You are on page 1of 4

JEAN-FRANCOIS LYOTARD: HESITATING THOUGHT

An introduction to select major works by


Lyotard, with a focus on the status of little
narratives (vs. the grand narrative) and of the
pagus (vs. differend).
August, thereafter, Playyy, 2015
Professor: Dr. Victor J. Vitanza (Saas-Fee) e: sophist@CLEMSON.EDU
Okay, now the informal part of the Syllabus:
Seminar Description
Chorus:
"Why the hesitation
God is ever waiting
Gotta stop procrastinating
Can you feel with me?
Why the hesitation?
You can pick your destination
The risk is so worth taking
Can you hear me?"
(http://www.stacieorrico.com/)

J-F Lyotard, we often hear, was potentially a friend to everyonealways (all ways) there for anyone
who needed his thoughts, or rather, his hesitating thoughts in conversation with others. The term
"hesitating" in the title of this seminar, however, connotes a pejorative thought. And yet, some how or
other the act of hesitation can be an act of virtue. The thinking of the "hesitation" is the thinking of a
Kantian, Neo-Kantian, philosopher through the sublimity of thinking itself, or through reading a textual
sublimity itself. It's a thinking of the Event (Ereignis). While in Saas-Fee, high up in the Alps, there is
sublimity all around us, e.g., in the scars all along the mountainscape (manifested in the logic of the
sublime cuts of raggedy rocks all around us when we are climbing, dancing, weaving, zigzagging our
ways around the abysses and through the various alpine angles). (Cf. Mark Tansey's painting Derrida
Queries de Man http://www.artchive.com/artchive/T/tansey/derrida.jpg.html).

Hesitation avails itself through stops and starts, restarts, still more restarts. Hesitation is practiced
through montage-reading-thinking-writing. The Event. Hesitation in evoking sublimity can, in turn,

V.Vitanza, Lyotard Seminar, EGS, 2014

evoke terror, awe, and fear. Or as others say in a different vocabulary: Dislocation. JumpCut.
Relocation. JumpCut. Can evoke Distantiation. Estrangement. Resulting in feelings of stupidity. Before
the other. The text or the jagged-scape or the distantiated film opens up a colossus of possibilities, or
rather incompossibilities (i.e., a libidinal economy of coexistent worlds).
But hesitancy is not limited to the thinking of Kant's Sublime as performed by a Neo-Kantian such as
Lyotard. Rather, it is encountered and at play everywhere in the text of infinite finitude. In
zigzaggings, oscillations, dissoi-logoi, etc., with a text's hesitating, on a test drive, before the possibility
of certainty. Or immanence.
We will readthrough an economy of hesitationsthree major works of Lyotard:
Just Gaming (with J-L Thebaud), for JRL's development of speech act theory into hesitations, or
rather, deformatives, to oppose performatives, which allow Lyotard to rethink-reconfigure
contemporary philosophy in terms of paganisms. He actually calls Aristotle a Sophist!
Libidinal Economy, for Lyotard's radical reconfiguration of Marx (through the perverse topological
figure of a Mobius strip), creating a libidinal economic reading of Marx as a hesitant, sophistic
hermaphroditic thinker (raising the question of political action becoming stalled), and
The Differend: Phrases in Dispute, for Lyotard's notion of the "differend," which I see as an Event of
Hesitation itself within "a case of conflict, between two parties, that cannot be equitably resolved for
lack of a rule of judgment applicable to both arguments. One side's legitimacy does not imply the
other's lack of legitimacy." In our hesitations, we will bear witness to new idioms.
There may be, as desire and time permit, additional brief works in .pdf files. E.g., Wolfgang
Schirmacher's "Homo Generator in Artificial Life: From a Conversation with Jean-Francois Lyotard,"
from Lyotard's Peregrinations (ch. 2 on "Touches"), from Lyotard's Postmodern Fables ("A
Postmodern Fable" and "Unbeknowst"), from Lyotard's Political Writings ("The Wall, the Gulf, the
Sun: A Fable"). It would help immensely to reread Lyotard's The Postmodern Condition (concerning
grand vs. little narratives, with a focus on paralogy), which is what people commonly have already
read.
We will also study Laura Kipnis's Marx: A Video (in relation to JFL's Libidinal Economy); sections
from Werner Herzog's Where the Green Ants Dream (in relation to The Differend); and John
Hancock's Bang the Drum Slowly (in relation to Just Gaming).

Seminar Schedule (either 3 full days or 6 half days shared


with another, perhaps Diane Davis)
Saas-Fee, Day 1..
Morning Session
1. General Introduction to Lyotard, various conceptual topoi to
rebegin from. Then, an exhumation (or posthumous
examination) of Just Gaming.
Break
2. Continuation of Just Gaming.
Lunch: Beluga Gold caviar (with the trimmings but without
caviats) and 1996 Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame. Paid
for by EGS.
Afternoon Session
1. A showing of sections in Bang The Drum Slowly (political
activism, bearing witness to new idioms, through the

V.Vitanza, Lyotard Seminar, EGS, 2014

game of "Teg War"). Continuations of hesitations with


much fear and loathing...
Break
2. Continuations. A reading of the Event.
Saas-Fee, Day 2
Morning Session
1. A perverse turn to Libidinal Economy, with much hesitation
through "1. The Great Ephemeral Skin," "3. The Desire of
Marx," "4. Trade," "6. Economy of This Writing." But you
are expected to study the whole beast! With a glimpse
at Hans Bellmer and his dolls!

Break
2. Continuation of the beast.
Lunch, to be served, however, in the garden at the Hotel Allalin!
Afternoon Session
1. A showing of Kipnis's Marx: A Video. A discussion in the
light (or dark) of Libidinal Economy.
Break
2. Continuation with discussion of Lyotard's disclaimer, or
apology, in Peregrinations.
Saas-Fee, Day 3..
Morning Session
1. A consideration of The Differend: Phrases in Dispute (the
making and unmaking of the Event of Hesitation).
Break
2. A showing of a selection from Herzog's Where the Green
Ants Sleep (political activism through thinking of the
hesitation/differend).
Lunch: Some more of that good pagan stuff.
Afternoon Session
1. Continuation of the Differend
Break

V.Vitanza, Lyotard Seminar, EGS, 2014

2. Continuation
Required readings /films / audio:
1. Lyotard, Jean-Francois, and Thebaud, Jean-Loup. Just Gaming.
University of Minnesota Press, 1985. ISBN: 0816612773
2. Lyotard, Jean-Francois. Libidinal Economy. Indiana University
Press, 1993. ISBN: 0253207282
3. Lyotard, Jean-Francois. The Differend: Phrases in Dispute.
University of Minnesota Press, 1988. ISBN: 0816616116
Other readings/ films / audio: I will bring a few other .pdf files
and the videos with me for distribution and showings
during seminar (See above).
Internet resources:
http://www.egs.edu/faculty/lyotard-links.html
http://www.iep.utm.edu/l/Lyotard.htm
http://www.unnu.com/newhome/attractions/philosophy/Lyotard.htm
http://www.wehavephotoshop.com/PHILOSOPHY
%20NOW/PHILOSOPHY/Lyotard/ (You will find some JFL text here!)