Plea for a Collective Genetics

Another Reading of Sartre's Early Texts, 1926–1927

in Sartre Studies International
Grégory Cormann Professor, University of Liège, Belgium

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translated by John H. Gillespie Ulster University, UK

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The study of the early manuscripts of the great authors most often becomes a process of monumentalising or (re)legitimising their work. The recent publication of two of Sartre's early manuscripts – first Empédocle (Empedocles) in 2016 and second, in 2018, his dissertation for his graduate diploma (diplôme d’études supérieures or DES), L'Image dans la vie psychologique (The Image in Psychological Life), both texts written in 1926–1927 – encourages us to propose another type of genetic reading that insists on the collective conditions of the production of knowledge, including philosophical knowledge. Such a collective genetics, applied to Sartre's intellectual formation during the interwar years, allows us to highlight some of the little-known forms of Parisian intellectual societies (the activities of the International Information Group of the École Normale Supérieure, the critical logic of the psychology journals, the regular meetings of the cenacles, and the literary and philosophical research groups). It also reveals, at the same time, the original relationship between Sartre's thought and the German literature and philosophy mediated to him by Bernard Groethuysen, Stefan Zweig and Alexandre Koyré.

Contributor Notes

Grégory Cormann teaches French philosophy and the philosophy of the humanities at the University of Liège, where he is Co-Director of the MAP Research Centre (The Centre for the Materialities of Politics, UR Traverses). He has recently published Sartre: Une anthropologie politique 1920–1980 (Sartre: A Political Anthropology 1920–1980) (Peter Lang, 2021) and, with Jérôme Englebert, Le cas Jonas: Essai de phénoménologie clinique et criminologique (The Jonas Case: An Essay of Clinical and Criminological Phenomenology (Hermann, 2021). Editor of L'Année sartrienne and member of the Sartre team of l'Institut des Textes et Manuscrits Modernes (ITEM) (The Institute of Modern Texts and Manuscripts), he has edited several unpublished texts by Sartre (Morale et histoire [Morality and History], 2005; Les Racines de l’éthique [The Roots of Ethics], 2015) and published numerous articles on twentieth-century French philosophy, focussing particularly on Sartre's intellectual formation in the years 1920–1930, his relation with the work of Beauvoir and the shape of his political engagement from the liberation of Europe in 1945 until the 1970s. Email:

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Sartre Studies International

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Existentialism and Contemporary Culture


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