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French philosopher Lyotard opened up in new book


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The first critical biography of the French philosopher, Jean-François Lyotard, has been published by a Leeds Beckett University academic.

Jean-François Lyotard: Critical Lives book cover

The book, Jean-François Lyotard: Critical Lives, has been written by Dr Kiff Bamford, Reader in Contemporary Art in the School of Art, Architecture and Design at Leeds Beckett, and published by Reaktion Books, London, as part of their ‘Critical Lives’ series.

Jean-François Lyotard (1924-1998) is one of the most important, and complex, French thinkers of the 20th century and is best-known in the English-speaking world for The Postmodern Condition. The new book is the first to consider Lyotard’s work and ideas in the wider context of his life and times.

Dr Kiff Bamford

Dr Bamford explained: “This short overview of the life and work of the important French thinker gains its title by default:  Jean-François Lyotard: Critical Lives. Fortunately, the title is highly appropriate for the complex, multi-faceted nature of both the man and his work. Best known for his writings on the postmodern, Lyotard was also an important political activist, teacher and writer on contemporary art.

“It is this interdisciplinarity which the book aims to capture, in order that the full extent of Lyotard’s work be opened up to a new audience. It is important that the author is not a philosopher but an artist, writer and lecturer – currently Reader in Contemporary Art – who deliberately pays attention to those aspects of Lyotard’s thought which are sometimes overlooked.”

The book is the result of Dr Bamford’s research undertaken in the Lyotard archives in Paris and through interviews with Lyotard’s family and friends. It is also part of a longer term engagement with Lyotard’s work by Dr Bamford, one that includes the previous publication, Lyotard and the ‘figural’ in Performance, Art & Writing (Bloomsbury, 2012), and an ongoing enthusiasm for his writings.

Jean-François Lyotard: Critical Lives book cover

Dr Bamford added: “’Why is there no existing written biography of Lyotard?’ This is one of the many questions asked in the opening section of the book. One response is enacted through the hesitancy of the style used in the introduction: ‘To pretend that Lyotard’s life can fit into the conventions of traditional biography would be to ignore the thrust of many of his philosophical arguments …’.

“Lyotard resisted all attempts to impose a false whole on any subject, making significant efforts to avoid easy categorisations and lazy assumptions. Lyotard is not, therefore, the easiest of subjects for a critical biography. Not easy, but necessary.”

For more information, please click here; and you can read Dr Bamford’s blog post about the new book, written for Reaktion, here.

The Communications team has a signed copy of Kiff’s book to give away as a competition prize. To enter, please email pressoffice@leedsbeckett.ac.uk with the subject title ‘Critical Lives’ by the closing date of Thursday 12 October.

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