Martin Hägglund

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Martin Hägglund
Born November 23, 1976
Era Contemporary philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Continental philosophy

Martin Hägglund (born November 23, 1976) is a Swedish philosopher, literary theorist, and scholar of modernist literature. He is currently appointed as a tenured Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Humanities at Yale University.[1] He is also a member of the Harvard Society of Fellows,[2] serving as a Junior Fellow from 2009 to 2012. Hägglund is the author of Dying for Time: Proust, Woolf, Nabokov (2012), Radical Atheism: Derrida and the Time of Life (2008), and Kronofobi: Essäer om tid och ändlighet (Chronophobia: Essays on Time and Finitude, 2002).


Radical Atheism[edit]

Radical Atheism is a major intervention in deconstruction. Against the prevalent notion that there was an ethical or religious “turn” in the thinking of Jacques Derrida, Hägglund argues that a radical atheism informs his work from beginning to end. Atheism has traditionally limited itself to denying the existence of God and immortality, without questioning the desire for God and immortality. In contrast, radical atheism seeks to demonstrate that the so-called desire for immortality dissimulates a desire for survival that precedes it and contradicts it from within. Rather than being dependent on a transcendent ideal, all our commitments presuppose an investment in and care for the finite. Developing a deconstructive account of time, Hägglund shows how Derrida rethinks the constitution of identity, the violence of ethics, the desire of religion, and political emancipation in accordance with the condition of temporal finitude.

Radical Atheism was the subject of a conference at Cornell University, The Challenge of Radical Atheism: Critical Responses,[3] of a special issue of CR: The New Centennial Review, Living On: Of Martin Hägglund,[4] and numerous debates with responses by Derek Attridge, John Caputo, and Ernesto Laclau.[5] Responding to the book, Laclau wrote that Hägglund's "analysis reaches what we could call the zero degree of deconstruction, the point at which deconstructive logics show their internal potential and cannot be assimilated to any of the various discourses—ethicist, religious, and so forth—which have tried to hegemonize it"[6] and Jonathan Culler called it "a decisive rejoinder to those seeking to capture deconstruction for religion.”[7]

Dying for Time[edit]

Dying for Time offers new readings of the problem of temporality in the writings of Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf, and Vladimir Nabokov. Through an engagement with Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan, Hägglund also develops an original theory of the relation between time and desire ("chronolibido"), addressing mourning and melancholia, pleasure and pain, attachment and loss.


  • Dying for Time: Proust, Woolf, Nabokov, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012.
  • Radical Atheism: Derrida and the Time of Life, Stanford: Stanford University Press, Meridian: Crossing Aesthetics, 2008.
  • Kronofobi: Essäer om tid och ändlighet (Chronophobia: Essays on Time and Finitude), Stockholm/Stehag: Brutus Östlings Bokförlag Symposion, 2002.


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  4. ^ *CR: The New Centennial Review, 9.1 (2009), Special Issue Living On: Of Martin Hägglund
  5. ^ See Laclau ”Is Radical Atheism a Good Name for Deconstruction?” and Hägglund, ”Time, Desire, Politics: A Reply to Ernesto Laclau,” both in Diacritics 38.1-2 (2008); Attridge’s Reading and Responsibility (Edinburgh UP 2010) and his review of Radical Atheism in Derrida Today 2.2 (2009) with a response from Hägglund in Derrida Today 3.2 (2010). Attridge’s analysis of Radical Atheism and Hägglund’s response was also the subject of a colloquium at Oxford University. A debate between Hägglund and Caputo was featured at the Derrida and Religion conference at Harvard University and subsequently published; see Caputo "The Return of Anti-Religion: From Radical Atheism to Radical Theology" and Hägglund "The Radical Evil of Deconstruction: A Reply to John Caputo" both in JCRT 11.2 (2011).
  6. ^ Laclau, ”Is Radical Atheism a Good Name for Deconstruction?,” 188
  7. ^ Culler, preface to the 25th anniversary edition of On Deconstruction, Cornell UP, 2007

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