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Christopher Fynsk - Biography

Christopher Fynsk, Ph.D., was born in 1952 and is the Maurice Blanchot Chair at the European Graduate School EGS, Head of the School of Language and Literature at the University of Aberdeen, and Director of the Centre for Modern Thought. Christopher Fynsk is a prolific writer and teacher. He has written numerous articles for academic journals, and he has translated works by Jacques Derrida, Jean-Francois Lyotard, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, and Maurice Blanchot.

Christopher Fynsk's work is closely involved with that of Martin Heidegger, Maurice Blanchot, Emmanuel Lévinas, and several contemporary artists, including Francis Bacon and Salvatore Puglia. Christopher Fynsk is an internationally recognized Martin Heidegger scholar and literary theorist who has worked with Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy at the University of Strasbourg. He is well known for his work relating the political and literary aspects of continental philosophy.

Christopher Fynsk received his doctorate from the Department of Romance Studies at Johns Hopkins University in 1981, following a Diplôme d’Etudes Avancées in Philosophy from the University of Strasbourg. He also received an MA in English from the University of California, Irvine, in 1976, and an MA in French at Johns Hopkins University in 1979. He taught at the University of Strasbourg from 1985 to 1987, and from 1981 to 2004 he worked as Professor of Comparative Literature and Philosophy, Co-Director of the Philosophy, Literature and the Theory of Criticism Program and as Chair of Department of Comparative Literature at State University of New York at Binghamton. From 1995-1997 Chris Fynsk was the Chair of the Modern Language Association, Division of Philosophical Approaches to Literature. In 2004 he moved to the University of Aberdeen to join the faculty of the School of Language and Literature, and formed the Centre for Modern Thought.

In his critical writings, which breach the barriers separating philosophy, literary theory, and art criticism, Christopher Fynsk is deeply engaged with the question of the possibility of language and how the human relation to Being is sketched out through literary and philosophical texts and art works. In Infant Figures, he follows a path to the realm of this question through a dialogical meditation on two texts, one by Maurice Blanchot and one by Jacques Lacan, which confront the limits of language in saying the death of a child. In the text, which is partitioned into three suggestively aligned parts in the manner similar to a Francis Bacon triptych, Christopher Fynsk follows an inquiry of the material limits of symbolic representation. The inquiry is called by 'the exigency of the figure', a primal exposure of the human being antecedent to speech and memory which opens it to the possibility of language. In order to risk the entry into this problematic, he finds it necessary to adopt an unconventional method which navigates 'between discursive orders' in a way which is theoretically akin to the methods of psychoanalysis.

Christopher Fynsk has been the recipient of several awards and fellowships, including the Gilman Fellowship from Johns Hopkins University, the SUNY Research Semester Award, the University of California Regents Fellowship, and the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Research (2003).

Simon Morgan Wortham writes the following about Christopher Fynsk’s book:

The Claim of Language, contributes to current debates about the state of the contemporary university by acknowledging the decline in fortunes of those disciplines traditionally associated with the liberal arts, particularly (although by no means exclusively) in North America. Fynsk's analysis of this deterioration draws upon and further extends the terms of discussion set out by Bill Readings and others over the past decade. Thus, the book intervenes in and adds to a growing literature written by academics frequently associated with the 'theoretical' approaches found in the contemporary humanities, in which the significance of a variety of factors and forces is brought out in the story of the humanities' decline: globalization, the advent of so-called 'late' capitalism and the readjustment of the labour market; the advance of technics and technical instrumentality on a worldwide scale; the intensifying commercialization of higher learning and the rise of institutional discourses, programs and practices tied to the notion of 'excellence'; the changing meanings and values of nationhood, culture and the subject, and so forth. Fynsk's book is distinctive, however, in that it commits itself to the task of making a case for the humanities--perhaps the most traditional of headings for work that goes on in the field which this name implies--in the face of the rapidly changing set of circumstances to which these various forces contribute.

In Christopher Fynsk’s course at EGS he focus on the works of Martin Heidegger. Chris Fynsk’s seminar doesn’t shy away from the darker side of Heidegger, arguing that contrary to many opinions his short involvement with National Socialism was a result of his philosophical outlook during that time period. However, it should also not be taken as a excuse to discard Heidegger’s thought. Instead, it should serve as an example of the dangers inherent in a human culture still attempting to escape its traditional metaphysical baggage.

Christopher Fynsk is the author of The Claim of Language: A Case for the Humanities (2004), Infant Figures: The Death of the Infans and Other Scenes of Origin (2000), Language and Relation: …that there is language (1996), and Heidegger: Thought and Historicity (1986). He has contributed the following chapters to books: “El uso de la tierra." in: Antonio Casado de Rocha (Translator) and Félix Duque (Editor). Heidegger y el arte de verdad. (Catedra Jorge Oteiza, 2005), “The Place of the Friend in Hölderlin’s Later Hymns." in: Friedrich Hölderlins (Translator), Christophe Jamme and Anja Lemke (Editors). Es bleibet aber eine Spur/ Doch eines Wortes": Zur späten Hymnik und Tragödientheorie. (Wilhelm Fink Verlag. 2004), “Derrida’s Engagements: Philosophy in the Performative." in: Tom Cohen (Editor). Derrida and the Humanities. (Cambridge University Press. 2001), "William Haver. 'Iconographies of Silence'." in: Salvatore Puglia (ed). Via dalle immagini/Leaving Pictures. (Edizioni Menabo. Salerno, 1999), "What Remains at a Crucifixion." in: Sue Golding (ed). The Eight Technologies of Otherness. (Routledge. 1997), “Foreword." in: George Quasha (ed). The Station Hill Blanchot Reader. (Station Hill Press. 1999), "Reading the Poetics after the Remarks." in: Aris Fioretos (Editor). The Firm Letter. (Stanford University Press. 1998), “Crossing the Threshold." in: Carolyn Bailey Gill (ed). Maurice Blanchot: The Demand of Writing. (Routledge. 1996), “Experiences of Finitude (Preface)." in: Jean-Luc Nancy. The Inoperative Community. (University Of Minnesota Press. June 1991), "Community and the Limits of Theory." in: Community at Loose Ends. (University of Minnesota Press. 1991), "Poetic Relation: Celan's 'Bremen Address'." in: Haskell M. Block (Editor). The Poetry of Paul Celan. (Peter Lang. 1991), “Poetic Relation: Celan's 'Bremen Address'." in: Aris Fioretos (Editor). Word Traces. (Johns Hopkins University Press. 1994), "The Choice of Deconstruction." in: The Textual Sublime: Deconstruction and its Differences. (SUNY Press. 1989), "Finitude de la Dichtung." in: Jean-François Courtine (ed). Les Cahiers de l'Herne. (Editions de l'Herne. 1989) and "Activitè philosophique et pratique politique; Ouverture du sèminaire sur le politique." in: Les fins de l'homme; A partir du travail de Jacques Derrida. (Editions Galilèe).

Christopher Fynsk is a Professor of Continental Philosophy at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, where he conducts an Intensive Summer Seminar.