Robert Trumbull

photo of Robert Trumbull

Affiliate Faculty

B.A., Religion, Williams College
Ph.D., History of Consciousness (Philosophy), University of California Santa Cruz



My areas of specialization are 20th-century and contemporary European philosophy and critical theory, with additional competency in 19th-century philosophy, ethics, and social and political philosophy. I also have research and teaching interests in philosophy of film and media.

The primary questions animating my work to date are: How and why do thinkers of the last century begin to rethink the categories life and death?  What ethical and political implications follow from this rethinking, and what can we learn from it today?  And how can disciplines outside philosophy, especially critical theory and psychoanalysis, help us approach these questions?

My dissertation approached these issues by looking at the French philosopher Jacques Derrida’s ongoing, complex engagement with psychoanalysis, one of the least considered aspects of Derrida’s work.  My current work continues the broad concerns of my dissertation research, pursuing them in a somewhat different frame. My articles on Derrida’s Death Penalty Seminars and on Derrida and Foucault have appeared in Philosophy Today and in the edited collection Foucault/Derrida Fifty Years Later (Columbia UP, 2016). My current book project, Life-Death: Derrida and Psychoanalysis, expands on and extends the critical reading of Derrida I developed in the dissertation.  In the book, I consider the ways the logic of “life-death” alters our understanding of ethics and politics, with special attention paid to Derrida’s late work on the nation state, sovereignty, and the death penalty.

I am the Books Co-Editor, with Peter Gratton (Philosophy, Memorial University of Newfoundland) for Derrida Today.

More information about my teaching, research, and upcoming talks can be found at my website:

Selected Publications

“Power and the ‘Drive for Mastery.’” Foucault/Derrida Fifty Years Later, eds. P. Deutscher, O. Custer, and S. Haddad (New York: Columbia UP, 2016).

“Derrida and the Death Penalty: The Question of Cruelty.”  Philosophy Today 59.2 (Spring 2015).

“Deconstruction and Psychoanalysis: ‘A Problematic Proximity.’”  Derrida Today 5.1 (2012): 69–91.