Saturday, 24 February 2007

Deconstruction, or the withiness of difference

Undoubtedly deconstruction has been the most wide-ranging and controversial movement of ideas in the last decades of the second millennium, owing to its audacity of capsizing the traditional metaphysical principles and assumptions which had prevailed in the Western systems of thought since the times of Socrates and Plato. It originated in the galvanizing, typically Gallic presuppositions and queries put forward in the 1960s by Jacques Derrida (French philosopher, born in 1930 in Algiers, of Sephardic Jewish origin), and then quickly spread around and found a remarkably fertile soil on the American critical stage, especially at Yale University. Here a group of thinkers expanded and diversified Derrida’s concepts and hypotheses, pushing the deconstructive lexicon into the foreground of all critical activities, no matter if these were friendly or hostile to the structure and methodology of the movement.

The history of deconstruction began with Derrida’s presentation of his essay, “Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences”, at a symposium entitled “The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man”, held at Johns Hopkins University in 1966: in his paper Derrida leveled his first decisive attack against the self-assurance of structuralist thought, against the securities of truth and meaning which it held out. In the following year the French philosopher published three studies, widely influential in the U. S., which extended his challenge to the current theoretical assumptions: De la grammatologie (translated in 1976 into English by Gayatri C. Spivak), La voix et le phénomène - a commentary on Husserl’s phenomenology (translated into English in 1973), and the collection of essays L’écriture et la différence (translated in 1978). Mention should also be made of other most quoted studies, such as La dissémination (1972), which reinterpreted texts by Plato, Mallarmé and others, Marges de la philosophie (1972) discussing rhetoric and difference, and so forth

Among his forerunners there are philosophers and other thinkers who called in question or challenged various aspects of the typically Western “centered” discourse, such as Nietzsche, Heidegger or Freud. In his 1966 essay delivered at Johns Hopkins, Derrida stated that decentering and the interest in the structurality of structure belong indeed to the Western episteme of our era; yet he admitted that after all some representative names could be cited: Nietzsche, with his critique of metaphysics, of the concepts of Being and truth; Freud, with his critique of self-presence, “of consciousness, of the subject, of self-identity and of self-proximity or self-possession”, and the most radical of all, Heidegger, with his “destruction of metaphysics, of onto-theology, of the determination of Being as presence”. All these authors are caught in a circle, which is due to the fact that to destroy the concepts of metaphysics there exists no language, no syntax or lexicon which would be foreign to the history of metaphysics itself.

These forerunning voices are by no means convergent. There has been a multiplicity of “destructive discourses” (111), and this is caused, according to Derrida, by the more or less naive or empirical or systematic approaches to the problematics of this circle, approaches which those thinkers adopted. Therefore their individual concepts brought along with them the whole of metaphysics, and “these destroyers” in a way destroyed each other reciprocally. Derrida illustrates this antagonistic relationship with Heidegger’s position toward Nietzsche, whom the former, with “as much lucidity and rigor as bad faith and misconstruction”, considered to be the last metaphysician and Platonist (111-12).

“Structure, Sign and Play...” made use of the title concepts to subvert the traditional ideas and methodologies related to language and textual interpretation. In this essay and in his later works Derrida put into question all discourses relying on a center (be it truth, presence, God, essence, or the signified), and emphasized the problematic character of metaphysical presuppositions. His modus operandi consisted first and foremost in turning the principles of Western philosophy upside down by stressing on the role of the margin and the non-privileged, by putting the foundational concepts sous rature (“under erasure” - a tactic borrowed from Heidegger) in order to demonstrate how they were conceived and how their opposites were neglected.

Derrida’s analysis of philosophical, anthropological, psychoanalytical or linguistic texts is based on close reading, by means of which the logical incongruities inherent in the textual structure (in other words, the inner difference within the text) are brought to the surface and their deconstructive role is revealed. In this respect his method looks after the techniques employed by the New Critics in America, and this explains why deconstruction has been called the New New Criticism.

Derrida puts forward the project of a new “science of letters or writing”, called by him grammatology, which radically calls in question what he believes is the quintessence of the Western thought: THE METAPHYSICS OF PRESENCE. This notion means, in his view, “the exigent, powerful, systematic, and irrepressible desire” for a transcendental signified, which appears as a warrant of ultimate truth. All the names given in this tradition to fundamental principles designate an invariable presence, he contends (Structure 110); such are: eidos (visual representation, form), aletheia (truth), arche (beginning, ultimate principle), telos (goal, achievement), energeia (act, activity), ousia (substance/ essence/ existence/ subject), stigme (temporal point), or nun (nowness), the self-presence of consciousness, or the co-presence of self and other. As far as history is concerned, it has always functioned, according to Derrida, “in complicity with a teleological and eschatological metaphysics”, and is conceived, within this framework, as just a “detour between two presences” (Structure 120), a kind of Odyssean journey (from the initial, blissful presence, to the final parousia, i.e. the second coming of Christ).

LOGOCENTRISM (from the Greek Logos - speech, reason, the Word of God), a term Derrida introduced in La voix et le phénomène (as well as “metaphysics of presence”), is another way of defining the same characteristic of Western thought: it is meant to emphasize the opposition between and the “violent hierarchy” of SPEECH and WRITING, in which the former notion (essentially rendered as logos or phone) is believed to be prevalent and to embody presence (hence the synonymous term PHONOCENTRISM). While speech possesses presence (the speaker hears and understand his own speech), writing (écriture) appears only as a secondary, delayed and marginal representation or merely disguises speech, as it can be seen in Saussure’s system put forward in Course in General Linguistics. Writing is construed as absence, being a “signifier of the signifier”.

Actually it is Plato who first denounced writing as the interference of a cunning technique, an “archetypal violence”, an “eruption of the outside within the inside”, intruding upon the self-presence of the soul that warrants the true logos. Saussure did nothing but reinforce this idea “in the accents of the moralist or preacher”, featuring writing as a dress of perversion and depravity (Grammatology 34-35). However Derrida points out that Saussure himself partially reversed the priority in his Course in spite of himself, by positioning writing above speech: “something which was never spoken and which is nothing other than writing itself as the origin of language writes itself within Saussure’s discourse” (44). It is the concept of the arbitrariness of the sign that precludes a radical distinction between the linguistic and the graphic sign; this concept belies Saussure’s main thesis which “chases writing to the outer darkness of the language” (45). Setting out from these ideas, Derrida argues that writing is simultaneously “more exterior to speech, not being its ‘image’ or its ‘symbol’, and more interior to speech, which is already in itself a writing” (46). The notion of institution which is implied in the arbitrariness of the sign, cannot be conceived “before the possibility of writing and outside of its horizon” (44). Saussure has to be opposed to himself, as he uses writing for didactic purposes to represent language: “Language is /comparable to/ a system of signs that express ideas, and is therefore comparable to writing, the alphabet of deaf-mutes, symbolic rites, polite formulas, military signals, etc.” Derrida concludes, using Saussure’s own concepts, that both speech and writing belong to a wider linguistic scope, which presupposes the principle of difference, rather than that of hierarchy. What Derrida calls “arche-writing” (archi-écriture) is the positive side of writing, a general condition of signification, which the metaphysical thought has not managed to deny. We should yet mention that although Derrida has attempted to emphasize the equal status of writing within the signification process, he, faithful to his deconstructive view, never thought of definitely overturning the hierarchy and introducing “graphocentrism” as a ruling principle.

Several critics have noticed that the term logocentrism was used by Derrida to implicitly put into question the teachings of the Judeo-Christian fundamental books, containing the notion of Divine Logos, the notion of parousia, and so on. This is reinforced by the coinage theologocentrism, which refers to the Christian system imposed on the ancient logocentric thought. As Andrew McKenna remarks in a study dedicated to the deconstructive implications of René Girard’s theory, to deconstruct the sacred is to perform a reversal of the cause-effect relationship, and “/t/he anarchitectonics of Derridean deconstruction or post-structuralism as a challenge to inveterate differences and theologocentric delusions of transcendental origin can be enlisted in this task”. (Still McKenna observes /98/ that in its relationship with metaphysics deconstruction is necessarily ambiguous, because it cannot combat it without acquiescing to its base made up of binary oppositions. We shall return to that later in this chapter.)

A similar term, phallogocentrism, has been employed by feminist critics (who started from Derrida’s critical commentary on Jacques Lacan’s essay dealing with E. A. Poe’s story “The Purloined Letter”) in order to label the patriarchal frame of mind related to power and the source of signification.

In Derrida’s later works, he is less concerned with the “metaphysics of presence” and more with THE LAW OF THE PROPER, a phrase that sets out from the polysemy of the French word propre (own, adequate, literal, clean), connected with the notions of proximity and presence. Playing with the French word, Derrida demonstrates that the concept of propre is characterized by circularity, as, in religious writings it suggests the original state of divine properté (cleanliness), the subsequent fall into history (the world of improper representation, of “dirty” difference), and finally the return to the proper place, to clean presence. Within the current system of signification, meaning is “always already” disseminated, floating away from a single, proper center. “The law of the proper” is also at work in the paradox of translation: the latter is both necessary and impossible, as proper names and proper meanings were lost with the appearance of the Tower of Babel. So, it can be assumed that proper names are to be re-established only within the framework of the Apocalypse.

In his recent texts Derrida made use also of the psychoanalytic perspective when he commented on the connection between the proper name and the play of desire: there is a tension between the narcissistic desire to turn one’s proper name into a common one, and, on the other hand, the Oedipal desire to keep one’s proper name, which would remind the father’s name.

As I have mentioned before, the metaphysics of presence sets out from the assumption of a CENTER, which, according to the Western tradition, is conditional on the existence of a structure. The center is by definition unique, it governs the structure, yet paradoxically it escapes structurality. This accounts for the fact that, in the same view, it is both “within the structure and outside it”; the center is at the center of the totality, however the totality has its center elsewhere. “The center is not the center”, Derrida contends provocatively. So, the notion of a centered structure is “contradictorily coherent”, a condition which, from a Freudian perspective, bespeaks the force of a desire (Structure 109).

The history of metaphysics appears to the French thinker, therefore, as a series of substitutions of center for center, as in turns the center was given different forms or names (that is metaphors and metonymies). The center was regarded as a transcendental factor, unreachable and undefeatable, without an origin or an end. However, it was clear that it could be located in the privileged term of the binary oppositions which traditional thought relied on: truth/ lie, presence/ absence, essence/ appearance, and so forth.

The rupture which Derrida spoke about in his 1966 essay began when people came to think that there was no center as a fixed locus, but only as a variable function, characterized by an infinite number of sign substitutions. Now, under the influence of Nietzschean, Freudian and Heideggerean thought, language has “invaded the universal problematic”, and, while the center or origin were disappearing, “everything became discourse” (110). The “structurality of structure” began to be questioned, the center was deprived of its transcendental status, and the privileged terms began to be put “under erasure”. The texts were opened to the infinity of playing, and their closure was shown to be illusory, owing to the instability of any signification process.

Moreover, it is not only Derrida that in the 1960s and 1970s assailed the notion of a fixed center in the act of interpretation, but also other contemporary thinkers, such as Jacques Lacan, who problematized the self-identity of the human subject, and Michel Foucault, whose efforts were oriented toward decentering the structures of power by exposing the hidden mechanisms of ideology which condition them.

For Derrida and his followers, THE MARGIN is therefore no longer the space of the secondary, but neither does it become a new center: the margin lacks a fixed space, yet it is able to signify.

A key concept in thinking the structurality of structure is that of PLAY, [10] as, in Derrida’s view, the function of the center is not only to organize the structure, but also to limit its freeplay (jeu libre), to close the play off within the framework of the structure, to forbid the permutation of elements or their transformation (Structure 109). Play represents the disruption of presence: it is always “play of absence and presence” (121), or rather, it should be considered before the presence/ absence alternative. Actually it preconditions the conception of Being as presence or absence. Similarly, in Of Grammatology Derrida insists that play means the absence of the transcendental signified, “as limitlessness of play, that is to say as the destruction of ontotheology and the metaphysics of presence” (50).

At the end of his essay, “Structure, Sign, and Play ...”, it is made clear that there can be only two interpretations of these concepts: one which dreams of deciphering a truth that escapes play, and one which does affirm play and attempts to go beyond man and humanism, dreaming of full presence as “the origin and end of play” (121-22). Derrida’s deconstructive attack leveled at the structuralist analysis of myth proposed by the ethnologist Claude Lévi-Strauss starts right from the fact that in the latter’s project a centered structure was imposed to restrict the play of elements, to actually rule out any freeplay. Moreover, in his own discourse, Derrida plays freely with language (as we have shown above in various places), in order to make it clear that its structures have to be disrupted and the play of alternatives has to be let free. In this way meaning is truly disseminated throughout the signifying structure. Deconstruction can therefore be described as a case of serio ludere, if we were to use Geoffrey Hartman’s words.

The play of elements is studied by grammatology within a closed system of signification, and to characterize this function of signs Derrida coined the portmanteau word DIFFÉRANCE, which, owing to its manifold suggestions of play, temporal and spatial difference, primacy of writing, has become an emblem of his deconstructive theory.

The most intriguing aspect of this concept is that it does not exist, “it is not a present-being (on) in any form”, as Derrida states in his essay dedicated to différance; he tries to “delineate everything that /it/ is not, that is everything”: therefore, it has “neither existence, nor essence”. Différance is not even a word, it is a non-concept, an embodiment of play in language, of deferred meaning, of difference at work.

Derrida begins the essay by declaring that he “will speak, therefore, of a letter ... the first letter, if the alphabet, and most of the speculations which have ventured into it, are to be believed” (120). It is the letter a, the initial letter, which he insinuates into the writing of the word différence, and which is audibly imperceptible: this letter is what the text hides beneath its apparent signified or theme. It becomes a cryptogram, a “pleonastic proposition” which aims to “take shelter in its crypt”. [13] In the essay mentioned above Derrida compares the mute A with a pyramid, “silent, secret and discreet”, suggesting “the economy of death” (Différance 120).

In the neographism différance he associates the notion of difference with delay and deferral, as the French verb différer has a twofold sense: to differ and to defer. So, the meaning of a linguistic unit always already differs (spatially, that is through “spacing”), and is deferred (temporally). Différance as temporization and différance as spacing are conjoined. In an interview published in Positions, Derrida elaborates on this twofold mode in the following way:

First, différance refers to the (active and passive) movement that consists in deferring by means of delay, delegation, reprieve, referral, detour, postponement, reserving. In this sense différance is not preceded by the originary and indivisible unity of a present possibility that I could reserve,like an expenditure that I would put off calculatedly or for reasons of economy .... Second, the movement of différance, as that which produces different things, that which differentiates, is the common root of all the oppositional concepts that mark our language, such as, to take only a few examples, sensible/ intelligible, intuition/ signification, nature/culture, etc. [15]

Derrida is convinced that the concept of différance could give birth to a new, non-static “structuralism”, because différance is not “astructural”, but generates “systematic and regulated transformations”; it is incompatible only with the “static, synchronic, taxonomic, ahistoric motifs in the concept of structure” (27-28).

The relationship between différance and time is substantiated with the help of the concept of TRACE, which refers both backward and forward: every element which appears on the scene of presence keeps within itself the mark of its past predecessor and already lets itself be “vitiated” by the mark of its relation to the future element. So, the trace is related

no less to what is called the future than to what is called the past, and /constitutes/ what is called the present by means of this very relation to what it is not: what it absolutely is not, not even a past or a future as a modified present. [16]

(To regard the present as past means to regard it from a future standpoint, and this is the typically postmodern perspective - that of the future perfect, as Jean-Francois Lyotard has pointed out.)

As there is no element operating as a sign which does not refer to another (absent) element, it means that at its basis lie the traces of all the other components of the signification system. So, trace becomes the concept which embodies the relations of différance. It may appear as a mark, a trail, a clue, or a footprint - that is a concrete expression of a thing no longer present, or a mediating factor between absence and presence.

Trace also links deconstruction with psychoanalysis: as Derrida points out, the Freudian concepts of trace (Spur), breaching (Bahnung) are inseparable from “difference”. The origin of memory, of the psyche as memory, can be spoken of only by considering the difference between breaches: “/t/here is no breach without difference and no difference without trace” (Différance 130). On a temporal plane, the movement of the trace, according to Freud’s thought, appears as an “effort of life to protect itself by deferring the dangerous investment, by constituting a reserve” (130).

If any element in a signifying structure is a trace of another element, which exemplifies and substantiates the difference of the text from itself, then any attempt to conceive of textual totalization is both useless and impossible, as Derrida stated even in his 1966 essay in which he commented on Lévi-Strauss’ analysis of myth. The limit of totalization can be demonstrated first in a classical manner, by referring “to the empirical endeavor of either a subject or a finite richness which it can never master”; secondly, it can be proved if one uses the standpoint of the play concept (Structure 118). Derrida argues that this movement of play, instituted by the absence of an origin or center, is the movement of SUPPLEMENTARITY (he borrows the term from Lévi-Strauss himself). The center cannot be determined and totalization cannot be exhausted because, says Derrida, the sign that replaces the center “is added, occurs as a surplus, as a supplement” (119).

There is a paradox inherent in the concept of supplementarity, because supplement implies both something added on to complete a sign, and something substituting for an element of the sign. In the second part of his study on grammatology, Derrida analyzed the function of the enigmatic and equivocal supplement in Jean Jacques Rousseau’s Essay on the Origin of Languages, which defended speech against writing from a typically logocentric position. According to this type of thought, culture functions as a supplement to nature, in the two senses mentioned above, and this hierarchy appears in many other oppositions, such as health/ disease, animality/ humanity, and so forth, where the second term is just a supplement to the first one. Yet, as Derrida observed, nature possesses no truth-value in itself. So he maintained that actually it is nature (put by him under erasure) that functions as a supplemented factor, and not the other way round.

In both Rousseau’s and Lévi-Strauss’ texts Derrida finds out the idea of vicarious substitutions which recuperate the lost origin, the absent center, through the compensatory function of supplementarity, which may cure the nostalgia for the irretrievable losses. Moreover, in Derrida’s view, any sign is regarded within the Western thought as loaded with supplementarity, whose function is that of making up for the lost original presence. In his idiosyncratic, paradoxical language, Derrida argues that, on the contrary, the supplement is at the very origin of presence: there is an “originary supplement, if this absurd expression may be risked, totally unacceptable as it is within classical logic” (Grammatology 313). The supplement appears to him as “the supplement of a supplement”:

/it/ comes in the place of a lapse, a nonsignified or a nonrepresented, a nonpresence. There is no present before, it is not preceded by anything but itself, that is to say by another supplement ... One wishes to go back from the supplement to the source: one must recognize that there is a supplement at the source” (303-04).

The supplement par excellence is writing, Derrida upholds in the same study: it represents the moment when “the supplement proposes itself as supplement of supplement, sign of sign, taking the place of a speech already significant” (281). Discussing in one chapter of the book the common implications which writing (as compared to speech) and auto-eroticism (as compared to intercourse) have for Jean Jacques Rousseau (according to the latter’s Confessions), Derrida points out that both activities are meant to compensate for and recapture a lacking presence, and yet they are rejected by the confessing author as unnecessary, “dangerous” supplements (Rousseau’s terms):

The supplement that “cheats” maternal “nature” operates as writing, and as writing it is dangerous to life. This danger is that of the image. Just as writing opens the crisis of the living speech in terms of its “image”, its painting or its representation, so onanism announces the ruin of vitality in terms of imaginary seduction (151).

The supplement is akin to other UNDECIDABLES discussed as such by the French author: difference, writing and so forth, which have the same disturbing nature, deconstructing the pairs of oppositions the sign appears to be based on.

The undecidables have a foundational function in language, and language, in its turn, determines the human being and its world (rather than the other way round). This is one of the meanings which have been ascribed to Derrida’s enigmatic, polyvalent statement, Il n’y a pas de hors texte (Grammatology 158): that there is nothing outside of the text, that the whole world is nothing but a text, and the only possible interpretation of reality is the textual one. Human beings exist within the enclosure of language, outside of which there is no locus of meaning. (However, the American deconstructor Barbara Johnson believes that Derrida’s sentence has been wrongly translated as “there is nothing outside of the text”, because what he actually meant was that the boundaries of the text are not fixed. Therefore reading should take into account various itineraries, painstakingly, without ever reaching an end. The text is an open system, and the reader is part of it.)

How does Derrida typically move among the undecidables of a text? We have already mentioned the two possible kinds of reading, the “two interpretations of interpretation” that he suggested at the end of “Structure, Sign and Play ...”: one which seeks to decipher a truth, escaping play and “/living/ the necessity of interpretation as an exile”, and another which affirms play, passing “beyond man and humanism” (121-22). He made it clear that there is no real choice between them: we should first attempt to “conceive of the common ground, and the différance of this irreducible difference”, by making use of a kind of double reading. In another presentation (“The Ends of Man”, 1968), he approached the dilemma again, insisting on the difference between a logocentric reading strategy, which does not change ground, and uses the structure against itself, and, on the other hand, the reading strategy which does change ground and reveals the inner incompatibilities of the text.

Such a typical reading process in a Derridean fashion consists therefore in three stages. First the deconstructive reader brings out the structural hierarchies based on binary oppositions - and we have to do not with a “peaceful coexistence of a vis-à-vis, but rather with a violent hierarchy”, in which one of the two terms has the upper hand, axiologically, logically, and so on (Positions 41). Secondly, the reader capsizes the hierarchy, by revealing the places in which the text breaks the norms it seemed to establish: the deconstructive process often sets out from a small, unimportant, but actually tell-tale detail which subverts the general idea. Finally the reader dislocates and reaffirms both terms of the opposition, by refraining from (violently) setting up a new hierarchy, and emphasizing difference instead (in this way deconstruction demonstrates “the withinness of difference, the mutual contamination of differences resulting in the impossibility of anything beyond literature”, as McKenna has noticed - 23).

Deconstructive reading is akin etymologically to “analysis” (“undoing, de-constructing”), Barbara Johnson has pointed out, and its aim is not to deny the existence of the textual meaning, but to belie the domination of a single, particular principle in the semantic sphere. The fragment attached below from Derrida’s essay “Plato’s Pharmacy” is an illustration of this revolutionary logic of meaning which underlies his thought and hermeneutic methodology, based on a nonbinary principle and aiming at the exposure of the old metaphysical self-confidence. In Derrida’s reading of Plato’s dialogue, in this true “hermeneutic adventure” of ambivalence, words or meanings (such as pharmakon and writing) are always already deferred, rolled up and waited for as it were, they affirm themselves and simultaneously efface themselves “with suppleness, irony and discretion” (67):

[1] Jacques Derrida, “Structure, sign and play in the discourse of the human sciences”, in D. Lodge (ed.), Modern Criticism and Theory ..., 110. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text.

[2] The “right to existence” of this science and its relation to linguistics are revealed by Derrida by means of a trick, i.e. by replacing the term semiology with grammatology in the program of Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics: “I shall call it /grammatology/. ... Since the science does not exist, no one can say what it would be; but it has a right to existence, a place staked out in advance. Linguistics is only a part of /that/ general science ...; the laws discovered by /grammatology/ will be applicable to linguistics.” (In J. Derrida, Of Grammatology, 51. See Note 83.)

[3] Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976), 49. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text.

[4] This book deals with Husserl’s phenomenology, which, according to Derrida, is only apparently antimetaphysical. Actually Husserl, in Derrida’s view, based his system on the principle of presence and consequently of speech as representing self-presence of consciousness, in opposition to writing, the inferior term of the pair (see infra).

[5] Quoted by Derrida from Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics, trans. Wade Baskins (The Philosophical Library, 1959), 16.

[6] Andrew I. McKenna, Violence and Difference: Girard, Derrida, and Deconstruction (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991), 18.

[7] Derrida’s adverbial phrase, suggesting both permanency and anteriority. It was used by him to question, among other things, the idea of a pure, unsupplemented origin as a center of signifying structures.

[8] Cf. J. Derrida, “Des Tours de Babel”, in Joseph Graham (ed.), Difference in Translation (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), 165 passim. See also Derrida’s later works Glas (1974) and Signéponge (translated into English as Signsponge - 1984), where he speculates on the relationship between the authors’ names and their signatures, disseminated in their texts (such as Hegel/ aigle, Genet/ genêt, or Ponge/ éponge).

[9] Cf. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Translator Preface” to Derrida, Of Grammatology, lxxxiv.

[10] The concept of play has been analyzed, among other scholars, by Mihai Spariosu, in Dionysus Reborn: Play and the Aesthetic Dimension in Modern Philosophical and Scientific Discourse (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1989), where he discusses its meanings since the Pre-Socratic thinkers, through Plato, Kant, Schiller, to Nietzsche, Heidegger, Gadamer, Derrida, and others.

[11] Geoffrey H. Hartman, Criticism in the Wilderness: The Study of Literature Today (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1980), 261.

[12] Différance”, trans. Alan Bass, in Hazard Adams and Leroy Searle (eds.), Critical Theory since 1965 (Tallahassee: Florida State University Press, 1986), 122. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text.

[13] “Plato’s Pharmacy”, in Dissemination, trans. Barbara Johnson (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), 105. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text.

[14] He plays on the Greek word for “tomb”, oikesis, to which oikonomia (economy) is related (from oikos - house, and nemein - to manage).

[15] J. Derrida, Positions, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 8-9. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text.

[16] J. Derrida, Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), 13.

[17] Cf. J.-F. Lyotard, “Réponse à la question: “Qu’est-ce que le postmoderne?”, in Critique no. 419 (1982), 367. The beginning of Derrida’s “Hors livre”, in Dissemination, should also be mentioned in this connection: “This (therefore) will not have been a book” (3).

[18] Cf. the interview with Barbara Johnson, in Mihaela Anghelescu Irimia, Dialoguri postmoderne (Bucure]ti: Editura Funda\iei Culturale Române, 1999), 247.

[19] B. Johnson, “Translator’s Introduction”, in J. Derrida, Dissemination, xiv.