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The Secret, the Sovereign, and the Lie: Reading Derrida’s Last Seminar

Author(s): Charles Barbour

Journal: Societies
ISSN 2075-4698

Volume: 3;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 117;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: secrecy | sovereignty | lies | Derrida | Lacan | Celan | psychoanalysis | poetics | animals | Agamben

This paper takes up the question of secrecy and sovereignty in Derrida’s final seminar on The Beast and the Sovereign. Focusing primarily on Derrida’s readings of Lacan and Celan in Volume I, it argues that, for Derrida, we should distinguish between the lie (or what Lacan calls ‘trickery’ or ‘feigning feint’), and the secret (or what Celan calls ‘the secret of an encounter’), and understand the sense in which the former implies an intentional and sovereign human subject, while the latter represents a limit to such a thing, and, arguably, to the concept of sovereignty as such. This explains, or helps explain, why, in his discussions of sovereignty, Derrida spends so much time examining the animal, on the one hand, and poetry, on the other. For, on his account, these both configure secrecy, and specifically what I refer to as the absolute secret.
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