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Jean-Claude Milner (1941–)

Currently Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at the Université de Paris-VII, and a former director of the Collège Internationale de Philosophie (1998–2001), Jean-Claude Milner has pursued a diverse intellectual career comprised of academic contributions to linguistics, critical engagements with Lacanian psychoanalysis, as well as, more recently, a series of essays concerning anti-Semitism in European history and culture. For the past several years, Milner has held a seminar devoted to this theme at the Institut d’études levinassiennes in Paris. In 1960, after completing his khâgne at the lycée Henri-IV, Milner entered the École Normale Supérieure, where he took courses with Louis Althusser and developed a close friendship with Jacques-Alain Miller, a friendship that would be instrumental in the founding and direction of the Cahiers pour l’Analyse several years later. Among the members of the Cercle d’Épistémologie, for which he served as secretary, Milner was notable for his special interest in linguistics. In addition to following the teaching of Jacques Lacan, Milner also displayed an early engagement with the writings of Roland Barthes and Roman Jakobson, the latter of whom would secure for Milner a short term postdoctoral fellowship at MIT in 1966. The exposure to Noam Chomsky’s work was formative for Milner, who translated Chomsky’s Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (1965) into French in 1971. In many ways faithful to Lacan’s original teaching despite these heterogeneous influences, his work also displays an engagement with Anglophone philosophy of science (e.g., Popper and Lakatos) that accounts for Milner’s unique perspective on the Lacanian enterprise; see in particular Milner’s L’Oeuvre claire (1995).

Like many of the normaliens involved in the Cahiers, Milner experienced May 1968 as a cataclysmic personal and political event. In the years that followed, he was an active participant along with Jacques-Alain Miller in the Maoist group the Gauche Proléterienne. Milner has recently published his reflections on these years, which contrast greatly with those of Alain Badiou, in a book titled L’Arrogance du présent (2009). Despite their current differences, much of Milner’s work in the wake of the Cahiers pour l’Analyse concerning the nature and function of names was instrumental for Badiou’s project well as for many others inspired by Lacan’s reconfiguration of the modern subject. In his works L’Amour de la langue (1978) and Les Noms indistincts (1983), Milner developed the conception of language to be found in his most significant contribution to the Cahiers, ‘Le Point du signifiant’. In this article, a reading of Plato’s Sophist, Milner suggested that the proper name functions as the mark of an errant negativity, or non-being, that alternately serves as a function or term in discursive sequences. With his emphasis on the essentially vacillating and errant nature of subjectivity, Milner negotiated a path between the positions in the journal represented by Miller and Badiou.

In the Cahiers pour l’Analyse:

Jean-Claude Milner, ‘Avertissement’, CpA 2:Introduction [HTML] [PDF] [SYN] [TRANS]
Jean-Claude Milner, ‘Avertissement’, CpA 3:Introduction [HTML] [PDF] [SYN] [TRANS]
Jean-Claude Milner, ‘Le point du signifiant’, CpA 3.5 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN] [TRANS]
Jean-Claude Milner, ‘Grammaire d’Aragon’, CpA 7.2 [HTML] [PDF] [SYN]
Jacques-Alain Miller & Jean-Claude Milner, ‘Avertissement: Nature de l’impensée’, CpA 8:Introduction [HTML] [PDF] [SYN] [TRANS]

Select bibliography

  • Arguments linguistiques. Paris: Mame, 1973.
  • De la syntaxe à l’interprétation. Paris: Seuil, 1978.
  • L’Amour de la langue. Paris: Seuil 1978 [republished by Verdier, 2009]. For the Love of Language, trans. Ann Banfield. New York: Macmillan, 1990.
  • Ordres et raisons des langues. Paris: Seuil, 1982.
  • Les Noms indistincts. Paris: Seuil, 1983. [Republished by Verdier, 2007].
  • De l’école. Paris: Seuil, 1984. [Republished by Verdier 2009].
  • Détections fictives. Paris: Seuil, 1985.
  • Dire le vers (with François Regnault). Paris: Seuil, 1987. [Republished by Verdier, 2008].
  • Introduction à une science du langage. Paris: Seuil, 1989.
  • Constat. Paris: Verdier, 1992.
  • Archéologie d’un échec: 1950-1993. Paris: Seuil, 1993.
  • L’Oeuvre claire: Lacan, la science et la philosophie. Paris: Seuil, 1995. Extract translated as ‘The Doctrine of Science’, trans. Oliver Feltham. Umbr(a): Science and Truth 1 (2000): 33-63.
  • Le Salaire de l’idéal. Paris: Seuil, 1997.
  • Le Triple du plaisir. Paris: Verdier, 1997.
  • Mallarmé au tombeau. Paris: Verdier, 1999.
  • Constats [contains Constat, Le Triple du plaisir, and Mallarmé au tombeau]. Paris: Gallimard, 2002.
  • Le Périple structurale: figures et paradigme. Paris: Seuil, 2002. [Republished by Verdier, 2008].
  • Existe-il une vie intellectuelle en France? Paris: Verdier, 2002.
  • Le Pas philosophique de Roland Barthes. Paris: Verdier, 2002.
  • Les Penchants criminels de l’Europe démocratique. Paris: Verdier, 2003.
  • Voulez-vous être évalué? (with Jacques-Alain Miller). Paris: Grasset, 2004.
  • La Politique des choses. Paris: Navarin, 2005.
  • Le Juif de savoir. Paris: Grasset, 2006.
  • L’Arrogance du présent: regards sur une décennie. Paris. Grasset, 2009.