Overview:

The writings of French philosopher Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) constitute one of the major intellectual achievements of the twentieth century. His many works have had immense influence on developments in the humanities, especially in philosophy, literary studies, and religion, but as well in many other fields. Derrida was also a renowned teacher. Called “seminars,” these courses were in fact fully written lectures that usually followed a theme for twelve to fifteen weeks a year. The materials of these lecture-seminars—accumulated over more than forty years and estimated at some 14,000 pages—remain almost wholly unpublished.(Seminars) They thus represent an extraordinary and inestimable supplement to the work Derrida published in his lifetime. Each seminar theme is developed incrementally, with thoroughness but often in surprising ways. Even though each annual course of lectures stands alone, of great interest as well are the many links to be made to Derrida’s published work. The development, continuity, but also the diversity of his thought is shown on a different scale in the seminars, broader in some respects and more detailed in others. Their publication will contribute invaluable resources to other scholars for many years into the future.

The decision by Derrida’s heirs to edit the unpublished seminars led to the formation of an editorial team that, under the guidance of Marguerite Derrida, began its work in 2006. This team assembles a group of well-known scholars of Derrida’s thought: Geoffrey Bennington (Emory University, USA), Marc Crépon (École Normale Supérieure, France), Thomas Dutoit (Université Lille-III, France), Peggy Kamuf (University of Southern California, USA), Michel Lisse (Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium), Marie-Louise Mallet (independent scholar, France), and Ginette Michaud (Université de Montréal, Canada).

Following the plan to publish first Derrida’s last two-year seminar (2001-2003) and to proceed thereafter in reverse chronological order, the team entrusted the editing of La Bête et le souverain, volumes I and II to Lisse, Mallet, and Michaud. The first volume was brought out in 2008 by Éditions Galilée, Derrida’s long-standing publisher in Paris, with volume II scheduled to appear in 2009. Subsequent volumes will be edited by different members of the editorial team in accordance with the editorial principles adopted for the initial volumes.

Concurrently, the Derrida Seminars Translation Project was formed in 2006 and started planning an English-language edition of the French series. This edition, The Seminars of Jacques Derrida, has now begun to appear, co-edited by Geoffrey Bennington and Peggy Kamuf and published by the University of Chicago Press. In addition, a team has been assembled of other experienced translators of Derrida (link here to “Project Team” page) who will be responsible for translating the initial volumes in the series.

The first volume of The Seminars of Jacques Derrida, The Beast and the Sovereign, Volume I, translated by Geoffrey Bennington, appeared in 2009. The plan is to publish a new series volume annually (“Forthcoming volumes").

In 2009, the six-member team of the DSTP received a Collaborative Research grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (Peggy Kamuf, Project Director). Administered at the University of Southern California, this grant will help support the activities of the DSTP for three years, providing research assistance and teaching release for the translators as well as funding the annual summer workshop at IMEC, the archive facility in Caen, France, which houses some of Derrida’s papers.