Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Alberto Gualandi's "Lyotard"

I'm writing my doctoral dissertation on J-F Lyotard. That means I spend a lot of my time wading around in a body of secondary literature of vastly divergent quality. The problem is that Lyotard's corpus is so unruly; he's stylistically divergent, covers a wide variety of topics, consciously resists systematic readings of himself, and even seems on certain crucial points to maintain contradictory positions. This ensures that his commentators have their work cut out for them; it also ensures that those without much to add sometimes slip through the cracks and get a more serious hearing than might be expected. Granted, there are a number of texts which are supposed to introduce Lyotard to the novice reader and which, in my estimation, do a pretty darn good job; on the other hand, however, I've read my share that I think risk creating further confusion. How exactly does one introduce a thinker who at bottom stood for the inability to sum things up?

Alberto Gualandi, in my view, does an admirable job where many others have failed. He reads Lyotard against the ancient distinction between the philosopher and the sophist, ultimately concluding that Lyotard occupies an ambiguous position between - or rather, that he shows how the distinction is perhaps drawn a bit too neatly in the history of philosophy. This reading, fleshed out by Gualandi, helps ease the reader into the strangeness and originality of Lyotard's corpus. It's also interesting when considered against Badiou's reading, wherein Lyotard is taken to be a sophist, but therefore an indispensable discursive partner to the philosopher (and therefore, not due to be expelled from the ideal city).

Most importantly, perhaps, Gualandi takes care not to speak in Lyotard's language (or something resembling it too closely). As far as possible, he gives a clear, concise, roughly chronological account of Lyotard's main contributions to philosophy, without falling into the trap of assuming "the master's" discourse and methods.

I should also add that Gualandi's book is in French. If you can read the language, count this as a good introductory source.


Devin Zane Shaw said...

What's the bibliographical information Matt?

Matthew R. McLennan said...


Alberto Gualandi
Poche - Broché
Paru le: 13/10/1999
Editeur : Belles Lettres Collection : figures du savoir ISBN : 2-251-76021-0
EAN : 9782251760216
Nb. de pages : 160
pages Poids : 100 g
Dimensions : 10,8cm x 17,7cm x 1,1cm

Jason R. B. Smith ~ San Francisco State University History Department said...

Would you ever consider translating this work? Perhaps with your understanding of his work combined with a linguists skill set? I would line up to buy a copy because my French is a joke but would be interested in the book in English.