David Wills

Professor of French Studies
Joint Appointment, Department of English

Degree/Institution: PhD Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris
Office: HU 216
Fax: (518) 442-4111
Email: dwills@albany.edu

Academic Focus

Literary Theory, Film and Film Theory, 20th century French Literature, Comparative Literature.


David Wills came to Albany in 1998 from Louisiana State University, where he was chair of the department of French and Italian. He holds a joint appointment in French and English. His BA and MA degrees are from the University of Auckland, and his doctorate from the Université de Paris III-Sorbonne Nouvelle (1979). His original research was in Surrealist poetry but his published work has concentrated on literary theory, especially the work of Derrida, film theory and comparative literature. He teaches classes in 20th century literature, literary theory, and film.

Wills’s major work, developed first in Prosthesis (Stanford, 1995), concerns on the one hand the originary technology or "non-naturalness" of the human, and on the other, the ways in which writing functions as a technological in/outgrowth of the body. Those ideas are extended via what he calls “dorsality,” a thinking of the back and what is behind - the other of the facial - where the emphasis is on certain ethical, political and sexual implications of a technological rewriting of identity. In recent work he also investigates the question of conceptual invention against the background of musical improvisation, for example in jazz, and the instrumentality or technology of the voice.

Wills is also a translator of Derrida, notably The Gift of Death, Right of Inspection, Counterpath, and The Animal That Therefore I Am.

His most recent book is Dorsality: Thinking Back through Technology and Politics (Minnesota, 2008).


Selected Publications


Single author

Dorsality: Thinking Back Through Technology and Politics (Minnesota, 2008)

Matchbook: essays in deconstruction (Stanford, 2005).

Prosthesis (Stanford, 1995; Editions Galilée, 1997, 1998 [author’s translation]).

Self (De)construct: Writing and the Surrealist Text (James Cook University Press, 1985).


Writing Pynchon: Strategies in Textual Analysis (with Alec McHoul, Illinois, 1990).

Screen/Play: Derrida and Film Theory (with Peter Brunette, Princeton, 1989).


Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot le fou (Cambridge, 2000).

Deconstruction and the Visual Arts (with Peter Brunette, Cambridge, 1994).


Jacques Derrida, The Animal That Therefore I Am (Fordham, 2008).

Jacques Derrida, The Gift of Death (2nd edition) & Literature in Secret (Chicago, 2008, [1st edition, 1995]).

Catherine Malabou/Jacques Derrida, Counterpath (Stanford, 2004).

Jacques Derrida/Marie-Françoise Plissart, Right of Inspection (Monacelli, 1998).


1. “La technopoétique de l’autre … en pointillé,” in (ed.) Bruno Clément and Marta Segarra, Hélène Cixous: croire rêver/arts de pensée, Paris: Campagne Première, 2010.

2. “The Blushing Machine: Animal Shame and Technological Life,” Parrhesia 7 (2009).

3. “Raw War: Technotropological Effects of a Divided Front,” Oxford Literary Review 31, 2 (2009).

4. “Passionate Secrets and Democratic Dissidence,” Diacritics, special Derrida and Democracy, 38, 1-2 (2008).

5. “Dorsal Chances: An Interview with David Wills,” Parallax 13, 4 (2007).