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Deconstruction, Literature, and Singularity: Against Fascist Mythologies

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Organizer: Tyler Williams

Co-Organizer: James Martell

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In 1958, while doing his military service at Kolea, Derrida writes to his friend Lucien Bianco: “Fascism will not pass […] never had my faith and my fear as a democrat seemed so very ‘gross’, and the fascist danger so close, so concrete, so invasive. […] I am at a complete loss, can’t settle to anything, a second-class soldier lost in an ocean of malevolent stupidity [connerie] and I’d like to be in Paris—even if it were occupied by fascists—, as a civilian, with a few friends, and able to play even a modest role in some resistant movement…” (Peeters). As we know, one of Derrida’s most recurrent anachronic dreams was to be “a resistance fighter blowing up bridges or trains” (Circonfession), a dream actualized in the movement of deconstruction itself.

This instantiation of the dream of Derridean deconstruction as an antifascist machine makes us question the relation between deconstruction as a textual and literary event and fascism as myth formation. Is there something essentially antifascist about deconstruction, or are there limits to thinking deconstruction in such oppositional terms? Are its idioms, its attention to singularity, and its deep investment in conceptualizing “literature” (Derrida), “minority” (Deleuze), "the literary" (Spivak), “poetic experience” or “the fable” (Lacoue-Labarthe) the appropriate counterparts to fascism’s myth and image formation, where malevolent stupidity or connerie make the abyss rise—as Deleuze described it—while hindering any form to appear? Considering Barthes’s famous assertion that language is fascist, the seminar organizers seek papers that articulate the political stakes of deconstruction’s conceptualization of “literature” and discuss its chance of resisting, opposing, or perhaps even reinforcing violence.

Taking “fascism” as a global and transhistorical logic of violence rather than simply a mid-century European historical phenomenon, this seminar will study how deconstruction has situated literature vis-à-vis fascism in the past, but we will especially focus on what forms deconstruction can take in the face of fascism’s new avatars. What is the relation between classical fascism, totalitarianism, and violence as it was studied by Arendt, Lyotard, Lacoue-Labarthe, and Nancy, to name a few, and the new forms they are taking in the Trump age? What is essential to these new forms of fascism and totalitarianism, and how deconstruction’s concern for “literature” can examine and ultimately resist their phenomena and the confusion they provoke? The seminar organizers are especially interested in transnational, transcultural, interdisciplinary approaches to/from deconstruction -- including, but not limited to, hispanism, postcolonialism, queer theory, feminism, anarchism, and multiethnic studies.

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