RICCO, JOHN PAUL Contact Areas of Interest

John Paul Ricco
e: john.ricco@utoronto.ca
  • Contemporary Continental Philosophy and in particular the work of Jean-Luc Nancy
  • Aesthetics, politics and ethics
  • Late-twentieth-century and contemporary art and visual culture
  • Queer theory and sexuality studies

Professor of Comparative Literature, Art History and Visual Culture

(On Research and Study Leave, 2014-15 academic year)


My work brings together Derridean deconstruction; Jean-Luc Nancy’s philosophy of politics, aesthetics and ethics; and late-twentieth art history, visual culture, and architecture, in order to think social-sexual spaces and spatiality of bodies in their relation and exposure to the Outside—a non-dialectical exteriority that lies just between us and puts us besides ourselves. Operating with a conviction in the aesthetic, political and ethical import of what Derrida theorized as the “trace”—including, importantly, the force of erasure that at once enables and undoes any such mark-making—I am interested in moments and scenes of withdrawal, disappearance, imperceptibility, invisibility, and retreat. In this regard, I have developed such theoretical concepts as “disappeared aesthetics,” “already-un-made,” and “unbecoming community,” and have written on the limits of representation and identity in queer sex; AIDS; video and performance art; and post-9/11 visual culture.

My second monograph, The Decision Between Us: art & ethics in the time of scenes, was recently published by the University of Chicago Press (March 2014). It is a theoretical meditation on the separation that we intimately share with each other, in our aesthetic and ethical relations to everyday places and things. Accompanying my reading of the work of Jean-Luc Nancy, I argue that this spacing of shared-separation is the space of decision, one that is aesthetically presented, staged and sustained by various artistic, rhetorical, and theoretical techniques and styles by such artists and theorists as Robert Rauschenberg, Jean Genet, Roland Barthes, Marguerite Duras, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres.

I am currently writing a third book, titled, The Outside Not Beyond: pornographic faith and the economy of the eve.

I have taught graduate seminars in Comparative Literature on Jean-Luc Nancy and aesthetics; and Roland Barthes: photography, neutral, mourning.

Selected Publications


The Decision Between Us: art & ethics in the time of scenes, University of Chicago, 2014.

The Logic of the Lure, University of Chicago, 2003.

Edited Volumes

Journal of Visual Culture, volume 9, number 1, April 2010. Special Issue: “Regarding Jean-Luc Nancy,” (co-edited with Louis Kaplan).

Parallax, 35, volume 11, no. 2, April-June 2005. Conceptual theme: “unbecoming.”


“The Separated Gesture: Partaking in the Inoperative Praxis of the Already-Unmade,” in Jean-Luc Nancy and the Political, edited by SanjaDejanovic, Critical Connection Series, Edinburgh University Press, 2014.

“Drool: Liquid Fore-speech of the Fore-scene,” in a special issue of the journal inter/Alia, edited by Michael O’Rourke, Karin Sellberg, and KamilleaAghtan (2014).

“Pornographic Faith: Two Sources of Naked Sense at the Limits of Belief and Humiliation,” inPorn Archives, edited by Tim Dean, Duke University Press, 2014.

“The Inoperative Praxis of the Already-Unmade,” in Transmission Annual: Labour, Work, Action; edited by Michael Corris, Jaspar Joseph-Lester, and Sharon Kivland, Artwords Press, 2013.

“Us to-come: Francesco Vezzoli’s non-consensual futures,” Journal of Visual Culture, volume 9, number 1, April 2010; Co-Editors John Paul Ricco and Louis Kaplan, special issue: “Regarding Jean-Luc Nancy.”

“The Surreality of Community: Frédéric Brenner’s Diaspora: Homelands in Exile,” Culture Machine 8, 2006, “Community,” edited by DorotaGlowacka. http://culturemachine.tees.ac.uk/frm_f1.htm