            • Lyotard, Jean-François. Libidinal Economy. Translated by Iain Hamilton Grant. London: Bloomsbury, 2015.

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                              The second of Lyotard’s major works. Along with Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus, which was published two years earlier in 1972, and to which it was in part a response, it is an important example of the critique of Freud and Marx developed through an affirmative account of desire. Notable for the rhetorically inventive style in which it is written.

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                              Collections of Essays

                              Lyotard was an accomplished and prolific essayist. Consequently, there are many collections of Lyotard’s shorter writings and essays available, and they offer a good way in to his longer works. Lyotard himself published several collections in French during his lifetime, and the writings included in those collections can be considered as preparatory essays for his Major Works. However, with the exception of Lyotard 1991a, which translates L’Inhumain: Causeries sur le temps, the French collections listed here have not been directly translated into equivalent English-language versions; most of the essays have by now been translated, but are either uncollected or dispersed across different English-language collections. The first two collections of essays in French appeared in 1973: Dérive à partir Marx et Freud (Lyotard 1994a) and Des dispositifs pulsionnels (Lyotard 1994b). The essays in Lyotard 1994a are close in spirit to Discourse, Figure, while those in Lyotard 1994b foreshadow Libidinal Economy. Lyotard 2011 brings together essays from 1974–1976 that exemplify the types of approach, analyses, and concerns that make up what is often called Lyotard’s “pagan” period, an affirmation of philosophical impiety, which falls between his earlier “libidinal” writings and the later language pragmatics that informs The Postmodern Condition and The Differend. Lyotard 2000 contains essays collected posthumously. Lyotard 1989 and Lyotard 2006 contain representative selections of important essays and excerpts from longer works from across the whole of Lyotard’s career that cover his writings on philosophy, politics, art, and literature. Lyotard 1984 has a narrower selection of writings from the first half of the 1970s, reflecting Lyotard’s concern with desire as a socially, politically, and aesthetically disruptive force. Lyotard 1993 collects essays written between 1970 and 1991 exemplifying the range of Lyotard’s aesthetic critiques of language, literature, and discourse, and it includes several articles from Lyotard 2011, as well as four of the six essays collected in Lyotard 1991b.

                              • Lyotard, Jean-François. Driftworks. Edited by Roger McKeon. New York: Semiotext(e), 1984.

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                                The first anthology of Lyotard’s writings to be published in English, which draws together a selection of work from the early 1970s in which Lyotard develops an affirmative account of desire to challenge the nihilistic rationalism of traditional modes of critique. The essays are often wide-ranging but they all offer important insights and observations on art, literature, drama, psychoanalysis, and philosophy. Notable also for an enthusiastic introduction by Roger McKeon.

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                                • Lyotard, Jean-François. The Lyotard Reader. Edited by Andrew Benjamin. Oxford: Blackwell, 1989.

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                                  An excellent collection of some of Lyotard’s most significant writings, covering the different stages or periods of his work, and spanning the full range of his interests in art, literature, politics, psychoanalysis, Judaism, and philosophy.

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                                  • Lyotard, Jean-François. The Inhuman: Reflections on Time. Translated by Geoffrey Bennington and Rachel Bowlby. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 1991a.

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                                    A collection of occasional lectures from the 1980s on a variety of topics—modern art, aesthetics, technology. Includes important essays on the sublime. Written in a clear and accessible style.

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                                    • Lyotard, Jean-François. Lectures d’enfance. Paris: Éditions Galilée, 1991b.

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                                      The “infancy” of the title denotes a state of inarticulacy that arises when the mind is affected by something it lacks the means to speak of or represent. This infancy, Lyotard alleges, haunts all discourse, even if it disavows it. An important collection for the reader interested in Lyotard’s engagement with literature. Contains essays on the works of Kafka, Sartre, Joyce, Freud, Valery, and Arendt.

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                                      • Lyotard, Jean-François. Toward the Postmodern. Edited by Robert Harvey and Mark S. Roberts. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1993.

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                                        A valuable collection of Lyotard’s writings on art, culture, and literature that both predate and follow The Postmodern Condition, collated with the express intention of demonstrating the depth and variety of Lyotard’s thought to an English-speaking audience. Contains significant selections from both Lyotard 2011 and Lyotard 1991b.

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                                        • Lyotard, Jean-François. Dérive à partir Marx et Freud. Paris: Éditions Galilée, 1994a.

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                                          First published in 1973 by Union Générale d’Éditions. The original version contained fifteen essays; the 1994 reissue omits several shorter pieces. The essays chart Lyotard’s contestation of the Freudian-Marxist approaches that dominated academic politics and culture in the 1950s and 1960s via an appeal to art, and the disruptive affective intensities that are figured in it.

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                                          • Lyotard, Jean-François. Des dispositifs pulsionnels. Paris: Éditions Galilée, 1994b.

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                                            Originally published in 1973 by Union Générale d’Éditions, containing thirteen essays in which Lyotard develops the libidinal philosophy that comes to inform Libidinal Economy. Contains important writings on the arts (cinema, theater, painting), and an extended work of narrative analysis, critical of structural narratology. The 1994 version omits two essays: “Equisse d’une économique de l’hyperréalisme” and “La peinture comme dispositif libidinal” (both available in translation in Lyotard 2006).

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                                            • Lyotard, Jean-François. Misère de la philosophie. Edited by Dolores Lyotard. Paris: Éditions Galilée, 2000.

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                                              A posthumous collection of texts first published or rewritten between 1986 and 1998, which are concerned, in one way or another, with the inarticulate, with what resists being put into language or being phrased. Includes essays on Kant, Freud, Bataille, Malraux, Deleuze, and the short but frequently referenced essay “La phrase-affect (D’un supplement au Différend)” (translated in Lyotard 2006).

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                                              • Lyotard, Jean-François. The Lyotard Reader and Guide. Edited by Keith Crome and James Williams. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006.

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                                                A selection of Lyotard’s writings from across his entire career, including excerpts from his Major Works and significant essays. Organized in sections on philosophy, literature, politics, and art, each of which is prefaced by an introductory essay written by the editors.

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                                                • Lyotard, Jean-François. Rudiments païens: Genre dissertatif. Paris: Klincksieck, 2011.

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                                                  Originally published in 1977. Contains notable essays on Freud, on the Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch, and on the French novelist (and friend and contemporary of Lyotard) Michel Butor, as well as the important essay, “Féminité dans la metalangue” (translated in Lyotard 1989 as “One of the Things at Stake in Women’s Struggles”).

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                                                  The Postmodern

                                                  Lyotard 2004 was the book that brought Lyotard to global prominence, and is undoubtedly his most influential work. First published in French in 1979 and in English in 1984, it exercised a disproportionate influence over the reception of Lyotard’s work in the English-speaking world. Lyotard was himself critical of the simplifications that its popularity lent itself to, and at times proposed avoiding the term “postmodern” altogether; nevertheless, he came back to it more than once, revisiting his own analysis and extending it to areas of culture, politics, and gender not considered in the initial study. Notable in this regard are Lyotard 1992 and Lyotard 1997.

                                                  • Lyotard, Jean-François. The Postmodern Explained: Correspondence, 1982–1985. Edited by Julian Pefanis and Morgan Thomas. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992.

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                                                    A collection of essays in which Lyotard takes up and responds to issues that were raised in the debates about the postmodern following from the publication of The Postmodern Condition (Lyotard 2004), and hence an excellent companion to that book. Contains an essay on Orwell’s 1984.

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                                                    • Lyotard, Jean-François. Postmodern Fables. Translated by Georges Van Den Abbeele. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.

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                                                      A series of short pieces—fables, narratives, essays—individually published between ten and fifteen years after The Postmodern Condition (Lyotard 2004), and a valuable follow-up read to that landmark book. They register the political predicament the postmodern philosopher faces in the absence of any viable political alternative to the transnational economic and techno-scientific ideology of development. Underlines the importance of literature and art for Lyotard as a force of resistance.

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                                                      • Lyotard, Jean-François. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Translated by Geoffrey Bennington and Brian Massumi. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2004.

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                                                        Originally published in French in 1979. A report on the status of knowledge in advanced societies, influentially defining the postmodern as an incredulity toward “metanarratives”—the grand-narratives of historical progress which, in modernity, legitimated knowledge. The English translation contains a critical foreword by Fredric Jameson, and as an appendix the influential essay “Answering the Question: What is Postmodernism?”

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                                                        Writings on Art and Artists

                                                        While all of Lyotard’s writings are informed by his profound and sustained response to art—a response aimed at loosening philosophy’s conceptual hold over being—those listed here focus exclusively on art, the work of particular artists, or aesthetics. In the latter half of the 1970s, Lyotard embarked on a lengthy reading of and response to the critical philosophy of Immanuel Kant, and in particular Kant’s treatment of the aesthetic ideas of beauty and sublimity in his Critique of Judgement. Lyotard’s most extensive and important reflection on this topic is given in Lyotard 1994, which is a major contribution to Kantian scholarship and to aesthetic theory in its own right. However, Lyotard’s significance in this area extends beyond the discipline of aesthetic theory. The publication of the multivolume Writings on Contemporary Art and Artists (Lyotard 2009, Lyotard 2010a, Lyotard 2010b, Lyotard 2012a, Lyotard 2012b, Lyotard 2012c, Lyotard 2013), has made fully apparent the range and profundity of Lyotard’s engagement with art and individual artists. It shows him to be one of the foremost philosophers of contemporary visual art in the 20th century.

                                                        • Lyotard, Jean-François. Lessons on the Analytic of the Sublime. Translated by Elizabeth Rottenberg. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994.

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                                                          A model of philosophical close reading, providing a careful, detailed exegesis of Kant’s analysis of the sublime in the “Analytic of the Sublime” from The Critique of Judgement. Lyotard emphasizes the importance of the conflict between the faculties of reason and the imagination and sensibility. A seminal text in the late-20th-century reception of Kant among Continental philosophers, and central to an appreciation of Lyotard’s later works.

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                                                          • Lyotard, Jean-François. Karel Appel: Un geste de couleur/Karel Appel, a Gesture of Colour. Edited by Herman Parret. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press, 2009.

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                                                            An important work in relation to Lyotard’s later thinking about art. A bilingual French and English version of Lyotard’s book on the 20th-century Dutch painter Karel Appel, based on the original French manuscript, which first appeared in a German translation in 1998. Contains twenty-five illustrations of Appel’s work, a preface by the general editor, Herman Parret, and a critical essay by Christine Buci-Glucksmann.

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                                                            • Lyotard, Jean-François. Les Transformateurs Duchamp/Duchamp’s TRANS/formers. Edited by Herman Parret. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press, 2010a.

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                                                              A bilingual republication of Lyotard’s book on Marcel Duchamp that first appeared in French in 1977 and in English in 1990. Compiled from essays and lectures written between 1974 and 1977, it is an important example of Lyotard’s response to the work of an artist before his turn to Kant and the aesthetics of the sublime. Lyotard views Duchamp’s artworks as disordered and disordering machines—as transformative operators, or transformers.

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                                                              • Lyotard, Jean-François. Sam Francis: Leçon de Ténèbres «like the paintings of a blind man»/Sam Francis: Lesson of Darkness “like the paintings of a blind man.” Edited by Herman Parret. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press, 2010b.

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                                                                A republication of Lyotard’s book on Sam Francis originally published in English in 1993. Here presented as a bilingual edition with the previously unpublished original French text, and accompanying illustrations. One of Lyotard’s most writerly, poetic responses to the work of an artist. Enigmatic but suggestive and rewarding. Includes an important afterword by Geoffrey Bennington, who translated the French manuscript.

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                                                                • Lyotard, Jean-François. Que peindre? Adami, Arakawa, Buren/What to Paint? Adami, Arakawa, Buren. Edited by Herman Parret. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press, 2012a.

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                                                                  A bilingual version of Lyotard’s writings on three major contemporary artists—Valerio Adami, Shusaku Arakawa, and Daniel Buren. Originally published in two volumes in French in 1987, and republished in 2008. This version contains 69 of the original 132 illustrations (reduced to 10 in the 2008 edition); two supplementary works by Lyotard, one on Arakawa, one on Buren; and a postface by Gérald Sfez.

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                                                                  • Lyotard, Jean-François. Textes disperses 1: esthétique et théorie de l’art/Miscellaneous Texts 1 Aesthetics and Theory of Art. Edited by Herman Parret. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press, 2012b.

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                                                                    A compilation of nine essays from 1969 through to 1997, providing a comprehensive overview of the changes and developments in Lyotard’s philosophy of art. Three of the essays were previously unpublished. It includes a preface by Herman Parret, an afterword by Jean-Michel Durafour, summaries of fourteen essays that are available in other readily accessible volumes, and detailed bibliographical information about the essays collected in it.

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                                                                    • Lyotard, Jean-François. Textes disperses 2: artistes contemporains/Miscellaneous Texts 2: Contemporary Artists. Edited by Herman Parret. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press, 2012c.

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                                                                      The companion volume to Lyotard 2012b, containing thirty-eight texts on twenty-six contemporary painters, written between 1971 and 1997 (some of the essays were previously unpublished, others difficult to obtain). It exhibits to the full Lyotard’s active engagement with contemporary artists, including essays on Richard Lindner, René Guiffrey, Barnet Newman, Albert Ayme, Joseph Kosuth, Béatrice Casadeus, Bracha Lichtenberg Ettinger, and Ruth Francken.

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                                                                      • Lyotard, Jean-François. L’assassinat de l’expérience par la peinture, Monory/The Assassination of Experience by Painting, Monory. Edited by Herman Parret. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press, 2013.

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                                                                        Contains two essays on the artist Jacques Monory. The first was published in 1973; the second appeared almost ten years later. Of interest for the comparison it allows between Lyotard’s earlier libidinal philosophy of art and his later concern with the sublime. A republication of the bilingual edition published by Black Dog Publishing in 1998, including a lightly revised version of the original introduction by Sarah Wilson as an epilogue.

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                                                                        Political Writings

                                                                        Like the work of his contemporaries Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, and Michel Foucault, Lyotard’s work is intimately informed by political concerns. Uniquely, however, Lyotard was, from 1954 to 1964, a member of the small but influential Marxist group Socialisme ou barbarie, and for the following two years he belonged to another group, Pouvoir Ouvrier. Growing disenchanted with Marxism, he disaffiliated himself from this latter group in 1966, but still actively supported the student uprising in Paris in 1968. In the 1970s Lyotard drifted further from Marxism, but he never forsook the search for ways to articulate the injuries created by capitalism and the ideology of development. For the period with which he was a member of Socialisme ou barbarie, Lyotard devoted his time to writing political tracts. Originally published pseudonymously, those articles are republished in Lyotard 1993. In the essay “A Memorial of Marxism,” in Lyotard 1988, Lyotard relates and reflects on his “differend” with Marxism and his break with Socialisme ou barbarie. Unlike traditional political philosophy, Lyotard’s later political philosophy does not take the form of a theory of the state, or a philosophical doctrine of right. Rather, it is the elaboration of a critical, reflective exercise of judgement directed to the continuous discrimination of “differends,” which is necessitated by the unsustainability of the grand political projects of modernity. This elaboration is worked out in Lyotard 2009. Lyotard 1990 is both Lyotard’s response to and intervention in the debate that took place in France in the late 1980s over the philosopher Martin Heidegger’s relations to National Socialism. It is also a profound engagement with the place of “the jews”—minorities and outsiders, including or exemplified by the Jews—who have been marginalized, dismissed, persecuted, or exterminated in Western culture throughout its history.

                                                                        • Lyotard, Jean-François. Peregrinations: Law, Form, Event. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.

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                                                                          This book opens with three lectures in which Lyotard sets out his critical position. Presenting a lucid overview of Lyotard’s main ideas, it is listed among Lyotard’s political writings because of the long essay “A Memorial of Marxism,” which is included as an afterword. In it Lyotard sets out the differences with Marxism that led him to leave the radical Marxist group to which belonged for a decade.

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                                                                          • Lyotard, Jean-François. Heidegger and “the jews.” Translated by Andreas Michel and Mark S. Roberts. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990.

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                                                                            Lyotard’s important contribution to the debate that took place in France in the late 1980s over Martin Heidegger’s involvement with National Socialism, and in particular over the extent to which it marks his philosophy, if it does at all. Also important for Lyotard’s critical account of the complicity between the foundationalism of Western culture—in particular, philosophy—and the persecution of outsiders, by which the Jews have particularly been afflicted.

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                                                                            • Lyotard, Jean-François. Political Writings. Translated and edited by Bill Readings and K. P. Geiman. London: University College London Press, 1993.

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                                                                              A collection of Lyotard’s political essays, ranging from his early, pseudonymous Marxist analyses of the Algerian struggle for independence published in Socialisme ou barbarie, through essays on the student uprisings in 1968, to his later writings on Europe’s relation to the Jews, and on the politics of the state and global development.

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                                                                              • Lyotard, Jean-François. Enthusiasm: The Kantian Critique of History. Translated by Georges Van-Den-Abbeele. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009.

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                                                                                A detailed and exacting reading of Kant’s politico-historical writings, which Lyotard treats as providing something like a critique of political reason. Parts of the study reappear in The Differend (Lyotard 1988, cited under Major Works). Helpful for understanding the political implications of Lyotard’s later philosophy.

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                                                                                Interviews and Conversations

                                                                                Lyotard was a generous interviewee, responding with an admirable openness to questions. Unfortunately, no collection of his interviews has yet been published. Those listed here are those that are either important and/or relatively easy to obtain. Published in book form, Lyotard and Thébaud 1985 is a transcription of a series of interviews with Jean-Loup Thébaud, presented as a dialogue developing over seven days. Under Thébaud’s questioning, Lyotard is led to elaborate an account of justice that is indebted to Kant and that points toward, or opens a path toward, his later works, including The Differend. Beardsworth 1994 is a long interview in which the question of Lyotard’s changing relationship to the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche is the guiding thread. In Larochelle 1992, Lyotard discusses issues arising from The Differend and makes some important comments about his planned future work. Marcadé 2013 is an interview about his writings on the contemporary artists Adami, Arakawa, Buren, and in which he discusses the relationship between art and philosophy.

                                                                                • Beardsworth, Richard. “Nietzsche and the Inhuman.” Journal of Nietzsche Studies 7 (Spring 1994): 67–130.

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                                                                                  A lengthy interview that looks at the importance of Nietzsche in Lyotard’s work from the first half of the 1970s, and his subsequent disappearance from his thinking. A useful resource for anyone wanting to follow the “changing relations between philosophy, art, politics, capital and technology” (p. 67) in Lyotard’s work.

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                                                                                  • Larochelle, Gilbert. “That Which Resists, After All.” Philosophy Today 36.4 (Winter 1992): 402—417.

                                                                                    DOI: 10.5840/philtoday199236410Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                    A discussion in which Lyotard answers criticisms of the philosophy of language he had developed in The Differend. Helpful for anyone wanting to acquire a deeper understanding of that work. Lyotard also relates his plans for a book on the body. That book was not written, but the issues he suggests it would address—time, space, sexual difference, color, and art—are the focus of his writings after The Differend.

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                                                                                    • Lyotard, Jean-François, and Jean-Loup Thébaud. Just Gaming. Translated by Wlad Godzich. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985.

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                                                                                      Presented as taking place over seven days, these conversations with Jean-Loup Thébaud are dated as having taken place between November 1977 and June 1978. As the days (or months) pass, Lyotard draws increasingly on the philosophy of Kant—albeit a Kant approached through the sophists—to develop an account of ethical and political judgement that anticipates his later position in The Differend. Contains some interesting and suggestive observations on narrative.

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                                                                                      • Marcadé, Bernard. “What to Paint?” In Special Issue: Rewriting Lyotard: Figuration, Presentation, Resistance. Edited by Peter W. Milne, with Heidi Bickis, Rob Shields, and Kent Still. Cultural Politics: 9.2 (July 2013): 212–218.

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                                                                                        This interview is a good accompaniment to Lyotard 2012a (cited under Writings on Art and Artists), which Lyotard discusses at length, elaborating on the book’s composition. He also talks about his approach to art in terms of its presentation of the fact that there is something unpresentable in the sensible, and links that approach to the predicament of philosophy in the contemporary age.

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                                                                                        Works on Lyotard

                                                                                        The following entries detail different critical responses to Lyotard’s works.

                                                                                        Anthologies

                                                                                        There are a number of good essay collections on Lyotard’s work. Given the polymathic range of Lyotard’s interests, and the heterogeneity of his writings, they tend to be either thematically broad or focused on a particular period of his work. Benjamin 1992 and Derrida, et al. 1985 focus on the issue of judgment, a traditional philosophical concern that became a prominent focus of Lyotard’s ethical and political writings in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Lyotard, et al. 2001 collects essays delivered at a conference to mark the first anniversary of Lyotard’s death, and many of the contributions focus on Lyotard’s later work. Translation of some of these essays can be found in Nouvet, et al. 2007. Bennington 2008 and Bickis and Shields 2013 concentrate on works published in the last decade of Lyotard’s life. Silverman 2002 has a broad thematic focus on philosophy, politics, and the aesthetics of the sublime. Gaillard, et al. 2016 is an exciting recent collection that concentrates on the issue of affect, which is a prominent concern in Lyotard’s final works, but which is present throughout his writings. Taylor and Lambert 2006 is a three-volume collection of critical essays on Lyotard from a large number of different authors.

                                                                                        • Benjamin, Andrew, ed. Judging Lyotard. London and New York: Routledge, 1992.

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                                                                                          A seminal collection of essays on Lyotard’s work up until the end of the 1980s, concentrating on Lyotard’s concern with judgement that informs The Postmodern Condition, Just Gaming, and The Differend. Often philosophically demanding, the essays repay careful study.

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                                                                                          • Bennington, Geoffrey. Late Lyotard. King of Prussia, PA: Createspace, 2008.

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                                                                                            Bennington is a leading authority on Lyotard. This volume brings together four previously uncollected essays on works Lyotard published in the last decade of his life (a period that is designated as Lyotard’s “late” period). Also includes as an appendix an essay on an earlier work, Just Gaming (Lyotard and Thébaud 1985, cited under Interviews and Conversations).

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                                                                                            • Bickis, Heidi, and Rob Shields, eds. Rereading Jean-Francois Lyotard: Essays on His Later Works. Farnham, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2013.

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                                                                                              A volume devoted to themes and arguments that emerge, or that are newly radicalized, in Lyotard’s works of the 1990s. The essays focus on the status of a number of issues germane to aesthetics and literature, such as affectivity, gesture, the sublime, mythopoeisis, the voice, silence, biography, and confession. Contains a late work by Lyotard, “To Burdened Writing.”

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                                                                                              • Derrida, Jacques, Vincent Descombes, Garbis Kortian, et al. La Faculté du juger. Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 1985.

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                                                                                                A seminal collection. The contributions revolve around Lyotard’s investigation of ethical, political, and aesthetic judgment in his writings of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Contains essays by some of Lyotard’s most significant philosophical contemporaries, including Jacques Derrida, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, and Jean-Luc Nancy. Philosophically challenging, it is best suited to the advanced reader or specialist.

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                                                                                                • Gaillard, Julie, Claire Nouvet, and Mark Stoholski. Traversals of Affect: On Jean-François Lyotard. London and New York: Bloomsbury, 2016.

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                                                                                                  An important collection that reflects the growing engagement with Lyotard’s concern in his last works with affect, and in particular with those affective states that cannot be put into words. The essays, by both new writers and established authorities on Lyotard’s work, are often complex and challenging. Not for beginners, but likely to become an indispensable reference for future Lyotard scholarship and for those interested in Lyotard’s contribution to aesthetics.

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                                                                                                  • Lyotard, Dolores, Jean-Claude Milner, and Gérald Sfez, eds. Jean-François Lyotard: L’exercise du différend. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2001.

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                                                                                                    The proceedings of a conference organized by the Collège international de philosophie in memory of Lyotard in March 1999, one year after his death. It contains essays by Alain Badiou, Philippe Bonnefis, Jacques Derrida, and Jean-Luc Nancy, and by several leading Lyotard scholars. Several of the essays are translated in Nouvet, et al. 2007.

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                                                                                                    • Nouvet, Claire, Zrinka Stahuljak, and Kent Still, eds. Minima Memoria: Essays in the Wake of Jean-Francois Lyotard. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007.

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                                                                                                      A useful collection, containing essays by notable contemporaries of Lyotard—including Jacques Derrida’s moving and personal reflection, “Lyotard and Us”—and leading authorities on Lyotard’s work. Several of the essays were delivered at a conference in memory of Lyotard, and originally appeared in French in Lyotard, et al. 2001.

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                                                                                                      • Silverman, Hugh J., ed. Lyotard: Philosophy, Politics, and the Sublime. New York: Routledge, 2002.

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                                                                                                        This volume collects essays that examine Lyotard’s politics and aesthetics, and that situate Lyotard’s work in relation to the work of his philosophical contemporaries (albeit a slightly eccentric selection). It opens with a translation of an important later essay by Lyotard on one of Freud’s case studies, “Emma: Between Philosophy and Psychoanalysis” (published in French in Misère de la philosophie (Lyotard 2000, cited under Collections of Essays).

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                                                                                                        • Taylor, Victor E., and Gregg Lambert, eds. Jean-Francois Lyotard: Critical Evaluations in Cultural Theory. London and New York: Routledge, 2006.

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                                                                                                          An exhaustive three-volume collection of critical writings by leading scholars to Lyotard’s work. The first volume is devoted to Lyotard’s aesthetics, the second to politics and the history of philosophy, the third to ethics. Expensive—this is beyond the pocket of most readers—and dominated by responses to Lyotard’s account of the postmodern, but it is a valuable reference resource.

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                                                                                                          Art, Aesthetics, and Literature

                                                                                                          Lyotard wrote prolifically on art, particularly on visual art, developing and reworking his philosophical concerns and ideas in response to his encounters with art and literature, artists and writers. Carroll 1987 was one of the first extended studies to engage thematically with the philosophical radicality of Lyotard’s approach to art and literature, showing how Lyotard sought to disrupt the traditional assumption that philosophical theory could simply speak the truth of art. Later studies on Lyotard’s aesthetic writings have tended to focus on his philosophical reflections on the sublime. Of those, Rancière 2009 stands out because of the vigor of its criticisms. Milne 2011 provides a careful and convincing rejoinder to Rancière’s criticisms. More recently, criticism has engaged a broader range of concerns and even sought to apply Lyotard’s concepts to areas of art he wrote on less frequently or not at all. Durafour 2009 and Woodward 2014 both focus on Lyotard’s limited number of writings on cinema—and both argue for the importance of those writings to the development of a theory of cinema. Tomiche 2001 and Sawyer 2014 look at the relation between Lyotard’s work and literature. Tomiche identifies Lyotard’s “literary canon”—the select group of avant-garde authors to whom he appeals and about whom he writes, while Sawyer applies Lyotard’s concept of the differend to literature. Bamford 2012 similarly applies one of Lyotard’s major philosophical concepts, the figural, to performance art. Ionescu 2013 focuses on Discourse, Figure (Lyotard 2010, cited under Major Works), in which Lyotard advances the concept of the figural. He situates Lyotard’s concerns in that book in relation to the broader concerns of modern French aesthetics.

                                                                                                          • Bamford, Kiff. Lyotard and the “figural” in Performance, Art and Writing. London and New York: Continuum, 2012.

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                                                                                                            An advanced study providing a pathbreaking application of Lyotard’s writings on art to performance art that will be of interest to Lyotard scholars, cultural theorists, and art historians. It gives clear explanations of Lyotard’s key aesthetic ideas, privileging the concept of the figural, which it elaborates and transforms while using it to address the problems that face art-historical discourse when documenting and writing on performance practice.

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                                                                                                            • Carroll, David. Paraesthetics: Foucault, Lyotard, Derrida. London: Methuen, 1987.

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                                                                                                              A now classic study. Carroll shows how Lyotard uses art and literature to unsettle philosophy of its conceptual assurances—the term “paraesthetics” denoting an aesthetics turned back against itself. Rightly, and importantly, he traces this appeal to art back to Nietzsche. Lucidly written and instructive, but challenging.

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                                                                                                              • Durafour, Jean-Michel. Jean-François Lyotard: questions au cinema. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2009.

                                                                                                                DOI: 10.3917/puf.duraf.2009.01Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                A groundbreaking work. Lyotard published relatively little on cinema, and, a few essays aside, his remarks on cinema are widely dispersed. For that reason, prior to this study, Lyotard’s writings on cinema had received little systematic attention. However, Durafour makes a strong case for their importance, and he draws on, and forcefully adapts, Lyotard’s concept of the figural in a novel direction to develop an original theory of cinema.

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                                                                                                                • Ionescu, Vlad. “Figural Aesthetics: Lyotard, Valéry, Deleuze.” Cultural Politics 9.2 (2013): 144–157.

                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1215/17432197-2146075Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                  Ionescu argues that Lyotard’s concept of the figural developed in Discourse, Figure (Lyotard 2010, cited under Major Works) forms the paradigm for Lyotard’s subsequent explorations of art and prefigures themes in his later work. Usefully situates the concept of the figural within the context of a broader concern in modern French aesthetics with the irreducibility of the visible to conceptual and discursive determinations, a concern evidenced in Deleuze’s and Valery’s reflections on painting.

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                                                                                                                  • Milne, Peter W. “Sensibility and the Law: On Rancière’s Reading of Lyotard.” Symposium: Canadian Journal of Continental Philosophy/Revue canadienne de philosophie continentale 15.2 (2011): 95–119.

                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.5840/symposium201115230Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                    Milne provides an admirably detailed and rigorous defense against Jacques Rancière’s criticisms of Lyotard’s reading of Kant’s account of the sublime (Rancière 2009), arguing for an affinity between the event of the sublime in Lyotard’s sense and Rancière’s definition of politics.

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                                                                                                                    • Rancière, Jacques. Aesthetics and Its Discontents. Translated by Steven Corcoran. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2009.

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                                                                                                                      A collection of talks and essays, with an extended and influential discussion of Lyotard’s theory of the sublime. According to Rancière, Lyotard’s sublime makes art into a mystified idolatry of an empty ethical commitment to the Other, and suppresses art’s political vocation. Despite its influence, it should be read with care and caution, as it is arguably based on a misreading of Lyotard.

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                                                                                                                      • Sawyer, Dylan. Lyotard, Literature and the Trauma of the Differend. Basingstoke, UK, and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

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                                                                                                                        A book that addresses literature through Lyotard’s concept of the differend and conversely addresses the concept of the differend through works of literature, enriching the understanding of both. An important example of the value of Lyotard’s work for literary studies.

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                                                                                                                        • Tomiche, Anne. “Lyotard and/on Literature.” In Special Issue: Jean-François Lyotard: Time and Judgment. Edited by Robert Harvey and Lawrence R. Schehr. Yale French Studies 99 (2001): 149–163.

                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.2307/2903249Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                          Tomiche provides a guide to Lyotard’s literary canon, which she notes comprises authors who focus on “nothingness,” “emptiness,” and “non-sense,” and who consequently attend to the matter of words rather than the stories they tell. Contains useful and insightful observations on the way in which Lyotard uses literary texts as supports in the development of philosophical concepts—concepts that he then uses in his responses to literary writing.

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                                                                                                                          • Woodward, Ashley. “A Sacrificial Economy of the Image: Lyotard on Cinema.” Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities 19.4 (2014): 141–154.

                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1080/0969725X.2014.984449Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                            Woodward provides an exegesis of Lyotard’s publications on cinema, eliciting from them a Lyotardian philosophy of the cinematic image. What distinguishes this philosophy, he argues, is its attention to the moments in which the filmic image stops making sense, where it ceases to illustrate the film’s story, and instead the sensorial, purely aesthetic qualities of the image obtrude, jamming the narrative and disturbing its consolatory function.

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                                                                                                                            Gender

                                                                                                                            Only occasionally did Lyotard address full on and thematically issues of gender or sexual difference in his writings. However, in no sense did he ignore them. They are present throughout his work, albeit more often obliquely rather than directly. Sometimes they are addressed in the context of other issues, sometimes they are signaled by the mode of writing Lyotard adopts (for example, in dialogues between a “He” and a “She”), and sometimes they move to the forefront of his concerns (sexual difference become one of the central issues in his last works). Nevertheless, there are, as Margret Grebowicz has observed, surprisingly few works providing a sustained examination of “the possible significance of Lyotard’s philosophy . . . for feminist thought, and the importance of Lyotard’s own work on gender for contemporary gender theory” (Grebowicz 2007, p. 6). Grebowicz 2007 is the only collection of essays on Lyotard and gender. It offers a range of perspectives on Lyotard’s contribution to gender theory, and it is a good place to start for anyone wanting for find out more about this aspect of Lyotard’s work. Lindsay 1992 provides an engaging and provocative account of the connection between the body and ethics in Lyotard’s work from the 1980s. Jones 2013 is a productive and rigorous comparison between themes relating to gender in Lyotard and the feminist philosopher Luce Irigaray. Iveković 1997 and Ziarek 2001 are important monographs that draw significantly and productively on Lyotard’s work to think through and respond to the current challenges facing feminism.

                                                                                                                            • Grebowicz, Margret, ed. Gender after Lyotard. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007.

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                                                                                                                              Of interest to anyone concerned with the relation between Lyotard’s work and gender theory. Contains essays reading Lyotard in relation to the work of female artists, writers, and philosophers (Helen Chadwick, Bracha L. Ettinger, Marguerite Duras, Luce Irigaray).

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                                                                                                                              • Iveković, Rada. Le sexe de la philosophie: Essai sur Jean-François Lyotard et le féminin. Paris: L’Harmattan, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                One of the few monographs available on the implications of Lyotard’s work for thinking the feminine. Argues that by rethinking difference and plurality it is possible to prevent philosophy from disavowing the gendering of thought and to confront its denial of reason to women.

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                                                                                                                                • Jones, Rachel. “Lyotard and Irigaray on Eros, Infancy and Birth: The Dissymmetrical Horizons of Being Between.” In Rereading Jean-Francois Lyotard: Essays on His Later Works. Edited by Heidi Bickis and Rob Shields, 119–136. Farnham, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2013.

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                                                                                                                                  A careful and rigorous reading of the works of Lyotard and Luce Irigaray. Jones shows that despite agreeing that the “othering of woman that has structured the western philosophical tradition” (p. 120), there are significant divergences between Lyotard and Irigaray on the issues of birth, death, and infancy, which have traditionally conditioned the idea of the mother. Responding to these differences, Jones argues, can open new perspectives on the human condition.

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                                                                                                                                  • Lindsay, Cecile. “Corporeality, Ethics, Experimentation: Lyotard in the Eighties.” Philosophy Today 36.4 (Winter 1992): 389–401.

                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.5840/philtoday19923649Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                    This essay explores the link between ethics and the body in Lyotard’s work of the 1980s, offering a trenchant defense of the capacity of Lyotard’s work to provide us with the concepts to engage the ethical issues of our times and culture. It demonstrates that capacity in relation to the treatment of women’s bodies in contemporary Western culture, through a reading of Monique Wittig’s novel Virgil, Non.

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                                                                                                                                    • Ziarek, Ewa. An Ethics of Dissensus: Postmodernity, Feminism, and the Politics of Radical Democracy. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                      Ziarek builds on the postmodern critique of the universality of reason by a range of contemporary thinkers, including Lyotard, to develop an ethics respectful of otherness, and a sense of freedom and responsibility that does not rely on normative foundations. While Lyotard’s influence is evident throughout this work, Ziarek specifically uses his positive valuation of struggle, and dispute in his work from the 1980s, to develop a feminist ethics of “dissensus.”

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                                                                                                                                      History of Philosophy

                                                                                                                                      A significant area within the scholarship on Lyotard is the study of how his work relates to the philosophical tradition. One of Lyotard’s most significant debts is to the work of Immanuel Kant. He has drawn on Kant’s critical philosophy to develop both his account of the sublime and his own concept of the differend. Gasché 2001 is included here as the most penetrating analysis of the connection between Lyotard’s use of the sublime and the ontological concerns of the philosophical tradition (for other analyses focused more on the tradition of aesthetics as it develops from Kant onward, see the citations in the section on Art, Aesthetics, and Literature). Crome 2004 traces the link between the concept of the differend and Kant’s account of the antinomies of reason. He shows that Lyotard’s reading of that account is informed by his take on the paradoxical arguments of the Greek sophists. Kotowicz 2000 establishes a resonance between Lyotard’s work and another aspect of ancient Greek philosophy—the doctrine of atomism. McLennan 2015 examines the dispute between Lyotard and one of his contemporaries, the French philosopher and Marxist Alain Badiou, in the light of the age-old and perennial dispute between sophistry and philosophy. Gasché 2007 places Lyotard’s understanding of the task of philosophy in relation to Plato’s and Aristotle’s understanding of the role of philosophy.

                                                                                                                                      • Crome, Keith. Lyotard and Greek Thought: Sophistry. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1057/9780230006027Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                        A detailed analysis of Lyotard’s appeal to sophistry. Crome’s book demonstrates both how Lyotard’s reading of the sophists and sophistic argumentation informs his concept of the differend, and how Lyotard’s work challenges the traditional philosophical denigration of sophistry.

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                                                                                                                                        • Gasché, Rodolphe. “The Sublime, Ontologically Speaking.” In Special Issue: Jean-François Lyotard: Time and Judgment. Edited by Robert Harvey and Lawrence R. Schehr. Yale French Studies 99 (2001): 117–128.

                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.2307/2903247Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                          An exceptionally important scholarly article that illuminates the ontological implications of Lyotard’s account of the sentiment of the sublime. Gasché argues that Lyotard’s thinking radically transforms the basic philosophical concern with being, and this links it to Jewish thinking. A key essay for the philosophical appreciation of Lyotard’s writings on the sublime.

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                                                                                                                                          • Gasché, Rodolphe. “Saving the Honor of Thinking: On Jean-François Lyotard.” In Minima Memoria: Essays in the Wake of Jean-Francois Lyotard. Edited by Claire Nouvet, Zrinka Stahuljak, and Kent Still, 27–48. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                            In this essay, Gasché explores Lyotard’s declaration that the task of philosophy is to “save the honor of thinking.” He pursues this exploration through a series of patient and rigorous comparisons between Lyotard’s later philosophy and Plato, Aristotle, and Adorno. Erudite and instructive. Best suited to the advanced reader.

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                                                                                                                                            • Kotowicz, Zbigniew. “Notes on Lyotard’s Route to Atomism.” Parallax 6.4 (2000): 114–126.

                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1080/13534640050212671Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                              Drawing on Lyotard’s abiding interest in the minor thinkers of ancient Greece, the Sophists and the Cynics, Kotowicz constructs a comparison between Lyotard and an ancient philosopher he rarely mentions, the atomist Democritus, and makes the interesting and provocative argument that Lyotard’s philosophy of phrases is a linguistic atomism.

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                                                                                                                                              • McLennan, Matthew R. Philosophy, Sophistry, Antiphilosophy: Badiou’s Dispute with Lyotard. London: Bloomsbury, 2015.

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                                                                                                                                                This book examines the disputes and differences between Lyotard and his contemporary Alain Badiou—a philosopher with whom Lyotard is too infrequently compared. The commonalities and contrasts it brings out serve to promote a better understanding of the works of both. An interesting and important study, perhaps better suited to the advanced reader.

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                                                                                                                                                Politics

                                                                                                                                                Lyotard was not a conventional political philosopher; he did not write a treatise on the state or on the philosophy of right. However, he was, for a decade, a militant political activist with a radical Marxist group, Socialisme ou barbarie. Even though he broke with this group and with Marxism, his work is driven by the need to respond to the political predicament of the late 20th century. He saw this predicament as arising from the irreversible collapse of the great political projects of the West, and their replacement by a calculative rationality bent on the total mobilization of energy in the relentless pursuit of development and profit. The terms of Lyotard’s account of the postmodern predicament mean that the conventional response of the Left is no longer adequate to the practical analysis of the current economic and political situation. This provocation has provoked many a response, and there are numerous works devoted to the political implications of Lyotard’s work. Only a small number are listed here, as many of them cover essentially the same ground. Dews 2007 provides a critical Marxist assessment of the political implications of Lyotard’s writings from the late 1960s and the first half of the 1970s as part of a broader critique of French post-structuralism. His assessment can be usefully contrasted with that made in Williams 2000, which provides a positive view of the political implications of Lyotard’s work from the same period. Rojek and Turner 1998 is a collection of essays that address critically the political implications of Lyotard’s account of the postmodern. Woodward 2016 reflects the growing appreciation among scholars of the range, profundity, and subtlety of Lyotard’s engagement with the key contemporary political issues that currently face humanity, beyond the rather limited purview imposed by the earlier debates over the politics of the postmodern. Curtis 2001 provides a positive evaluation of the political implications of Lyotard’s later anti-foundationalist philosophy of judgment, and of the challenge it makes to the philosophy of autonomy, which he views as an undesirable political value characteristic of modernity. A similarly positive assessment of Lyotard’s later work and its political implications can be found in Carroll 2000, together with a moving account of the author’s friendship with Lyotard.

                                                                                                                                                • Carroll, David. “Memorial for the Différend: In Memory of Jean-François Lyotard.” Parallax 6.4 (2000): 3–27.

                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1080/13534640050212608Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                  This essay opens with an extended recollection of Carroll’s friendship with Lyotard, which is both funny and moving, and which sheds a bright light on Lyotard’s character and concerns. It then shows that Lyotard’s argument that it is the obligation of the postmodern philosopher, writer, or artist to make aesthetic, ethical, and political judgments without recourse to pre-established criteria entails a rethinking of the nature of the political itself.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Curtis, Neal. Against Autonomy: Lyotard, Judgement and Action. Aldershot, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                                    Curtis draws extensively on Lyotard in order to elaborate a politics that is genuinely pluralistic, capable of respecting differences—a “politics of the local, the particular, the singular and the marginal” (p. 203). A productive and positive development of Lyotard’s work, it also appeals to Hannah Arendt’s political theory to overcome some of the shortcomings it attributes to Lyotard.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Dews, Peter, ed. The Logics of Disintegration: Post-structuralist Thought and the Claim of Critical Theory. London and New York: Verso, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                                      A classic critique of French post-structuralism from the standpoint of Frankfurt School Marxist critical theory. Two chapters are devoted to Lyotard. While Dews’s critique should not be accepted unquestioningly, his exposition of Lyotard’s work is clear and careful, and the book is one of the best examples of the response to Lyotard by the New Left in the 1980s.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Rojek, Chris, and Bryan S. Turner, eds. The Politics of Jean-Francois Lyotard: Justice and Political Theory. London: Routledge, 1998.

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                                                                                                                                                        A collection of essays that approach Lyotard’s work from a sociological perspective, and that addresses the political and social issues raised by a range of his writings from the vantage of the postmodern. Some of the essays contain misunderstandings of Lyotard’s arguments about the postmodern, and so the criticisms and claims advanced in them should be considered carefully.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Sfez, Gérald. Jean-François Lyotard: La faculté d’une phrase. Paris: Éditions Galilée, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                          A sophisticated reading of Lyotard’s diverse oeuvre by one of the foremost contemporary Lyotard scholars, focusing on Lyotard’s abiding concern with the incommensurable. Sfez makes the influential claim that in his last writings, Lyotard supposes that politics has become merely a matter of management, and that genuine resistance to the ideology of the contemporary economic and technological paradigm is witnessed only in art.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Williams, James. Lyotard and the Political. London: Routledge, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                            An influential account of the significance of Lyotard’s thought for an understanding of the political. Unlike most political assessments of Lyotard, which either champion or denounce the political implications of Lyotard’s account of the collapse of modern meta-narratives, Williams argues for the positive political significance of Lyotard’s earlier commitment to a libidinal philosophy.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Woodward, Ashley. Lyotard and the Inhuman Condition: Reflections on Nihilism, Information and Art. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016.

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                                                                                                                                                              An important book by a leading Lyotard scholar. It argues for the significance of Lyotard’s work for debates in cultural theory over the relations between the human, nature, and technology, which are changing our understanding of what the human being is, and hence our understanding of the contemporary political predicament, understood philosophically.

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                                                                                                                                                              Postmodernism

                                                                                                                                                              The Postmodern Condition (Lyotard 2004, cited under the Postmodern) is Lyotard’s most influential work, and much has been written about it, although not all merit serious attention. Connor 2005 and Sim 2011 are general guides containing essays on different aspects of postmodern culture; both register the impact of Lyotard’s work on the understanding of the postmodern. Hutcheon 2002 is an influential monograph on the politics of postmodern culture, offering a useful framework against which to view Lyotard’s writings on the postmodern. Browning 2000 is a clearly written assessment that advances the key critical claims made against Lyotard’s account of postmodernity. As the preface to the English translation of The Postmodern Condition, Jameson 2004 has been influential. Jameson 1991 is a longer survey and Marxist critique of the cultural phenomena of postmodernity and is regarded as a seminal work. Rorty 1985 mediates between Lyotard’s account of postmodernity and the Frankfurt School critical theorist Jürgen Habermas’s defense of the legacy of the Enlightenment and modernity. Brügger 2001 is a clear and careful exegesis of Lyotard’s account of the postmodern and is a reliable if critical guide to Lyotard’s position.

                                                                                                                                                              • Browning, Gary. Lyotard and the End of Grand Narratives. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                A critical assessment of the social and political implications of Lyotard’s account of postmodernity. Of value to undergraduates inasmuch as it puts forward in a straightforward way a number of frequently made (but unsustainable) criticisms of this aspect of Lyotard’s thought, including its political impotence, its contradictory meta-explanation or meta-narration of the end of meta-narratives, and the limited nature of Lyotard’s reading of Marx and Hegel.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Brügger, Niels. “What about Postmodernism? The Concept of the Postmodern in the Work of Lyotard.” In Special Issue: Jean-François Lyotard: Time and Judgment. Edited by Robert Harvey and Lawrence R. Schehr. Yale French Studies 99 (2001): 77–92.

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                                                                                                                                                                  A lucid critical analysis of the idea of the postmodern. Despite being critical, it is an unusually sympathetic and careful account of Lyotard’s arguments. Useful for new and advanced readers alike.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Connor, Steven, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Postmodernism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                    A helpful guide to various aspects of postmodernist thought and culture. The essays by various authors cover a range of subjects, including postmodernism in philosophy, literature, and art. Often quite critical of Lyotard, the judgments about his work should be treated with caution, as they betray an impatient readiness to condemn him politically as an apologist for liberal capitalism, a claim that could hardly be further from the truth.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Hutcheon, Linda. The Politics of Postmodernism. London: Routledge, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                                                      For Hutcheon, postmodern culture is distinguished by its radical interrogation of representation. This definition captures the main features associated with the postmodern—the prevalence of parody and pastiche, the self-conscious citation of styles and genres associated with different historical periods, the blending of high and popular culture, and the undermining of established authorities and master discourses. These latter features fit well with Lyotard’s celebrated identification of the postmodern with an incredulity toward master narratives.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991.

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                                                                                                                                                                        There is surprisingly little analysis devoted to Lyotard in this voluminous survey of postmodernism. However, it has acquired a classical status, and it offers a Marxist critique of the phenomena of postmodernism, which is often contrasted with Lyotard’s account of the postmodern.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Jameson, Fredric. “Foreword.” In The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. By Jean-François Lyotard. Translated by Geoffrey Bennington and Brian Massumi, vii–xxi. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                                          A polemical introduction to Lyotard’s work, written from a committed Marxist perspective. It misrepresents Lyotard’s arguments, but it has proven influential in debates over the nature and political significance of postmodernism.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Rorty, Richard. “Habermas and Lyotard on Post-modernity.” In Habermas and Modernity. Edited by Richard J. Bernstein, 161–175. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1985.

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                                                                                                                                                                            A critical intervention in the postmodernism debate, which is, perhaps, of greater historical than philosophical interest. It provides a rather summary account of Lyotard’s claims about the postmodern, which Rorty opposes to Jürgen Habermas’s arguments for a reinvention of the Enlightenment values of rationality and consensus. Rorty advances the view that Lyotard’s “postmodernism” is symptomatic of the sociopolitical problems of modernity.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Sim, Stuart, ed. The Routledge Companion to Postmodernism. 3d ed. London: Routledge, 2011.

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                                                                                                                                                                              A very useful reference work, with fourteen essays on various aspects on postmodernism, a dictionary of key terms, and an extensive series of brief portraits of theorists and artists whose work is central to postmodernism. The essay on postmodernism and philosophy is noteworthy for its even-handedness: it provides a clear, positive account of French philosophy generally, and of Lyotard in particular.

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                                                                                                                                                                              Religion

                                                                                                                                                                              There is an emergent interest in Lyotard’s treatment of Christianity. One focus is on the account Lyotard gives of the relation between Christianity and the Judaic tradition from which it emerged but which it suppresses. Pateman 2013 provides a subtle but lucid treatment of this aspect of Lyotard’s work, arguing that it is key to his account of modernity and its ills. Van Peperstraten compares Lyotard’s account of the relation between Christianity and the Judaic tradition to that given by the contemporary philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy. A second focus in on the implications of Lyotard’s thought for contemporary theology. Boeve 2014 provides a clearly written assessment of these implications, and investigates the possibility of developing a postmodern theology on the basis of Lyotard’s work.

                                                                                                                                                                              • Boeve, Lieven. Lyotard and Theology: Beyond the Christian Master Narrative of Love. London: Bloomsbury, 2014.

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                                                                                                                                                                                A stimulating and clearly written examination of the challenge of Lyotard’s thought to theology, as well as the challenge of developing a postmodern theology. Concentrates on The Postmodern Condition, The Differend, and Lyotard’s writings on the sublime in order to draw out the religious aspects of Lyotard’s concern with the unpresentable. This skews the book as a study of Lyotard, as it ignores the explicitly atheistic works of the early to mid-1970s.

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                                                                                                                                                                                • Pateman, Matthew. “Lyotard’s St Paul.” In Rereading Jean-Francois Lyotard: Essays on His Later Works. Edited by Heidi Bickis and Rob Shields, 25–41. Farnham, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2013.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  Pateman argues for the centrality of Saint Paul to Lyotard’s account of the genesis of modernity, and in particular the relationship of Europe to the Jews that has disfigured modernity. Pateman’s subtle, recursive reading, which disinters the hidden presence of Paul in Lyotard’s writings, is textually comprehensive and sympathetically critical.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Van Peperstraten, Frans. “Displacement or Composition? Lyotard and Nancy on the trait d’union between Judaism and Christianity.” International Journal for the Philosophy of Religion 65.1 (2009): 29–46.

                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1007/s11153-008-9177-6Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                    A comparative examination of Lyotard’s and Jean-Luc Nancy’s account of the emergence of Christianity from Judaism, and the ways in which this relates to their conceptions of Western culture and thought. Best suited to advanced scholars.

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