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Passages, Genres, Différends: Jean-François Lyotard Guest Editor’s Introduction J EAN-FRANCOIS LYOTARD’S CAREER as a philosopher, writer, critic, and teacher spans more than four decades. His work ad­ dresses, and often defines, many of the central issues of our time. The phases of his trajectory—existentialist phenomenology, Marxism, Freudian psychoanalysis, poststructuralism, forays into analytic philoso­ phy and pragmatism, the return to Kant—read almost like a list of the major movements of postwar continental philosophy. To feign here a metanarrative viewpoint from which to survey Lyotard’s work to date and to summarize its themes—the temptation of preface-writers—would be inappropriate and superfluous, since the articles in this issue discuss his writings in detail, both from diachronic and from synchronic per­ spectives. The issue title names three themes that figure prominently in Lyo­ tard’s work of the eighties (the issue’s main focus). The term “ passages” refers not only to key passages from Lyotard’s texts—which ones will become clear soon enough—but also, and more technically, to Lyotard’s critical appropriation of Kant’s project, announced in the introduction to the Critique o f Judgement, of articulating the links or passages (Über­ gänge) which judgment establishes between the realm of nature and that of freedom, between the cognitive and the ethical uses of reason. Lyotard’s exploration of the “ differends” between cognition, aesthetics, and pthics is one of the most significant and compelling aspects of his recent work, as many of the articles in this issue attest. The metaphor of passages also alludes to the “ cross-disciplinary” character of Lyotard’s work, and of this special issue. The essays in this volume engage Lyotard’s writings from diverse theoretical and disciplin­ ary vantage points—philosophy, anthropology, literary theory, and cultural studies. While critical thought and research take place today, as always, on particular “ sites” —within institutional boundaries and disci­ plinary frameworks—such thought necessarily questions, and seeks to exceed, those boundaries and frameworks, not only in individual research programs but also through relays, networks, and “ passages” — symposia, workshops, collections, and special issues. Lyotard’s work VOL. XXXI, No. 1 7 L ’E spr it C r éa teu r offers a paradigm for such research. Multidisciplinary in its own right— taking up issues in philosophy, semiotics, art, history, literary theory and criticism—Lyotard’s work strives to invent an idiom and a mode for phrasing conflicts of theory and genre. As the common focus of the arti­ cles in this issue, his work serves as the occasion for exhibiting both the exchanges and the conflicts—the “ passages” and the “ differends” — within and among the disciplines of knowledge. These pieces do not assume the autonomy or homogeneity of individual disciplines, much less the preestablished harmony of those disciplines within a unified model of “the human sciences.” Nothing would be less appropriate for an issue devoted to Lyotard’s work, which resists closure and unifica­ tion. If a paradigm for interdisciplinary research is suggested by his writ­ ings, it would not be that of a “ Babelian” tower of incommensurable idioms, nor a quest for consensus motivated by common emancipatory interests. It is rather that of pursuing, given the contingency of sites and occasions, the necessary differends—and problematic passages— between faculties, disciplines, and genres of discourse. It would thus be a mode of thinking and writing in accord with what Lyotard calls “ opacity” : a mode receptive to the singularity of events and phenomena that precede or exceed human institutions and conceptual schemes—and in opposition to modes of thought that unduly predetermine or prejudge events and phenomena. Lyotard’s model for such thinking is Kantian reflective judgment. In contrast to determinant judgment, in which par­ ticular cases are subsumed under a rule or concept, reflective judgment starts from the particular case and goes in search of its (universal) law or rule.1To explore the diverse manifestations, triumphs, and aporias of this mode of thought in Lyotard’s work is a central aim of the articles that follow. The essay section of the issue begins and ends with recent articles by Lyotard. In “ Prescription,” Lyotard patiently traces the nuances of that word...


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