Geoffrey Bennington

Geoffrey Bennington, Professor of Philosophy at The European Graduate School / EGS.


Geoffrey Bennington (b. 1956) is a British philosopher and literary critic. He is a professor of philosophy at The European Graduate School / EGS and the Asa G. Candler Professor of Modern French Thought at Emory University (Georgia, USA). He received his bachelor’s degree in Modern Languages (French and Spanish) in 1978 and his master's and doctorate degree in 1984, both from the University of Oxford. Bennington was the chair of the French Department at the University of Sussex (1990–94 and 1995–97) where he was the Director of the Centre for Modern French Thought (1997–2001).

His research interests include: modern French literature and thought, the eighteenth-century novel, literary theory, and deconstruction. Bennington is widely known for his expertise in deconstruction and the work of Jacques Derrida and Jean-François Lyotard. In his works, he explores the political dimension of deconstruction and claims that deconstruction is capable of providing access to political thinking which cannot be offered anywhere else. He is also a renowned translator of Derrida’s and Lyotard’s works.

Together with Derrida, he wrote Jacques Derrida (1991), which is comprised of two texts. Bennington’s “Derridabase” appears on the upper two-thirds of the book's pages, while Derrida's contribution, “Circumfession,” is written on the lower third of each page. The guiding idea of this book, Bennington suggests, comes from computers. Bennington wants Derrida’s thought to be as accessible as possible, to the point of making it look like an interactive computer program. However, another aim of the book is to show the inherent impossibility of such a task. At the same time, it is also a parody of introductory books; the interaction between Bennington’s and Derrida’s texts dramatise the fact that any system of thought must always remain permanently open.

Interrupting Derrida (2000) examines the notion of “interruption” and its importance for ethics, politics, and literature. In this book, Bennington also analyses some significant and recurring themes of Derrida’s work: death, friendship, time, and endings. Not Half No End: Militantly Melancholic Essays in Memory of Jacques Derrida (2010) consists of the essays that Bennington wrote after the death of Derrida. These essays examine the nature of mourning and melancholy, and its relevance in Derrida’s work.

Bennington has written two books on the work of Jean-François Lyotard: Lyotard: Writing the Event (1988) and Late Lyotard (2005). In Lyotard: Writing the Event, he attempts to offer a general introduction to Lyotard’s work that will not be limited to the discussion of “postmodern” and the “postmodern condition,” but will also explore ethical and political aspects of Lyotard’s thought. He writes about the importance of Lyotard’s understanding of the event and links it with the analyses of desire, production, justice, and language. Bennington insists that Lyotard’s work strives to respect the heterogeneity of the event and that the entirety of his work is devoted to the experimentation with various ways of achieving that respect. Late Lyotard can be considered as a sequel to Lyotard: Writing the Event. It is Bennington’s reaction to the works that Lyotard wrote after 1988 and before his death in 1998. In Late Lyotard, Bennington reconsiders his position from the previous work and attempts to bring forth nuances of Lyotard’s thought that remained unexplored in his earlier work.

In Legislations: The Politics of Deconstruction (1994), Bennington uses the theoretical apparatus of Derrida and Lyotard (especially the notion of “postmodern”) in order to question the very nature of “politics” and the “political.” According to Bennington, deconstruction is inherently political because it is an opening to an irreducible alterity, and this opening is a place where legislation happens. Presently, he is exploring the consequences of his understanding that politics is characterised by the pre-ontological and pre-ethical opening to the other, and writing a deconstructive account of political philosophy provisionally entitled Scatter (the matter with democrary).