jacques derrida (1930-2004)

Sitting here at Coffee Girls, which has on-again-off-again wifi, I learn from Kathleen that Jacques Derrida has died. She links to a number of obits.

I can’t say that my work is heavily influenced by Derrida, or by deconstruction, but I’ve always liked his essay, “That Dangerous Supplement.”

Update: See also…

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7 thoughts on “jacques derrida (1930-2004)

  1. Another link: “Jacques Derrida, Thinker Who Influenced and Infuriated a Range of Humanistic Fields, Dies at 74,” by Scott McLemee

    (What appears below turned out angrier than I intended. I appreciate the link from Vika.) In the essay Vika links to, the author writes

    Deconstructionism is the nonsensical infantile “philosophy” that argues that words have no meaning, there are no facts nor truth, and the only thing we can REALLY be absolutely certain about are that the US and capitalism and Israel are evil and must be eliminated…Deconstructionism argues that there do not exist any such things as facts, truth, logic, rationality, nor science. Nothing in the world exists beyond subjective narratives, each as legitimate as the next.

    Call me old-fashioned, but is it too much to ask that those who claim this sort of thing about deconstruction provide some actual quotes as evidence to support their (mis)characterization? It gets worse:

    Deconstructionism has long been linked with Marxism, a rather strange combination – given the insistence by deconstructionists that they should never claim to know anything. Marxists claim to know everything, based on ridiculous theories by Marx disproved 160 years ago, making the Marxist-Deconstructionist axis rather queer. It also sometimes calls itself post-colonialism, apparently because some of its Frenchie inventors came from Algeria, although I have never understood how it can be certain that anything or anyone was ever colonized or colonizer.

    As I said in my original post above, I’m not strongly influenced by deconstruction (or by Marxism, or by Post-Colonialism, which any person who decides to spout off about these topics should know are not the same thing), but even I know enough to know that this paragraph is [expletive deleted], and that theorists have long concerned themselves with these apparent contradictions. Take a look at Freedom and Interpretation: The Oxford Amnesty Lectures, edited by Barbara Johnson twelve [expletive deleted] years ago, to name just one example I can come up with off the top of my head. The Publishers Weekly blurb provided by Amazon is a nice summary:

    Inaugurating an annual lecture series at Oxford that will raise funds for Amnesty International, Johnson, professor of English and chair of women’s studies at Harvard, invited seven theorists to speak on the theme: “Does the self as construed by the liberal tradition still exist? If not, whose human rights are we defending?” This volume collects their illuminating talks, which will interest intellectuals concerned with human rights issues. French feminist Helene Cixous opens with a personal meditation on the meaning of freedom and selfhood. More linearly organized contributions from Frank Kermode and Wayne Booth draw on their respective specialties of biblical hermeneutics and literary ethics. Controversies over the anti-humanism of deconstruction, referred to in Johnson’s engaging introduction, are cogently addressed by the Marxist literary critic Terry Eagleton. Edward Said discusses freedom and interpretation in relation to his studies on colonialism and Palestinian issues. Well-considered, if dense, analyses from Paul Ricoeur and Julia Kristeva round out the book.

    Oh, ho! Here’s a contradiction those theorists have failed to notice in their thinking. Why, they never try to deconstruct their own arguments! Tee-hee! Aren’t they so pretentious!

    Yeah, right. I know it’s no longer fashionable in certain circles, but how about reading a damn book every once in awhile, you incurious [expletive deleted].

  2. Ernst Breisach, On the Future of History: The Postmodernist Challenge and Its Aftermath (U of Chicago Press, 2003):

    Breisach sees postmodernism as neither just a fad nor a universal remedy. In clear and concise language, he presents and critically evaluates the major views on history held by influential postmodernists, such as Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard, and the new narrativists. Along the way, he introduces to the reader major debates among historians over postmodern theories of evidence, objectivity, meaning and order, truth, and the usefulness of history. He also discusses new types of history that have emerged as a consequence of postmodernism, including cultural history, microhistory, and new historicism.

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