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François Noudelmann - Biography

François Noudelmann, Ph.D., is a French philosopher, radio producer at the famous France Culture and professor. He is a renowned Jean-Paul Sartre (1905 - 1980) scholar and he wrote his doctoral dissertation on the role of the image in Sartre’s philosophical thought. Noudelmann has been a professor at several universities. He is based in the French literature department at the University of Paris VIII, most famous as Université de Vincennes, which it is noteworthy to point out was founded a direct result of the famous May 1968 student protests. Prestigious thinkers such as Hélène Cixous (1937 - ), Gilles Deleuze (1925 - 1995), Michel Foucault (1926 - 1984), Jean-François Lyotard (1924 - 1998) and Frank Popper (1918 - ) would be involved in its inception. There philosophy would be taught with a commitment to against traditional academy by being open to the immediate social and political aspects of our time. Additionally, teachers and students are seen more as collaborators. Noudelmann has also taught at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee (Switzerland) where he conducted an intensive summer seminar. Additionally, he has also regularly taught in the United States at both Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore as well as New York University. As an author François Noudelmann has written several books on the fiction of time, which study genealogical representations through philosophical and literary essays.

François Noudelmann was from 2001 to 2004 the director of the Collège International de Philosophie (CIPh), an open philosophy university in Paris, which was founded in 1983, Jacques Derrida (1930 - 2004) himself would it first president. For 8 years, from 2002 through 2010 he would host a radio show Les Vendredis de la philosophie (“Philosophical Fridays”) as well as Macadam philo (“Philosophical Tarmac”), both on France Culture radio. Since September of 2010 Noudelmann has hosted a new show Je l'entends comme je l'aime (“I hear it as I like it”) also on France Culture but this show explores philosophy through the medium of music. The show has interviewed many critical thinkers including philosophers such as Alain Badiou (1937 - ) and Avital Ronell (1952 - ), but also writers like Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud (1947 - ) and Catherine David. More specifically, the show is usually aired on Sunday evenings and examines French musical and artistic culture, philosophy and literature. From 2008 to 2009 Noudelmann coordinated and participated in the first and only season of the blog project entitled 24 heures philo (“24 hours Philosophy”) for the left-wing French newspaper Libération, which combined news, critical theory and philosophy.

François taught a seminar at The European Graduate School (EGS) titled Affinity in Philosophy, Science, Art and Literature. This intensive class explores ways and limitations of thinking about affinity by historically investigating how the subject and question of affinity has been approached in several fields with different viewpoints. It also explores how the various fields have influenced each other. This includes, for example, viewpoints from the theory of evolution, physiognomy, sociology, literature, paintings, films, music and philosophy. It is interesting to note, however, that the notion of affinity rarely comes up in philosophical discussions. This lacuna is in a very real sense a blind spot in philosophy, which is nevertheless important because it is situated at the very core of the thought process. For if indeed the activity of thinking is essentially about becoming other, instigated by a singular relation to alterity, what about affinity? We must as a matter of course acknowledge in talking about affinity that there is always a danger of transforming a relational event into a self-identical substance. How is it be possible, then, to come to grips with affinity---an aesthetic moment of knowledge formation---which yet forever escapes conceptual grasp? What is the role of philosophy as a field in relation to such a dynamic process that the experience of affinity is? These are the kinds of questions that the seminar typically explores.

As a Jean-Paul Sartre specialist who wrote his dissertation on him, today still Noudelmann is inspired by Sartre. The following quote from 2007 is telling of the way Sartre can be usefully re-appropriated today:

Today Sartre seems to me to be the antidote to the determinisms that are returning in force. I will mention two that are especially significant: the determinism of economic thinking, which would have us accept that economic liberalization is the only future for the planet. The other is the scientific determinism of the natural sciences, which persuades us that the workings of thought can be reduced to the workings of the neurons. Sartre always fought against this kind of reductionism.

François Noudelmann is the author of numerous publications including: authored and edited with E. Ann Kaplan and Robert Harvey, Filiation and its Discontents (2009). The English title is reminiscent of Sigmund Freud’s (1856 - 1939) classic Civilization and its Discontents (1930). The book had first appeared in French under the related but yet different title of Politique et filiation (Politics and Filiation) 2004. The studies included in this volume lead us to rethink notions and concepts of transmission, lineage and genealogy as a political approach. They analyze the significance of family models in collective representations and work to divert problematic patterns of kinship in knowledge.

Le Toucher des philosophes : Sartre, Nietzsche et Barthes au piano (“The Philosopher’s Touch: Sartre, Nietzsche, and Barthes at the Piano”) 2008. Here Noudelmann points out that even though Sartre’s activism in history is well known, do we realize, however, that even during times militant euphoria Sartre would reserve each day time to play the piano. Indeed, he would work on scores by Chopin or Debussy. But Sartre is not the only philosopher who would have had such an intimate relationship with music. In this book Noudelmann asks us to consider the question of the link between philosophy and music.

In Hors de moi (“Outside of Myself”) 2006, Noudelmann explores the question of how to resist today’s genealogical passion to give everything an identity. Outside of the known identities of myself there are other “voices” filled with freedom rather than self-enclosedness. He offers an uncompromising critique of contemporary genealogical discourse and proposes instead a different kind of relationship with memories and affiliations.

Pour en finir avec la généalogie (“In order to be done with Genealogy”) 2004. This is the logical precursor book to Hors de moi. One’s origin and descent, he tells us, are no longer just about family matters but have actually invaded political, historical and cultural thought. How did genealogy colonize our imagination, and why has it become a normative instrument of knowledge and behaviors he asks? The critique offered here draws on theories and fictions that have sought to break such genealogical order. This book reveals a problematic “genealogical paradigm” at the heart of our representations.

Noudelmann has published over the years many more works, including: Samuel Beckett (2006), Dictionnaire Sartre (“Sartre Dictionary”) 2004, Politiques de la communauté (“Community Politics”) 2003, Scène et image (“Scene and Image”) (2000), Francis Ponge : matière, matériau, matérialisme (“Francis Ponge: Matter, Material, Materialism”) (2000), Avant-gardes et modernité (“Avant-gardes and Modernity”) (2000), Beckett ou la scène du pire (“Becket or the Scene of the Worse”) (1998), Suite, série, séquence (“Suite, Series, Sequence”) 1998, Image et absence: Essai sur le regard (“Image and Absence: Essay on Looking”) 1998, Sartre: L'incarnation imaginaire (“Sartre: Imaginary Embodiment”) 1996, La Culture et l'homme (“Man and Culture”) 1994, Huis clos et Les mouches de Jean-Paul Sartre (“Jean-Paul Sartre’s ‘No Exit’ and ‘The Flies’”) 1993, Le corps à découvert (“Uncovered Body”) 1992, L'incarnation imaginaire : l'image dans la pensée de Sartre (“Imaginary Embodiment: the Image in Sartre’s Thought”) - his Dissertation - 1992. La nature : de l'identité à la liberté (“Nature: from Identity to Freedom”) 1991.

François Noudelmann is a professor at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, where he conducts an Intensive Summer Seminar.