Philippe Beck

Philippe Beck, Professor of Poetry at The European Graduate School / EGS.


Philippe Beck (b. 1963) is a contemporary French poet, writer, and philosopher. He is Professor of Poetry at The European Graduate School / EGS and Senior Lecturer of Philosophy at l’Université de Nantes. Interested in the nature of the poetic experience, for Beck, the poetic today lies not only between scientific experience and common sense experience but allows for their communicability. His work traverses poetry, poétologie, prose, and philosophy, as evidenced in his intellectual biography Beck l’impersonage, from 2006, and his latest work, Contre un Boileau, un art poétique, published this year. He has published sixteen books of poetry and was awarded the Grand Prix de Poésie (Grand Poetry Prize) from the French Academy in 2015 in recognition of his poetic oeuvre.

Beck began his advanced studies in literature and philosophy at L’École normale supérieure de Saint-Cloud in 1985. He went on to complete his doctoral studies at L’École des hautes études en sciences sociales under the supervision of Jacques Derrida, receiving his doctorate degree with honors in 1994 with his dissertation entitled Histoire et imagination (History and Imagination).

Beck’s poetry is highly influenced by his philosophical education. Following Derrida’s particular way of writing, many of Beck’s poetic works are conceived as comments on other texts. Often “metatextual” and “intertextual,” Beck’s poetry functions as a kind of palimpsest. They are, as well, often self-reflexive, as in the case of Garde-manche hypocrite (Hypocritical Oversleeve), his first book of poetry published in 1996, and Garde-manche deux (Oversleeve Two), a revised version of the former published in 2003. In Chants populaires (Folk Songs), from 2007, Beck reinvents seventy-two fairytales originally written by the Brothers Grimm. However, he does not simply paraphrase or retell these stories, but rather, in poetic form, offers interpretations and commentaries with the aid of psychoanalysis, sociology, and philosophy.

Throughout his career, Philippe Beck has collaborated with contemporary musicians and composers. Together with the composer Gerard Pessson, he wrote an opera libretto entitled, Pastorale (2006), and many of Beck's works (including Folk Songs) have been musically adapted by Pesson. The poet’s Lyre Dure (2009) served as a basis for Philippe Mion's Oeuvre acousmatique (Acousmatic Work), which premiered in 2009. The composer Maxime McKinley adapted Beck's book, Dans de la nature (In Nature) originally published in 2003. The musical adaptation premiered in 2013 by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Kent Nagano.

Philippe Beck is a founder and editor of Alter, a journal of phenomenology, and of the poetry journal Quaderno. He has, as well, written numerous academic essays for various journals, and translated the work of Walter Benjamin, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, F. W. von Schelling, and Karl Philipp Moritz. He has received international recognition both as a poet and philosopher, and he has read and lectured at numerous poetry festivals in Berlin, Amsterdam, Rome, Montreal, Shanghai, Beijing, and Istanbul. Much of Beck’s poetic work has been translated into English, German, Chinese, Korean, Dutch, and Flemish.

Among the many honours he has received are: the Bourse exceptionnelle de creation, granted by the National Book Centre in 2003; Writer in Residence at the Château de Blandy-les-Tours, granted by the regional council d’Île-de-France in 2008; and Mission Stendhal Laureate in China, granted by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2009. Phillipe Beck became the President of the Commission of Poetry at the National Book Centre, Paris in 2012, and in 2013, an international conference about his work was held at Le centre culturel de Cerisy.