chapter  25
7 Pages

Jean-François Lyotard

Jean-François Lyotard (1924-98) was born in Versailles, France. He studied phenomenology under Maurice Merleau-Ponty. His doctoral work was entitled Discours, figure (1971) and his first major publication is an excellent critical introduction to phenomenology (1954). Lyotard began his academic career as a secondary school teacher in Algeria. It was there that he witnessed first-hand the brutality and oppression of colonialism. Throughout his life Lyotard was politically active. He played a primary role in several leftist political groups, including from 1953 to 1963 one called “Socialisme ou barbarie,” which comprised both intellectuals and workers. This group wrote critical pieces about the French presence in Algeria and served as a kind of political model for many of the groups formed in the aftermath of the May 1968 strikes in Paris. Lyotard taught at the University of Nanterre and the University of Paris, in addition to holding posts at several American universities including Yale, Emory, and the University of California, Irvine. Besides being closely associated with postmodernism and a philosophy of desire, Lyotard’s work is wide-ranging, covering topics as diverse as linguistic and political philosophy, aesthetics, and literature. His interest in art and art history led to his role as the curator of an exhibition entitled Les Immatériaux, which took place in 1985 at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.