Skip to main content

Expert comment: Late French Philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy changed how we look at people – University of Reading

Show access keys

Expert comment: Late French Philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy changed how we look at people

Release Date 24 August 2021

Jean-Luc Nancy

Prominent French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy died on Monday 24 August 2021. He wrote about religion, eroticism and worldly existence.

Dr John Mckeane, lecturer in modern French literature at the University of Reading, who researched and interviewed Nancy as well as translating book by and about him, said:

"As a young philosophy professor during student rebellions in May 1968, Nancy in some ways fits the cliché of the left-wing academic. But early in his career he had published in Catholic journals, and he returned to ‘deconstructing’ religion. He pointed out the importance of flesh in Christianity, arguing that this was already a modern vision of existence. Nancy also wrote about the body following his heart transplant, the first undertaken in France.

"He shared the word ‘deconstruction’ with longtime collaborator Jacques Derrida, although they disagreed whether concepts such as justice should remain ‘indeconstructible’. He stepped away from the Parisian establishment, living and working in Strasbourg and writing about this emblematically European city.

"Nancy shared a commune or community with fellow philosophy professor Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, their families, and others, for 20 years. Their style of co-teaching, in a haze of cigarette smoke and without the rituals of authority, is unthinkable in today’s universities. Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe co-authored many books together, and people who try to guess who wrote which section often get it wrong.

"Nancy should be remembered for seeing humans not as isolated minds, but as embodied beings who create meaning though our senses."


Image caption: Jean-Luc Nancy at the Paris Book Fair. Credit Georges Seguin

We use Javascript to improve your experience on, but it looks like yours is turned off. Everything will still work, but it is even more beautiful with Javascript in action. Find out more about why and how to turn it back on here.
We also use cookies to improve your time on the site, for more information please see our cookie policy.