• 320 pages
  • 6 x 9
  • Price: $32.95
  • EAN: 9781592134403
  • Publication: Aug 2007
  • Price: $70.50
  • EAN: 9781592134397
  • Publication: May 2006

Forms in the Abyss

A Philosophical Bridge between Sartre and Derrida

Steve Martinot

The relationship between the existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre and the post-structuralist Jacques Derrida has never been fully examined until now. In Forms in the Abyss, Steve Martinot sees these two important philosophical thinkers of the twentieth century as "kindred souls" despite their vast differences.

Martinot argues that, while Sartre's writing sets out a significant set of critical ethical precepts for living in the world and Derrida's critique of language in turn throws into question the process of arriving at an ethics (though constituting at the same time an ethics of writing), a bridge between these two thinkers can be constructed. He demonstrates that one can use the critical tools provided by Derrida and the forms of discourse and reasoning developed by Sartre to set the two in dialogue with each other. In the process, Martinot develops a theory of dialogue that incorporates both ethics and form.

Martinot contributes a new way of thinking about critical and social theory and, even more importantly, adds a new ethical and political imperative to postmodern thought that many critics have often found missing in the works of thinkers like Derrida.

Forms in the Abyss promises to be a significant contribution to our critical understanding of western thought.


"The project of transcoding Sartrean language into the Derridean coordinates, and vice-versa, is an unseasonable one whose reward lies in the defamiliarization of both. Martinot's minute, technical readings avoid all facile ideological generalizations and send us back to the original texts with new eyes."
Fredric Jameson

"Martinot's striking project brings together two theoretical discourses that might not have seemed placeable in a common frame. He finds in the work of Sartre and Derrida what he calls 'a common uncommonality'—a way of talking about the objectives of their theorizing that mutually illuminates each not so much in individual concept or language as in analytic intention and, beyond it, philosophical and political purpose. His approach is productive and original. He might simply have traced for Sartre and Derrida a 'common language' derived from the influence Heidegger exercised on each of them. This would have been a seductive solution, but Martinot rejects it, correctly in my judgment. It is too easy because it ignores radical divergences in the respective forms of indebtedness of Martinot's two principal figures. Taking the harder way out, as Martinot does here, is a commendable path."
Richard Terdiman, University of California, Santa Cruz, author of Body & Story: The Practice and Ethics of Theoretical Conflict

"Martinot’s defenses of Sartre...are compelling, as are many of the parallels that he draws between the projects of the two writers."

About the Author(s)

Steve Martinot is Instructor at the Center for Interdisciplinary Programs at San Francisco State University. He is the author of The Rule of Racialization: Class, Identity, Governance (Temple), editor of two previous books, and translator of Racism by Albert Memmi.