Maurice Blanchot Chair, Professor of Philosophy, and Dean of the Division of Philosophy, Art & Critical Thought at The European Graduate School / EGS.
Christopher Fynsk’s (b. 1952) academic profile includes extensive administrative experience (he has served as chair, head of school, dean and trustee) and high academic achievement through articles, translations, and books treating topics in modern Continental philosophy and literature. He has held academic positions in North America, France, and the UK (Scotland), and has fifteen years of experience at The European Graduate School / EGS. He currently serves as Dean of the PACT Division and Chief Academic Officer of The EGS.
Christopher Fynsk received his doctorate from the Department of Romance Studies at Johns Hopkins University in 1981, after receiving a Diplôme d’Études Approfondies in Philosophy from the University of Strasbourg. He also received an MA in English from the University of California, Irvine, in 1976, and an MA in French at Johns Hopkins University in 1979. He taught in the Philosophy Department at the University of Strasbourg from 1985 to 1987, and from 1981 to 2004 he worked as Professor of Comparative Literature and Philosophy, Co-Director of the Philosophy, Literature and the Theory of Criticism Program and Chair of the Department of Comparative Literature at State University of New York at Binghamton (1991-2004). In 2004, he moved to the University of Aberdeen as a 6th Century Chair to join the faculty of the School of Language and Literature, where he formed the Centre for Modern Thought.
Christopher Fynsk is the author of six monographs. His first published volume, Heidegger, Thought and Historicity (Cornell, 1986) represented an important intervention in Heidegger studies principally by reason of its treatment of the question of Mitsein (“being-with”) in Being and Time; his work on this topic proved ground-breaking for subsequent thought on the topic of community. The book was also distinguished by its reading of Heidegger’s work on Nietzsche, and his approach to Heidegger’s writings on art and poetry. An expanded addition addressed the question of Heidegger’s politics with a postface entitled “The Legibility of the Political.”
His next volume, Language and Relation: that there is language (Stanford, 1996) took up the question of language in Heidegger, Celan, Irigary, Blanchot, and Benjamin. It demonstrated how the modern “linguistic turn” in many areas of the humanities and the social sciences actually turned short of the question of language when posed in its full existential and ontological dimensions. The approach to Heidegger’s On the Way to Language in three lengthy chapters opened up the topic of “usage” in Heidegger’s later thought, and the essays on Benjamin demonstrated the profound continuity and exceptional speculative force of his thinking on language. The book opens with a reference to Wittgenstein’s remark to the effect that the only ethical language would be one in which language itself is presented. Fynsk overturns Wittgenstein’s judgment that such a thing is impossible with this sustained meditation on a set of writing experiences that engage the “fact” that there is language, and what this gives to thought.
In Infant Figures: The Death of the Infans and Other Scenes of Origin (Stanford, 2000), Fynsk undertook a set of experimental essays addressed to limit-experiences revelatory of human finitude. One diptych in this volume pairs a searching reading of Nietzsche’s thought on cruelty with a confrontation with the topic of crucifixion in the paintings of Francis Bacon. A second, composed in a more “written,” dialogical form, pursues the topic of infancy through long and careful engagements with texts by Maurice Blanchot and Jacques Lacan. Among the fundamental questions at stake here is that of the relation between language and human being. A third section then explores the art of Salvatore Puglia.
The Claim of Language: A Case for the Humanities (Minnesota, 2004) carried forward the thinking on language developed in Language and Relation and Infant Figures with an argument for the distinctive character of research in the humanities (an argument aimed at drawing it back from the tendency to take it in the direction of the social sciences in some quarters). Written at a time when the contemporary crisis in the humanities was emerging clearly in the North American university, Fynsk attempted to describe what he takes to be the true concreteness and transformative potential of humanistic research. He also returned to the question of philosophy’s institutional and socio-political context (his very first publications were on this topic) with an important essay on Gérard Granel and a study of Derrida’s work on the university. The book was rendered almost invisible by its formatting, but was translated into German […]) and has received continuing attention for its effort to think the politics of the humanities.
In Last Steps: Maurice Blanchot’s Exilic Writing (Stanford, 2013) Fynsk brought his distinctive style of careful reading to a set of texts by Maurice Blanchot, a thinker and writer who has informed all of Fynsk’s work. The description on book’s back cover (written by Fynsk, of course), states what was at stake in this effort:
Writing, as Maurice Blanchot taught us, is not something that is in one’s power. It is, rather, a search for a nonpower that refuses mastery, order, and all established authority. For Blanchot, this search was guided by an enigmatic exigency, an arresting rupture, and a promise of justice that required endless contestation of every usurping authority, an endless going out toward the other. “
The step/not beyond” (le pas au-delà) names this exilic passage as it took form in his influential later work, but not as a theme or concept, because its “step” requires a transgression of discursive limits and any grasp afforded by the labor of the negative. Thus to follow the “step/not beyond” is to follow a kind of event in writing, to enter a movement that is not quite captured in any defining or narrative account.”
Accompanied by a lengthy essay on Levinas, Last Steps seeks to move to the grounds of the ethico-political relation.
Fynsk followed this powerful study Blanchot with a reading of Philipe Lacoue-Labarthe’s “Phrase,” a book of poetry with a strong autobiographical cast (Phrase: Infancy, Survival [SUNY, 2017]). Fynsk’s long intellectual friendship with Lacoue-Labarthe (inaugurated by the translation and editing work he did for the volume that introduced Lacoue-Labarthe to English-speaking world, “Typography” [Harvard, 1989]), enabled him to bring a special perspective to this very intimate piece of poetic testimony.
In his current work (nearing completion), Fynsk has returned to Heidegger and Höldelin with a meditation on “the rhythmic figure.” This series of essays based on a decade of teaching at the European Graduate School will be followed by a book on those individuals he is first to name as his own teachers: Jacques Derrida, Jean-François Lyotard, and Maurice Blanchot.
Last Steps: Maurice Blanchot’s Exilic Writing, Fynsk, Christopher. Last Steps: Maurice Blanchot’s Exilic Writing. Fordham University Press, 2013. ISBN: 0823251039
The Claim Of Language: A Case For The Humanities, Fynsk, Christopher. The Claim Of Language: A Case For The Humanities. University of Minnesota Press, 2004. ISBN: 0816644810
Language and Relation: That There is language, Fynsk, Christopher. Language and Relation: that there is language. Stanford University Press, 1996. ISBN: 0804727139
Typography; Mimesis, Philosophy, Politics, Fynsk, Christopher. Typography; Mimesis, Philosophy, Politics. Edited by Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe. Harvard University Press, 1989. ISBN: 0674917006
Heidegger: Thought and Historicity, Fynsk, Christopher. Heidegger: Thought and Historicity. Cornell University Press, 1986. ISBN: 0801481589
El uso de la tierra
Fynsk, Christopher. “El uso de la tierra.” Translated by Antonio Casado de Rocha. In Heidegger y el arte de verdad, edited by Félix Duque, 223-253. Catedra Jorge Oteiza, 2005.
The Place of the Friend in Hölderlin’s Later Hymns
Fynsk, Christopher. “The Place of the Friend in Hölderlin’s Later Hymns.” In Es bleibet aber eine Spur/ Doch eines Wortes”: Zur späten Hymnik und Tragödientheorie, edited by Christophe Jamme and Anja Lemke, 247-254. Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2004.
Derrida’s Engagements: Philosophy in the Performative
Fynsk, Christopher. “Derrida’s Engagements: Philosophy in the Performative.” In Derrida and the Humanities, edited by Tom Cohen. Cambridge University Press, 2001. ISBN: 0521625653
William Haver. ‘Iconographies of Silence’
Fynsk, Christopher, “William Haver. ‘Iconographies of Silence’.” In Via dalle immagini/Leaving Pictures, edited by Salvatore Puglia, 101-111. Edizioni Menabo. Salerno, 1999.
What Remains at a Crucifixion
Fynsk, Christopher. “What Remains at a Crucifixion.” In The Eight Technologies of Otherness, edited by Sue Golding. Routledge, 1997. ISBN: 0415145805
Fynsk, Christopher. Foreward to The Station Hill Blanchot Reader, edited by George Quasha. Station Hill Press, 1999. ISBN: 1886449171
Reading the Poetics after the Remarks
Fynsk, Christopher. “Reading the Poetics after the Remarks.” In The Firm Letter, edited by Aris Fioretos. Stanford University Press, 1998.
Crossing the Threshold
Fynsk, Christopher. “Crossing the Threshold.” In Maurice Blanchot: The Demand of Writing, edited by Carolyn Bailey Gill, 71-90. Routledge, 1996.
Experiences of Finitude
Fynsk, Christopher. “Experiences of Finitude.” Preface to The Inoperative Community, by Jean-Luc Nancy, vii-xxxv. University Of Minnesota Press, 1991. ISBN: 0816619247
Community and the Limits of Theory
Fynsk, Christopher. “Community and the Limits of Theory.” In Community at Loose Ends. University of Minnesota Press, 1991. ISBN: 0816619212
Poetic Relation: Celan’s ‘Bremen Address’
Fynsk, Christopher. “Poetic Relation: Celan’s ‘Bremen Address’.” In The Poetry of Paul Celan, edited by Haskell M. Block, 22-30. Peter Lang, 1991. ISBN: 0820416150
The Choice of Deconstruction
Fynsk, Christopher. “The Choice of Deconstruction.” In The Textual Sublime: Deconstruction and its Differences. SUNY Press, 1989. ISBN: 0791400751
Finitude de la Dichtung
Fynsk, Christopher. “Finitude de la Dichtung.” In Les Cahiers de l’Herne, edited by Jean-François Courtin, 444-456. Editions de l’Herne. Paris, 1989.
Activitè philosophique et pratique politique; Ouverture du sèminaire sur le politique
Fynsk, Christopher. “Activitè philosophique et pratique politique; Ouverture du sèminaire sur le politique.” In Les fins de l’homme; A partir du travail de Jacques Derrida, 487-493. Editions Galilèe, 1982.
Fynsk, Christopher, trans. “Preliminary Remarks,” by Gèrard Granel. In Ellipsis Vol. 1, No. 1, Spring (1991): 100-108.
Fynsk, Christopher, trans. “Prescription,” by Jean-François Lyotard. In L’Esprit Crèateur Vol. 31, No. 1, Spring (1991): 15-32.
Fynsk, Christopher. trans. “Desistance,” by Jacques Derrida. In Typography: Mimesis, Philosophy, Politics. Stanford University Press, 1989: 1-42.
Fynsk, Christopher, trans. “Talks,” by Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe. In Diacritics Vol. 14, No. 3, Fall (1984): 24-37.
Thinking (in) Europe: An Indirect Question for Rodolphe Gasche?
Fynsk, Christopher. “Thinking (in) Europe: An Indirect Question for Rodolphe Gasche?” CR: The New Centennial Review Vol. 8, No. 3 (2009).
Blanchot in The International Review
Fynsk, Christopher. “Blanchot in The International Review.” Paragraph Vol. 30, No. 3, November (2007).
A Nomos without Truth
Fynsk, Christopher. “A Nomos without Truth.” South Atlantic Quarterly Vol. 104, No. 2, Spring (2005): 313-317.
Dialogue with Simon Morgan-Wortham on The Claim of Language
Fynsk, Christopher. “Dialogue with Simon Morgan-Wortham on The Claim of Language.” Culture Machine January (2005).
Lascaux and the Question of Origins
Fynsk, Christopher. “Lascaux and the Question of Origins.” Poiesis 5 (2003): 6-19.
Fynsk, Christopher. “L’Irréconciliable.” The New Centennial Review Vol. 2, No. 3, Fall (2002): 23-36.
Reflections on 9/11—The View from Bedford-Stuyvesant
Fynsk, Christopher. “Reflections on 9/11—The View from Bedford-Stuyvesant.” Vacarme (2001).
Fynsk, Christopher. “Jean-François’s Infancy.” Yale French Studies 99 (2001): 44-61.
There are no encounters in theory
Fynsk, Christopher. “There are no encounters in theory.” Traces 1 (2000): 211-213.
The Linguistic Turn
Fynsk, Christopher. “The Linguistic Turn.” International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 2000.
Dwelling in the Ruins of the University (the point being to practice something beyond critique)
Fynsk, Christopher. “Dwelling in the Ruins of the University (the point being to practice something beyond critique).” Crossings 3 (1999): 57-77.
Between Ethics and Aesthetics
Fynsk, Christopher. “Between Ethics and Aesthetics.” Esprit Créateur Vol. 25, No. 3, Fall (1995): 80-87.
Reading the Poetics after the Remarks
Fynsk, Christopher. “Reading the Poetics after the Remarks.” Research in Phenomenology 24 (1994): 57-69.
A Note on Language and the Body
Fynsk, Christopher. “A Note on Language and the Body.” Paragraph Vol. 16, No. 2 (1994): 192-201.
The Claim of History
Fynsk, Christopher. “The Claim of History.” Diacritics June (1993): 115-126.
But Suppose We Were To Take ‘The Rectoral Address’ Seriously…– On Gèrard Granel’s De l’universitè
Fynsk, Christopher. “But Suppose We Were To Take ‘The Rectoral Address’ Seriously…– On Gèrard Granel’s De l’universitè.” Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal Vol. 14, No. 2 (1991): 335-362.
Fynsk, Christopher. “Literary Reading.” Interpretation, Bulletin of the Hegel Society of Great Britain 18, Autumn-Winter (1988): 43-57.
Noise at the Threshold
Fynsk, Christopher. “Noise at the Threshold.” Research in Phenomenology 19 (1989): 101-120.
Apartheid. het woord en het ding
Fynsk, Christopher. “Apartheid. het woord en het ding.” Translated by Kris Humbeeck. Restant Vol. 15, No. 4 (1989): 121-134.
Freiheit der Interpretation im liberalen Amerika
Fynsk, Christopher. “Freiheit der Interpretation im liberalen Amerika.” Translated by Thomas Kleinbub. Tumult (1987): 125-132.
The Self and its Witness; On Heidegger’s Being and Time
Fynsk, Christopher. “The Self and its Witness; On Heidegger’s Being and Time.” Boundary 2 Vol. 10, No. 3, Spring (1982): 185-207.
The Choice of Deconstruction
Fynsk, Christopher. “The Choice of Deconstruction.” Rivista di Estetica Vol. 25, No. 17 (1984): 53-61.
Legacies of May: On the Work of Le Doctrinal de Sapience
Fynsk, Christopher. “Legacies of May: On the Work of Le Doctrinal de Sapience.” MLN Vol. 93, No. 5, December (1978): 963-971.
A Decelebration of Philosophy
Fynsk, Christopher. “A Decelebration of Philosophy.” Diacritics Vol. 8, No. 2, Summer (1978): 80-90.
The Production of a Difference
Fynsk, Christopher. “The Production of a Difference.” Enclitic Vol. 1, No. 2, Fall (1977): 23-38.
Christopher Fynsk – Fall 2020 Lecture – “Alter-Eco” – 10.03.2020 (Excerpt)
Blanchot’s Madness of the Day, Death, Sovereignty and Refusal of the Order