Michel Serres

Simon Critchley: “Coming from a background in phenomenology, I’d like to ask you about your relationship with modernity.”

Michel Serres: “Maturnity! Why do you ask me about that?” (link)

Michel SerresMichel Serres is my favourite French thinker and author and yet only a few of his works are in English. Notably, The Troubadour of Knowledge (some of which is on Googlebooks). I first read Michel Serres in a The Postmodern Bible Reader. It was one of the best chapters in the book – “Meals Among Brothers: Theory of the Joker” which is a mindboggling, fast-paced complex little piece on socio-economic theory drawn from the encounter between Jacob and Tamar. I thought to myself . . . now HERE is a guy who is just as scatter-brained as I, impossible to box up into one category, probably more ADD than me, and yet absolutely brilliant!

I think i liked him so much because i found an author with a mischievous artistic bent who mashed genres, categories, and expectations and who was confident enough to play with structure, bending grammatical rules to create something profound and poetic. Which is why so much of his nuanced writing is untranslatable from the French but when it does make it into English, its amazing and it invites playfulness and creativity into the writing process. Spike Milligan meets Teilhard de Chardin. At my best, when I am writing well, when words flow effortlessly and transcend boundaries, I find myself thinking of Serres.

Jean Luc Marion is also a favourite but he is far more wordy and not nearly as much fun.

Interesting, I was having a chat with Leonard Sweet some years back and Len told me that Michel Serres is his favourite author. Howzat??? Len used Serres’s thinking on “third places” in his book Soul Tsunami. Anyway, I found an interview with Serres from 1995 that Wired was going to publish but they chickened out.

I would love to meet Michel Serres, and hope to one day. In the meantime, a blog has been set up for Serres readers which even has a video of Serres dancing in a club . . . club without poles . . in case you were wondering.

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Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • Milton says:

    Hi Andrew,
    I run a website dedicated to Serres’s work – which you found. Cool. The website has been up for a good while but with my work and other commitments, I’ve been chipping away entirely more slowly than I would like. The shift to the blog is step one of a full migration.
    You should try Angels: A Modern Myth – very fine. Also, I ran a site on domestic missiology in Canada some years back that we connected about – some sort of folding of time (another fascinating Serres angle). Some ideas related to Serres can be found in mining complexity theory – see my other site for more of that.
    How has the conversation on emergent themes grown in your part of the world?

  • andrew says:

    hi milton. the word “emergent” has been used so much that it often creates misunderstanding so i am hesitant to use it.
    the Web 2.0 conversation and its relation to complexity (Linked by Albert Lazlo Barabasi is worth a read) is something that seems more relative to my world right now.
    i will look out for the Angels book. thanks

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