June 1, 2019.
The death of Michel Serres is a passing of note. I never had a chance to meet him, only getting as close as a visit to his office at Stanford one summer. He was not there and I startled a working grad student as I knocked on the door. Michel Serres's influence on me, however, has been significant.
Serres was gifted with a richness of mind that some have found difficult, frustrating and even opaque. For others, however, he restored hope in what thinking and scholarship might yet be. If you didn't quite fit into the latest academic trend or fashion but happened to bump into his work, hope would begin to stir again. He reminded many of us that we are not alone.
Hope came from the possibility that you could be a maverick, not out of a contrarian or destructive spirit but through unflagging efforts to synthesize what we know, to see wisdom and understanding. This turn away from the crowd was not vandalism, it was the pursuit of integration that disciplinary boundary guards, hungry for power, found so irritating. I loved Serre's work for that instinct, so clear in his work.
One of my life goals is to reach old age with my French sufficiently developed so that I can read his works in their original voice, fluidly and with appreciation. He never wanted disciples. But I think he was very keen that we resist simplistic patterns and fashionable group thinking. He would have supported life-giving maverick thought in its many forms. Within our respective circles of work, that is an aspiration worth attending to as we mourn the passing of this great bricoleur.
I hope you will share the effect of Serres's work on your thinking, here or with those in your circles.