Dr Paul Earlie

DPHIL (Oxon.), MPHIL (Cantab.), BA (Dub.)

  • BS8 1TE

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Personal profile

Research interests

My principal area of research is modern and contemporary French thought, with a focus on intermediality and on rhetoric as a theory and practice of communication. I am currently director of a GW4-funded research cluster, Rhetoric in Society, which brings together colleagues from across the South West region and beyond who share an interest in rhetoric in al its forms. 

I was an undergraduate in English Literature and French at Trinity College, Dublin, before completing my DPhil in French at the University of Oxford, on the role of psychoanalysis in the work of the French philosopher Jacques Derrida. I spent a year of my doctoral research as a pensionnaire étranger at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris and two years as a Laming Junior Fellow at the Queen's College, Oxford. I then worked as a postdoctoral research fellow in Belgium at the Université libre de Bruxelles, which sparked my current interest in classical rhetoric and its modern reverberations.

Research-wise, I have recently published a book-length study of Derrida's career-long engagement with psychoanalysis: Derrida and the Legacy of Psychoanalysis (OUP, 2021). Based on detailed analysis of Derrida's work, including less well-known and previously unpublished material, the book sheds new light on the vital role of psychoanalysis in shaping Derrida’s response to key questions such as the psyche’s relationship to technology, the role of fiction and metaphor in scientific discourse or the status of the political in deconstruction. I argue that Derrida’s writings on psychoanalysis can provide an important bridge between deconstruction and the recent materialist turn in the humanities. To this end, challenging a still prevalent ‘textualist’ reading of Derrida’s work, the book also explores the ongoing contribution of deconstruction and psychoanalysis to a number of pressing issues in critical thought today, from the omnipresence of digital technology to the politics of affect in an age of anxiety. For a round-table discussion of the book's argument and conclusions, see a recent colloquium, 'Psychoanalysis after Theory: Art, Culture, Criticism' (7 May 2021), held in partnership with the Freud Museum London (online recording available here).  

Following on from my interest in French thought, I'm currently working on two projects. The first is a book, The Rhetoric of Theory: Persuasion, Performance, Politics, exploring the ambivalent reception and afterlife of classical rhetoric in French thought from Roland Barthes to Barbara Cassin. Some initial findings from this project have already been published and a further article, 'Barbara Cassin: Sophistical Reading', is forthcoming with the journal Diacritics in 2022.  

I am also working on a second, longer term project, entitled Intellectuals and the Popular Media in France, which takes a comparative media approach to understanding how public intellectuals in France have engaged in creative and complex ways with the mass media, from radio to television, film and social media. My aim is to challenge the view that the latter are intrinsically anti-intellectual modes that threaten democracy and culture and instead to think about the ways in which popular media forms can also be sites of contestation, critique, and democratic renewal.

Since 2019, I have been on the editorial board of the Revue internationale de philosophie, where I have previously edited a special issue looking at fresh approaches—neuropsychoanalysis, ecocriticism, speculative formalism—to the perennially thorny relationship between psychoanalysis and literature.



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