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The Claim of Language

A Case for the Humanities

2004
Author:

Christopher Fynsk

The Claim of Language

Argues for the importance of humanities research in an era of globalization and technical reason

In The Claim of Language, Christopher Fynsk clearly and eloquently defends and rearticulates the humanities from a perspective that moves beyond the political and philosophical reductions of identity politics.

Leaving aside polemics, Fynsk asserts that discourses in the humanities will find real ethical-political purchase when they engage with the material events in art, literature, and social life that call for humanistic reflection.

A distinguished and far-reaching meditation on the distress of the humanities, written in fearless existential strokes. Christopher Fynsk offers a deeply thoughtful analysis of university culture and its vengefully repressed needs.

Avital Ronell, New York University

The humanities—in their conceptual and intellectual specificity, disciplinary rigor, and ethical, social, and political potential—are very much in need of defense and rearticulation in our time, particularly from a perspective that moves beyond the political and philosophical reductions of identity politics. In The Claim of Language, Christopher Fynsk clearly and eloquently does just that. Leaving aside polemics, Fynsk asserts that discourses in the humanities will find real ethical-political purchase when they engage with the material events in art, literature, and social life that call for humanistic reflection.

Fynsk describes the collapse of the traditional terms of defense in the contemporary academy, and then sets out to establish that the humanities are more than a loose affiliation of academic disciplines and research projects. Showing how events in language raise questions fundamental to the humanities—questions about the nature of human experience in the modern era and the nature of the human itself—The Claim of Language proposes a renewed relationship to language as a way to rethink humanistic research. Fynsk extends his philosophical meditation with two essays on the university and the politics of philosophy. The first, devoted to the work of Gérard Granel, explores the political implications of a quite radical project of fundamental critique. The second focuses on Jacques Derrida’s propositions for a reconception of the nature and task of critical thought in the new Collège International de Philosophie.


The Claim of Language

Christopher Fynsk is professor of comparative literature and philosophy at Binghamton University. He is the author of Infant Figures: The Death of the Infans and Other Scenes of Origin; Language and Relation: . . . that there is language; and Heidegger: Thought and Historicity.

The Claim of Language

A distinguished and far-reaching meditation on the distress of the humanities, written in fearless existential strokes. Christopher Fynsk offers a deeply thoughtful analysis of university culture and its vengefully repressed needs.

Avital Ronell, New York University

Fynsk reminds us why the study of language and literature continues to provide a fundamental base of skills and values for work in all disciplines. His is a strong and eloquent voice in current debates about the role of the liberal arts in higher education. In a dark chapter of our history, I hope many will listen.

Michael Holquist, Yale University

The Claim of Language

Contents

Part I A Politics of Thought: Gérard Granel’s De l’université

Acts of Engagement

Part II The Claim of Language: A Case for the Humanities

Notes

Index