This essay analyzes Jean-Luc Nancy's recent work À L'Écoute (2002)/Listening (2007) as a culminating moment in what might be called the “anti-ocular” turn in Continental philosophy. It situates Nancy within a genealogy of “otocentric” thinkers that includes Martin Heidegger, Peter Sloterdijk, Jacques Attali, Didier Anzieu, and Luce Irigary. These figures not only present a critique of vision as the dominant paradigm in Western thought, but also develop a positive alternative model of listening that offers the possibility of reintegrating modes of sensual perception excluded by “ocularcentrism” and the conceptual abstraction associated with it. As exemplified by Martin Jay's otherwise admirable “synoptic survey” of “anti-ocularcentric” discourse in twentieth-century French thought, however, the importation and translation of these “otocentric” figures into the field of Anglophone critical theory — when they are acknowledged at all — tends to allow the visual paradigm to reassert itself, if only as the object of endless deconstructive critique.
Research Article|June 01 2011