[Sigcrit-l] L'envoi to Derrida

dalbello at scils.rutgers.edu dalbello at scils.rutgers.edu
Sat Oct 9 17:20:34 EDT 2004

Thank you, Ron, for sharing your thoughts and thoughtfulness with this group.

> In the hopes that the ASIS&T SIG-CRIT List that I'm sending this too (and
> copying those who may be interested not on the List) doesn't appear as a
> funeral oration, nonetheless I feel obliged to post the sad news that the
> philosopher Jacques Derrida has died of pancreatic cancer :
> http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=1503&ncid=1503&e=5&u=/afp/20041009/ts_afp/france_derrida_obit
> .  I saw Derrida speak twice in Cornell and once at Sonoma State in
> California.  At the last, I had a chance to go up and say hello and to
> thank him for giving my young self a certain possible way of knowing
> the"unspeakable."  When I was younger his work was a great influence on
> me, particularly the notions of aporia and the ability of deconstruction
> to touch upon the unspeakable and thus, the religious and the ethical (and
> with that, an alliance with Wittgenstein).  He was a great speaker--at
> Sonoma he spoke on the work of Paul De Man (whose reading of Mallarme' in
> his book, _Allegories of Reading_ gave me the rhetorical insights into the
> functions of the discourse of "information" during the 1990s and earlier
> in the 20th century that were presented in my own book).  In Sonoma,
> Derrida spoke for five hours on De Man's work, with only one break of 10
> minutes.  There were about 100 people of many different backgrounds--not
> all of them the rather sad American 'Derrideans' (and Derrida, the times
> that I saw him, didn't seem to know what to do with them).  Only a few
> people left that talk--he was that engaging, even in his later 60s.  The
> earlier times that I saw him at Cornell, he spoke on Reaganism and the
> arms race with the then Soviet Union and on Heidegger's work.
> From those Americans I knew who knew him more closely, he seemed
> remarkably generous.  Even more particularly in light of the voracity of
> the attacks upon him (and upon students influenced by him) from the
> American liberal press  (particularly the NY Times) and academe during the
> 1980s, which were truly unbelievable in their shallowness and especially
> stunning in their intentional violence--even more so than from the
> conservative press and academe, I must say.
> Derrida wrote that we are "never done with Hegel," though his own work
> inverted the dialectic and (like Wittgenstein, again), reason itself,
> finding in reason its social and linguistic production.  Derrida's work
> pushed the Enlightenment project to its furthest point: the ultimate
> irreducibility of acts at the edge of time, done within the necessity of
> those conditions that are not yet easily narrated or "known."  The
> Enlightenment was thus redefined as an historical project, rather than as
> a condition of a transhistorical rationality or of political,
> organizational, or self policy, a project in which history is enacted.
> Where his liberal critics saw relativism, irresponsibility, and were
> content in settled moral, professional, and historical narratives,
> Derrida's work saw individual hope, faith, and actions given that the
> promise of the Enlightenment--and of persons--did not lie in a rationalist
> sense of historical progress, but rather in the ethical sense of agents
> who make the actions of history, as well as make the narratives of
> history, and thus, who make the present and the future _possible_.  The
> irreducibility of agency takes place on the hinge between the speakable
> and the unspeakable, the knowable and the religious.  This is the site of
> the ethical, though perhaps not always moral or viewed as moral.  In the
> place of the Cartesian subject, Derrida pointed to persons as agents,
> within the demands of Enlightenment history.
> One of Derrida's central concepts was taken from psychoanalysis and even,
> in part, from Heidegger's work--that of deferred action (in Freud,
> Nachtraglichkeit).  Deferral--differance (not difference)--characterizes
> the ability of a work or action to be meaningful in the future, though its
> meaning may not be certain, and certainly not, 'complete,' at the present.
> Its later meanings thus trace an impact that is historically marked as
> earlier
>  (sometimes despite the attempts of history to bury it) though its meaning
> really lies in an anxiety toward the future made manifest in the present.
>  Certainly, without always knowing it, so much critical thought owes a
> _debt_ to Derrida's own writings and actions, which, in turn, owed a debt
> to others.  This type of debt is, in part, what characterizes us as human
> beings, that is, in part, as particularly historical animals.  The bond
> to readings of pasts made present toward the future is what binds us
> together as living human beings.  The secret of the trace underlies many
> rationalist projects as well as as the identity of the self.  I suspect
> that the impact of Derrida's work will continue to be explicitly or
> implicitly traced and retraced in the work of living and being.
> **************************************
> "l'ora del tempo e la dolce stagione" (Dante, Inferno, Canto I)
> Ronald Day,
> Assistant Professor
> Library and Information Science Program
> Wayne State University
> ronday at wayne.edu
> http://www.lisp.wayne.edu/~ai2398


Marija Dalbello
Assistant Professor
Department of Library and Information Science
School of Communication, Information and Library Studies
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
4 Huntington Street
New Brunswick, New Jersey 08901-1071
Voice: 732.932.7500 / 8215
Internet: dalbello at scils.rutgers.edu

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