Elissa Marder

Elissa Marder, Professor of Philosophy at The European Graduate School / EGS.

BIOGRAPHY

Elissa Marder (b. 1970), in addition to being a professor of philosophy at The European Graduate School / EGS, is Chair of the French and Italian Departments, a professor of French and comparative literature, and formally affiliated with the Departments of Philosophy and Women Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Between 2001 and 2006, she was Director of the Emory Psychoanalytic Studies Program, of which she was also a founding member. She is a member of the executive committee of SIPP&ISSP (International Society of Psychoanalysis and Philosophy) and has been an International Fellow of the London Graduate School since its inception in 2010.


Elissa Marder received her BA from Cornell University and completed her PhD at Yale University in 1989 where she studied with Paul de Man, Shoshana Felman, Barbara Johnson, Fredric Jameson, and Jacques Derrida, among others. Her primary areas of interest include nineteenth and twentieth century French, British, and American literature; literary theory; psychoanalysis; film; photography; and feminist theory. She is currently working on a book on early nineteenth century French literature, as well as a major project on Walter Benjamin. Her book Dead Time: Temporal Disorders in the Wake of Modernity (Baudelaire and Flaubert) was published in 2001 by Stanford University Press. Her most recent book, The Mother in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction: Psychoanalysis, Photography, and Deconstruction, was published in 2012 by Fordham University Press. She is also the author of numerous articles in journals such as Yale French Studies, La Revue des sciences humaines, Camera Obscura, Diacritics, L'Esprit créateur, and Autrement.


Professor Marder's work draws from the frameworks of both psychoanalysis and deconstruction but runs her own unique theoretical thread through the ideas, associations, and images touched upon in her writings. In her first book, Dead Time: Temporal Disorders in the Wake of Modernity (Baudelaire and Flaubert), she argues that by explicitly placing time and temporal structures at the core of their nineteenth century literary works, Baudelaire and Flaubert implicitly provided twentieth and twenty-first century readers with a vocabulary for describing some of the "temporal disorders" that continue to haunt contemporary culture. Inspired by Walter Benjamin's derivation of the shock experience from his readings of Baudelaire's poems, Dead Time undertakes literary readings of Les Fleurs du mal and Madame Bovary to find new ways of thinking about the changing experience of lived time in modern and postmodern culture.


In The Mother in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction: Psychoanalysis, Photography, Deconstruction, Elissa Marder explores her long-standing fascination with the uncanny status of the mother in literature, philosophy, psychoanalysis, film, and photography. Inspired in large part by Avital Ronell's The Telephone Book, she argues that the maternal body often serves as an unacknowledged reference point for modern media technologies such as photography and the telephone, which attempt to mimic its reproductive properties. As the incarnation of our first relation to the strange exile of language, this book suggests that the mother is an inherently literary figure, whose primal presence in literary texts opens us up to the unspeakable relation to our own birth and, in so doing, helps us give birth to new and fantasmatic images of futures that might otherwise have remained unimaginable.


Most recently, Elissa Marder has begun work on a short book tentatively titled The Dream and the Guillotine: On Psycho-Photography and Other Fixations. Both dreams and the guillotine are related to photography. As Jacques Derrida and others have pointed out, Freud describes the dream work by comparing it to photographic processes. Furthermore, as has been well documented, the machinery and functioning of the guillotine was from the outset persistently identified with photography. The rapidity of the falling blade was likened to the action of the shutter in a camera, the necessary immobilization of the body was similar in both cases, and the guillotine and photography alike seemed to capture the moment at which a living body became fixed into a dead image. Another project, tentatively entitled Poetry By Other Means: Baudelaire's Afterlife and the late Writings of Walter Benjamin, picks up on some of the questions about poetry and temporality that Marder began to explore in Dead Time and takes them in new directions.


Finally, in Revolutionary Perversions: Literary Sex Acts 1789-1848, she proposes to explore how the traumatic aftermath of the French Revolution shows up in many of the canonical texts of the first half of the nineteenth century in the form of some sort of perverse and sexual secret (incest, impotence, male and female homosexuality, frigidity, transvestitism, masturbation, and prostitution) and suggests that these ostensibly sexual secrets actually disclose hidden textual reflections on politics, history, and the impact of the Terror.