Book Review: French Theory

Sep 10, 2008 by

A review of French Theory: How Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, & Co. Transformed the Intellectual Life of the United States

There is a central question that provides a guiding thread through François Cusset’s far ranging and intellectually challenging investigation into the reception of “French Theory” in the United States: how is it that “around the beginning of the 1980s, right when the works of Foucault, Deleuze, Lyotard, and Derrida were being put to work on American campuses and in some alternative communities as the theoretical foundation for a new type of politics, those very names were being demonized in France as the epitome of an outdated ‘libidinal’ and leftist type of politics”? (XVIII) His study unfolds, examining the chronological periods before and after this crucial decade, casting back to roughly 1966 and then moving forward up until 2004, in an attempt to answer this question and explain the American phenomenon he terms French Theory.

Link to the review

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