Sarah Kofman

Sarah Kofman
Born (1934-09-14)September 14, 1934
Died October 15, 1994(1994-10-15) (aged 60)
Alma mater University of Paris[1]
École Normale Supérieure (no degree)
Paris X[1]
Paris VIII[1]
Era 20th-century philosophy
Region Western Philosophy
School Continental philosophy
French feminism

Sarah Kofman (French: [kɔfman]; September 14, 1934 October 15, 1994) was a French philosopher, born in Paris.


Kofman began her teaching career in Toulouse in 1960 at the Lycée Saint-Sernin, and worked with both Jean Hyppolite and Gilles Deleuze. Her abandoned primary thesis (thèse principale) for her State doctorate, later published as Nietzsche et la métaphore, was supervised by Deleuze. In 1969 Kofman met Jacques Derrida and began attending his seminars at the École Normale Supérieure.

Kofman did not receive tenure until 1991, when she was appointed to a chair at Paris I.

Kofman was the author of numerous books, including several on Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud. Her book, L'énigme de la femme: La femme dans les textes de Freud (1980), is perhaps the most thorough consideration of Freud's ideas concerning female sexuality.


Though many of her philosophical writings focused on Nietzsche and Freud, Kofman wrote several works in an autobiographical vein. Paroles suffoquées (1987) is dedicated to the memory of her father, rabbi Bereck Kofman, whom she saw for the last time on July 16, 1942, and who was killed at Auschwitz.

Rue Ordener, rue Labat (1994) also opens with the removal of her father by the Vichy police, and describes what Kofman understands to have been his fate. The title refers to two Parisian streets: the address at which her family lived until her father's arrest; and the address at which she was sheltered for much of the remainder of the war. Kofman was taken in by a Parisian divorcée who became her surrogate mother and whom she called Mémé. The book tells the story of this period, and of the custody dispute between Mémé and Kofman's mother following the liberation of Paris.


Kofman committed suicide in 1994. The fact that she did so on the date of Nietzsche's 150th birthday[2] has been seen by some writers as significant.[3] After her death, Jacques Derrida wrote the following:

"For she too was without pity, if not without mercy, in the end, for both Nietzsche and Freud, whom she knew and whose bodies of work she had read inside and out. Like no one else in this century, I dare say. She loved them pitilessly, and was implacable towards them (not to mention a few others) at the very moment when, giving them without mercy all that she could, and all that she had, she was inheriting from them and was keeping watch over what they had—what they still have—to tell us, especially regarding art and laughter."[4]




Note: this list does not include portions of books where a translation of the entire book was subsequently published.


See also


  1. 1 2 3 Alan D. Schrift (2006), Twentieth-Century French Philosophy: Key Themes And Thinkers, Blackwell Publishing, p. 143.
  3. Christie McDonald, Sarah Kofman: Effecting Self Translation, p. 191
  4. Jacques Derrida, The Work of Mourning (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 2001), p. 173.

Further reading

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