Shoshana Felman

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Shoshana Felman
Alma mater University of Grenoble (Ph.D.)
Occupation Professor, writer
Employer Emory University
Known for literary critic and theorist
Awards Chevalier de l'ordre des palmes academiques (awarded by French government in 1982),[1] American Academy of Arts and Sciences Fellow (2010).[2]
Official website

Shoshana Felman is an American literary critic and current Woodruff Professor of Comparative Literature and French at Emory University. She was on the faculty of Yale University from 1970 to 2004, where in 1986 she was awarded the prestigious Thomas E. Donnelly Professorship of French and Comparative Literature.[3] She specializes in 19th and 20th century French literature, psychoanalysis, trauma and testimony, and law and literature. Felman earned her Ph.D. at the University of Grenoble in France in 1970.

Felman has been influential in the fields of psychoanalytic literary criticism, performativity theory, feminism, Holocaust testimony, and other areas, though her writings frequently question, ironize, or test the limits of the very critical methods being employed. Often in her writing a reversal will occur so that the critical vocabulary gets subjected to and converted into the terms of the literary or cultural object being scrutinized rather than simply settling the meaning of the object; thus in Felman's style of criticism there is no fixed hierarchy of theory over and beyond the reach of the literary object.[4] As such, her methods share an affinity with deconstruction, for which she is sometimes associated with the Yale School and colleagues such as Paul de Man.

Felman applies heterogeneous philosophical, psychological, semiotic and linguistic theories to the interpretation of literature and cultural events, and while individually rigorous her writings are not bound by any one sustained interest, method or approach. Her writing is characterized by an expansive awareness, use, and engagement with contemporary theorists and critics.[5]

Jacques Lacan is a vital influence on Felman and she was among the vanguard of theorists—and perhaps foremost among those addressing Anglophone audiences[6]—to rigorously apply his concepts to the study of literature.

Since the 1990s Felman has written key texts on testimony and trauma, particularly in the context of the Holocaust and other collective trauma.



  • The Claims of Literature: The Shoshana Felman Reader, ed. by Emily Sun, Eyal Peretz, Ulrich Baer, Fordham University Press, 2007
  • The Juridical Unconscious: Trials and Traumas in the Twentieth Century, Harvard University Press, 2002
  • What Does a Woman Want? Reading and Sexual Difference, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993
  • Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature Psychoanalysis and History (co-authored with Dori Laub, M.D.) (1992)
  • Jacques Lacan and the Adventure of Insight: Psychoanalysis in Contemporary Culture (1987)
  • Editor, Literature and Psychoanalysis: The Question of Reading–Otherwise (1982)
  • Le Scandale du corps parlant. Don Juan avec Austin, ou la Séduction en deux langues (1980), translated as The Literary Speech Act. Don Juan with Austin, or Seduction in Two Languages (1984), reissued as The Scandal of the Speaking Body. Don Juan with Austin, or Seduction in Two Languages (2002)
  • Writing and Madness: Literature/Philosophy/Psychoanalysis (1985), reissued with added materials and interviews (2003)
  • La Folie et la chose littéraire (1978)
  • La "Folie" dans l'oeuvre romanesque de Stendhal (1971).


  • Preface to the Hebrew translation of Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis and History. Tel Aviv: Resling Publishing, 2008.
  • “Madness in the Novels of Stendhal”, in the Norton Critical Edition of Stendhal's The Red and the Black, Susanna Lee, ed., 2008 (Second Edition).
  • “Théâtres de justice: Hannah Arendt à Jérusalem, le procès Eichmann et la redéfinition du sens de la loi dans le sillage de l’holocauste,” Les Temps modernes No 615-616 (Septembre-Octobre-Novembre 2001): 23–74.
  • “A Ghost in the House of Justice: Death and the Language of the Law”, in Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities, Spring 2001.
  • "Theaters of Justice: Arendt in Jerusalem, the Eichmann Trial, and the Redefinition of Legal Meaning in the Wake of the Holocaust" in: Critical Inquiry, Vol. 27, No. 2 (Winter 2001), pp. 201–238
  • “Silence de Walter Benjamin”, in Les Temps modernes (Paris) # 606 (1999): 1–46.
  • "Benjamin's Silence" in: Critical Inquiry, Vol. 25, No. 2, "Angelus Novus": Perspectives on Walter Benjamin (Winter 1999), pp. 201–234
  • “Forms of Judicial Blindness: Traumatic Narratives and Legal Repetitions in the O.J. Simpson Case and in Tolstoy’s The Kreutzer Sonata”, in Critical Inquiry 23 (1997): 738–788. Reprinted in revised, updated and expanded form in History, Memory and the Law, Austin Sarat and Thomas R. Kearns, eds. (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1999): 25–94.
  • "Education and Crisis", in Trauma: Explorations in Memory, edited and introduced by Cathy Caruth, Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995.
  • "Film as Witness: Claude Lanzmann's Shoah", in Holocaust Remembrance: the Shapes of Memory, ed. Geoffrey Hartman, London, Blackwell, 1994.
  • "In an Era of Testimony: Claude Lanzmann's Shoah", Yale French Studies, No. 79 (1991), Literature and the Ethical Question, reprinted in: Yale French Studies, No. 97, 50 Years of Yale French Studies: A Commemorative Anthology. Part 2: 1980–1998 (2000), pp. 103–150
  • "A l'Age du Témoignage: Shoah de Claude Lanzmann", in Au Sujet de Shoah, ed. Michel Deguy, Paris, Belin, 1990.
  • "Paul de Man's Silence", in Critical Inquiry, Vol. 15, No. 4, Summer 1989.
  • "Literature as Testimony: Camus' The Plague", in Narrative Poetics: Forms, Ethics, Ideology, Columbus: Ohio State University, 1989
  • "Jacques Lacan's ‘Television,' or The Figure in the Screen", in October (# 45), Summer 1988. 97-108
  • "Postal Survival, or the Question of the Navel" in: Yale French Studies, No. 69, The Lesson of Paul de Man (1985), pp. 49–72
  • "Beyond Oedipus: The Specimen Story of Psychoanalysis" in: MLN, Vol. 98, No. 5, Comparative Literature (December 1983), pp. 1021–1053
  • "De Sophocle à Japrisot (via Freud), ou pourquoi le policier?", in Littérature, # 49, Paris, Larousse, February 1983.
  • "Psychoanalysis and Education: Teaching Terminable and Interminable" in: Yale French Studies, No. 63, The Pedagogical Imperative: Teaching as a Literary Genre (1982), pp. 21–44
  • "Le Scandale de la vérité: Entre Oedipe et la psychanalyse", in Etudes freudiennes (Paris), special issue on Interpretation, Fall 1981.
  • "La Signature de Flaubert: La Legende de Saint Julien l'Hospitalier", in La Revue des sciences humaines, special issue on Flaubert, 1981.
  • "The Originality of Jacques Lacan", in Poetics Today, Vol. II, No. 26, Winter, 1980.
  • "Rereading Femininity" in: Yale French Studies, No. 62, Feminist Readings: French Texts/American Contexts (1981), pp. 19–44
  • "Les Signes de la séduction", in The Romanic Review, November 1980.
  • "La maledizione di Edipo", in Spirali, Giurnale internazionale di cultura, Anno III, No. 5, May 1980.
  • "La Macchina Infernale", in Spirali, Giurnale internazionale di cultura, Anno III, No. 4, April 1980.
  • "On Reading Poetry: Reflections on the Limits and Possibilities of Psychoanalytical Approaches", in The Literary Freud: Mechanisms of Defense and the Poetic Will, Vol. 4 of Psychiatry and the Humanities, ed. Joseph Smith, Yale University Press, 1980.
  • "La Fatalité analytique, ou la machine en acte", in Confrontations, No. 3 ("Les Machines analytiques"), Paris, January 1980.
  • "Le Discours polémique (Propositions préliminaires pour une théorie de la Polémique)", in Cahiers de l'Association internationale des études françaises, No. 31, Paris, May 1979.
  • "La Chose littéraire, sa folie, son pouvoir"—Part I, in Tel Quel No. 80, Paris, May 1979.
  • La Chose littéraire, sa folie, son pouvoir" -- Part II, in Tel Quel No. 81, Paris, September 1979.
  • "De la nature des choses, ou de l'écart à l'équilibre", in Critique 380, "Michel Serres: interférences et turbulences", Paris, January 1979.
  • "La Chose littéraire", in Ornicar? (Paris) No. 16, November 1978.
  • "To Open the Question" in: Yale French Studies, No. 55/56, Literature and Psychoanalysis. The Question of Reading: Otherwise (1977), pp. 5–10
  • "Turning the Screw of Interpretation", in Yale French Studies, No. 55/56, (Literature and Psychoanalysis), 1977. Partially reprinted in The Turn of the Screw : authoritative text, contexts, criticism, Norton, 1999 (Second Edition).
  • "Women and Madness: The Critical Phallacy", in Diacritics, Winter 1975.
  • "Madness and Philosophy or Literature's Reason" in: Yale French Studies, No. 52, Graphesis: Perspectives in Literature and Philosophy (1975), pp. 206–228
  • "Rhétorique et thématique, ou la folie du texte", in La Production de sens chez Flaubert, (Colloque de Cérisy), Paris, 10/18, 1975.
  • "Modernité du lieu commun: En marge de Flaubert, Novembre", in Littérature, No. 20, December 1975.
  • "La Méprise et sa chance", in L'Arc, No. 58, special issue on Jacques Lacan, Paris, October 1974.
  • "La Répétition romanesque chez Flaubert", in La Lecture sociocritique du texte romanesque, ed. Mitterant/Falconer, Toronto, 1975.
  • "Illusion réaliste et répétition romanesque", in Change, No. 16-17, special issue entitled La Critique générative, Paris, September 1973.
  • "Lyrisme et Répétition", in "Figures du Lyrisme", special issue of the review Romantisme, No. 6, Paris, October 1973.
  • "Poésie et modernité: 'Tu as bien fait de partir, Arthur Rimbaud'", in Littérature, no. 6, Paris, October 1973.
  • "Aurélia ou le 'livre infaisable': de Foucault à Nerval", in Romantisme, No. 3, Paris, February 1972.
  • "Folie et discours chez Balzac: L'Illustre Gaudissart", in Littérature, No. 5, Paris, February 1972.
  • "La Chartreuse de Parme ou le chant de Dionysos", in Stendhal Club, Grenoble, October 1971.
  • "Armance ou la parole impossible", in Saggi e ricerche di litteratura francese, Pisa, January 1971.
  • "La 'Folie' dans La Chartreuse de Parme", in Omaggio a Stendhal, "Aurea Parma", Anno II, Fasc. II-III, Parma, May–December 1967.


  1. ^ Richard Lane, Fifty Key Literary Theorists, New York: Routledge, 2006, p. 92
  2. ^ "American Academy of Arts and Sciences Elects Emory's Felman". Retrieved 17 January 2015. 
  3. ^ Richard Lane, Fifty Key Literary Theorists, p. 92
  4. ^ From early in her career Felman has been described as "represent[ing] an approach to writing which attempts to free the language of the literary text from the domination, mastery, and directives of 'literary criticism.'" Review by Robert C. Carroll of La Folie et la chose littéraire and Le Scandale du corps parlant, MLN, Vol. 96, No. 4 (May, 1981), pp. 897–905. To observe this in extended practice see Le Scandale du corps parlant or the essay "Turning the Screw of Interpretation"
  5. ^ Review by Claudine Herrmann of La Folie et la Chose Littéraire, Studies in Romanticism, Vol. 19, No. 3 (Fall, 1980), pp. 440–441: "[Felman] possesses a thorough knowledge of all the modern French literary critics (Lacan, Barthes, Genette, Foucault, Derrida), what she says about them is sometimes clearer than their own works, the tone is always appropriate, and her themes are as modern as her methods."
  6. ^ Review by Robert Con Davis of Jacques Lacan and the Adventure of Insight: Psychoanalysis in Contemporary Culture, MLN, Vol. 103, No. 5, Comparative Literature (Dec., 1988), p.1159: "Shoshana Felman demonstrates [...] that she is a major reader of Jacques Lacan, probably _the_ major interpreter of Lacan in America. Authoritative, wide-ranging, and yet always lucid, she has helped to shape Lacanian studies since the middle 1970s."

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