This essay argues that twentieth- and twenty-first-century French philosophy (“French theory”) is aligned around a theory of difference that would contest many of the “comparative” frameworks of the discipline of Comparative Literature, including the question of original languages. Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, and Alain Badiou, each in their fashion, challenge the purportedly representational model on which questions of “original,” “translation,” and “maternal language” are based (what Deleuze refers to pejoratively as the principium comparationis with its four axes of identity, analogy, opposition, and similitude, on which “difference is crucified”). Thus, Richard Rorty's claim that philosophy / “theory” and literature have very little to do with each other is refined to suggest that one of the few unifying threads of contemporary French philosophy is precisely its foundational antagonism to the types of questions posed under the rubric of comparative literary analysis.
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Eleanor Kaufman; On Not Knowing the Original Language: French Philosophy against Comparative Literature. Comparative Literature 1 March 2013; 65 (1): 36–45. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00104124-2019275
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