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Jacques Derrida ( ) (15 July 1930 – 8 October 2004) was a Frenchmarker philosopher born in Algeriamarker, who is known as the founder of deconstruction. His voluminous work had a profound impact upon literary theory and continental philosophy. Derrida's best known work is Of Grammatology.


Derrida was born on 15 July 1930, in El Biar (near Algiersmarker), then Frenchmarker Algeriamarker, into a Sephardic Jewish family that became French in 1870 when Crémieux Decree granted full French citizenship to the indigenous Jews of French colonial Algeria. He was the third of five children. His parents, Aimé Derrida and Georgette Sultana Esther Safar, named him Jackie, supposedly after a Hollywood actor, though he would later adopt a more "correct" version of his first name when he moved to Paris. His youth was spent in El-Biar, Algeria.

On the first day of the school year in 1942, Derrida was expelled from his lycée by French administrators implementing anti-Semitic quotas set by the Vichy government. He secretly skipped school for a year rather than attend the Jewish lycée formed by displaced teachers and students. At this time, as well as taking part in numerous football competitions (he dreamed of becoming a professional player), Derrida read works of philosophers and writers such as Rousseau, Camus, Nietzsche, and Gide. He began to think seriously about philosophy around 1948 and 1949. He became a boarding student at the Lycée Louis-le-Grandmarker in Paris, which he did not enjoy. Derrida failed his entrance examination twice before finally being admitted to the École Normale Supérieuremarker at the end of the 1951–52 school year.

On his first day at the École Normale Supérieure, Derrida met Louis Althusser, with whom he became friends. He also became friends with Michel Foucault, whose lectures he attended. After visiting the Husserl Archive in Leuvenmarker, Belgiummarker, he completed his philosophy agrégation on Edmund Husserl. Derrida received a grant for studies at Harvard Universitymarker, and in June 1957 married the psychoanalyst Marguerite Aucouturier in Bostonmarker. During the Algerian War of Independence, Derrida asked to teach soldiers' children in lieu of military service, teaching French and English from 1957 to 1959.

Following the war Derrida began a long association with the Tel Quel group of literary and philosophical theorists. At the same time, from 1960 to 1964, Derrida taught philosophy at the Sorbonnemarker, and from 1964 to 1984 at the École Normale Supérieuremarker. His wife Marguerite gave birth to their first child, Pierre, in 1963. Beginning with his 1966 lecture at Johns Hopkins University, "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences", his work assumed international prominence. A second son, Jean, was born in 1967. In the same year, Derrida published his first three books—Writing and Difference, Speech and Phenomena, and Of Grammatology—which would make his name.

He completed his Thèse d'État in 1980; the work was subsequently published in English translation as "The Time of a Thesis: Punctuations." In 1983 Derrida collaborated with Ken McMullen on the film Ghost Dance. Derrida appears in the film as himself and also contributed to the script.

Derrida travelled widely and held a series of visiting and permanent positions. Derrida was director of studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Socialesmarker in Paris. With François Châtelet and others he in 1983 co-founded the Collège international de philosophie (CIPH), an institution intended to provide a location for philosophical research which could not be carried out elsewhere in the academy. He was elected as its first president.

In 1986 Derrida became Professor of the Humanities at the University of California, Irvinemarker. UCI and the Derrida family are currently involved in a legal dispute regarding exactly what materials constitute his archive, part of which was informally bequeathed to the university. He was a regular visiting professor at several other major American universities, including Johns Hopkins University, Yale Universitymarker, New York Universitymarker, Stony Brook Universitymarker, and The New School for Social Research.

Honorary degrees and attacks

He was awarded honorary doctorates by Cambridge Universitymarker, Columbia University, The New School for Social Research, the University of Essexmarker, University of Leuven, Williams College and University of Silesiamarker.

Derrida has often been attacked by some academics, like the analytic philosopher W.V.O. Quine. In 1992, a number of analytical philosophers from Cambridge Universitymarker tried to stop the granting of the degree, but were outnumbered when it was put to a vote.Derrida said in an interview that part of the reason for the violent attacks on his work, was that it questioned and modified 'the rules of the dominant discourse, it tries to politicize and democratize the university scene.'

Derrida was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciencesmarker and received the 2001 Adorno-Preis from the University of Frankfurtmarker.

Documentaries and death

In 2002, Derrida appeared in a documentary about himself and his work, entitled Derrida.

In 2003, Derrida was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which reduced his speaking and travelling engagements. He died in a hospital in Paris on the evening of 8 October 2004.



Derrida began speaking and writing publicly at a time when the French intellectual scene was experiencing an increasing rift between what could broadly speaking be called "phenomenological" and "structural" approaches to understanding individual and collective life. For those with a more phenomenological bent, the goal was to understand experience by comprehending and describing its genesis, the process of its emergence from an origin or event. For the structuralists, this was precisely the false problem, and the "depth" of experience could in fact only be an effect of structures which are not themselves experiential.

It is in this context that Derrida in 1959 asks the question: Must not structure have a genesis, and must not the origin, the point of genesis, be already structured, in order to be the genesis of something? In other words, every structural or "synchronic" phenomenon has a history, and the structure cannot be understood without understanding its genesis. At the same time, in order that there be movement, or potential, the origin cannot be some pure unity or simplicity, but must already be articulated—complex—such that from it a "diachronic" process can emerge. This originary complexity must not be understood as an original positing, but more like a default of origin, which Derrida refers to as iterability, inscription, or textuality. It is this thought of originary complexity, rather than original purity, which destabilises the thought of both genesis and structure, that sets Derrida's work in motion, and from which derive all of its terms, including deconstruction.

Derrida's method consisted in demonstrating all the forms and varieties of this originary complexity, and their multiple consequences in many fields. His way of achieving this was by conducting thorough, careful, sensitive, and yet transformational readings of philosophical and literary texts, with an ear to what in those texts runs counter to their apparent systematicity (structural unity) or intended sense (authorial genesis). By demonstrating the aporias and ellipses of thought, Derrida hoped to show the infinitely subtle ways that this originary complexity, which by definition cannot ever be completely known, works its structuring and destructuring effects.

Early works

At the very beginning of his philosophical career Derrida was concerned to elaborate a critique of the limits of phenomenology. His first lengthy academic manuscript, written as a dissertation for his diplôme d'études supérieures and submitted in 1954, concerned the work of Edmund Husserl. In 1962 he published Edmund Husserl's Origin of Geometry: An Introduction, which contained his own translation of Husserl's essay. Many elements of Derrida's thought were already present in this work. In the interviews collected in Positions (1972), Derrida said: "In this essay the problematic of writing was already in place as such, bound to the irreducible structure of 'deferral' in its relationships to consciousness, presence, science, history and the history of science, the disappearance or delay of the origin, etc. [...] this essay can be read as the other side (recto or verso, as you wish) of Speech and Phenomena."

Derrida first received major attention outside France with his lecture, "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences," delivered at Johns Hopkins University in 1966 (and subsequently included in Writing and Difference). The conference at which this paper was delivered was concerned with structuralism, then at the peak of its influence in France, but only beginning to gain attention in the United Statesmarker. Derrida differed from other participants by his lack of explicit commitment to structuralism, having already been critical of the movement. He praised the accomplishments of structuralism but also maintained reservations about its internal limitations, thus leading to the notion that his thought was a form of post-structuralism. Near the beginning of the essay, Derrida argued:

The effect of Derrida's paper was such that by the time the conference proceedings were published in 1970, the title of the collection had become The Structuralist Controversy. The conference was also where he met Paul de Man, who would be a close friend and source of great controversy, as well as where he first met the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, with whose work Derrida enjoyed a mixed relationship.


Derrida's interests traversed disciplinary boundaries, and his knowledge of a wide array of diverse material was reflected in the three collections of work published in 1967: Of Grammatology, Writing and Difference, and Speech and Phenomena. These three books contained readings of the work of many philosophers and authors, including Husserl, linguist de Saussure, Heidegger, Rousseau, Lévinas, Hegel, Foucault, Bataille, Descartes, anthropologist Lévi-Strauss, paleontologist Leroi-Gourhan, psychoanalyst Freud, and writers such as Jabès and Artaud. Derrida frequently acknowledged his debt to Husserl and Heidegger, and stated that without them he would have not said a single word. Among the questions asked in these essays are "What is 'meaning', what are its historical relationships to what is purportedly identified under the rubric 'voice' as a value of presence, presence of the object, presence of meaning to consciousness, self-presence in so called living speech and in self-consciousness?"

This collection of three books published in 1967 elaborated Derrida's theoretical framework. Derrida attempts to approach the very heart of the Western intellectual tradition, characterizing this tradition as "a search for a transcendental being that serves as the origin or guarantor of meaning". The attempt to "ground the meaning relations constitutive of the world in an instance that itself lies outside all relationality" was referred to by Heidegger as logocentrism, and Derrida argues that the philosophical enterprise is essentially logocentric, and that this is a paradigm inherited from Judaism and Hellenism. He in turn describes logocentrism as phallocratic, patriarchal and masculinist.

Derrida contributed to "the understanding of certain deeply hidden philosophical presuppositions and prejudices in Western culture", arguing that the whole philosophical tradition rests on arbitrary dichotomous categories (such as sacred/profane, signifier/signified, mind/body), and that any text contains implicit hierarchies, "by which an order is imposed on reality and by which a subtle repression is exercised, as these hierarchies exclude, subordinate, and hide the various potential meanings." Derrida refers to his procedure for uncovering and unsettling these dichotomies as deconstruction.

The next five years of lectures and essay-length work were gathered into two 1972 collections, Dissemination and Margins of Philosophy, and in the same year a collection of interviews, entitled Positions, was also published.


Starting in 1972, Derrida produced on average more than a book per year. Derrida continued to produce important works, such as Glas and The Post-Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond.

A sequence of encounters with analytical philosophy is collected in Limited, Inc. Derrida wrote "Signature Event Context," an essay on J. L. Austin, in the early 1970s; following an aggressive critique of this text by John Searle, Derrida wrote a long (and no less aggressive) defense of his earlier argument.

Derrida received increasing attention in the United States after 1972, where he influenced American literary critics and theorists more than academic philosophers.

Of Spirit

On 14 March 1987, Derrida presented at the CIPH conference titled "Heidegger: Open Questions" a lecture which was published in October 1987 as Of Spirit: Heidegger and the Question. It follows the shifting role of Geist (spirit) through Heidegger's work, noting that, in 1927, "spirit" was one of the philosophical terms that Heidegger set his sights on dismantling. But with his Nazi political engagement in 1933, Heidegger came out as a champion of the "German Spirit," and only withdrew from an exalting interpretation of the term in 1952. Derrida's book reconnects in a number of respects with his long engagement of Heidegger (such as "The Ends of Man" in Margins of Philosophy and the essays marked under the heading Geschlecht). Derrida reconsiders three other fundamental and recurring elements of Heideggerian philosophy: the distinction between human and animal, technology, and the privilege of questioning as the essence of philosophy.

Of Spirit is an important contribution to the long debate on Heidegger's Nazism and appeared at the same time as the French publication of a book by a previously unknown Chilean writer, Victor Farías, who charged that Heidegger's philosophy amounted to a wholehearted endorsement of the Nazi Sturmabteilungmarker (SA) faction. Derrida responded to Farías in an interview, "Heidegger, the Philosopher's Hell" and a subsequent article, "Comment donner raison? How to Concede, with Reasons?" He noted that Farías was a weak reader of Heidegger's thought, adding that much of the evidence Farías and his supporters touted as new had long been known within the philosophical community.

But Of Spirit was also one of Derrida's first publications on the relationship between philosophy and nationalism, on which he had been teaching in the mid-1980s. This strand of questions would become increasingly important in his later work.

1990s: political and ethical themes

Some have argued that Derrida's work took a "political turn" in the 1990s. Texts cited as evidence of such a turn include Force of Law (1990), as well as Specters of Marx (1994) and Politics of Friendship (1994). Others, however, including Derrida himself, have argued that much of the philosophical work done in his "political turn" can be dated to earlier essays.

Those who argue Derrida engaged in an "ethical turn" refer to works such as The Gift of Death as evidence that he began more directly applying deconstruction to the relationship between ethics and religion. In this work, Derrida interprets passages from the Bible, particularly on Abraham and the Sacrifice of Isaac, and from Søren Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling. Derrida's contemporary readings of Emmanuel Lévinas, Walter Benjamin, Carl Schmitt, Jan Patočka, on themes such as law, justice, responsibility, and friendship, had a significant impact on fields beyond philosophy. Derrida delivered a eulogy at Lévinas' funeral, later published as Adieu à Emmanuel Lévinas, an appreciation and exploration of Levinas's moral philosophy.

Derrida did not move away from readings of literature; indeed, he continued to write extensively on Maurice Blanchot, Paul Celan, and others.

Criticisms of Derrida's work

A broad overview of the history of Derrida's reception, covering the period until the publication of Specters of Marx (1994), is given in The Reception of Derrida: Translation and Transformation (2006). His work is criticized for his alleged misuse of scientific terms and concepts in Higher Superstition: the academic left and its quarrels with science (1998). Christopher Wise in his book Derrida, Africa, and the Middle East (2009) places Derrida's work in the historical context of his North African origins. Wise also criticizes Derrida's stance on Zionism.

Lack of philosophical clarity

Though Derrida addressed the American Philosophical Association on several occasions and was highly regarded by contemporary philosophers like Richard Rorty, Alexander Nehamas, and Stanley Cavell, his work has been regarded by other Analytic philosophers, such as John Searle and W. V. Quine, as pseudophilosophy or sophistry. Searle, a frequent critic of Derrida dating back to their exchange on speech act theory in Limited Inc (where Derrida strongly accused Searle of intentionally misreading and misrepresenting him), exemplified this view in his comments on deconstruction in the New York Review of Books, 2 February 1984 [8512], for example:

Michel Foucault, who has often been closely associated with Derrida, also revealed his dissatisfaction of Derrida's style of writing in a conversation with Searle. According to Foucault, Derrida practises the method of obscurantisme terroriste (terrorist obscurantism; an ironic term given Derrida's later preoccupation with terrorism).“Reality Principles: An Interview with John R. Searle.” February 2000 12 May 2008 /> Searle quotes Foucault's explanation of the term as the following:

Foucault's resentment towards Derrida may be linked to Derrida's influential critique of Foucault's Madness and Civilization, and the fact that Foucault was at one time Derrida's teacher. However, after their falling out in the 1960s, they reconciled when Foucault helped to secure Derrida's release from prison, when he was arrested on false charges in Czechoslovakia in the early 1980s.

A controversy surrounding Derrida's work in philosophy and as a philosopher arose when the University of Cambridgemarker awarded him an honorary doctorate, despite opposition from some of members of its philosophy faculty and a letter of protest signed by eighteen professors from other institutions, including W. V. Quine, David Armstrong, Ruth Barcan Marcus, and René Thom. In their letter they claimed that Derrida's work "does not meet accepted standards of clarity and rigor" and described Derrida's philosophy as being composed of "tricks and gimmicks similar to those of the Dadaists." The letter concluded that:

Intentional obfuscation

Noam Chomsky has expressed the view that Derrida uses "pretentious rhetoric" to obscure the simplicity of his ideas. He groups Derrida within a broader category of the Parisian intellectual community which he criticized for, in his view, acting as an élite power structure for the well educated through "difficult writing" and obscurantism. Chomsky has indicated that he may simply be incapable of understanding Derrida, but he is dubious of this possibility.

Emir Rodríguez Monegal alleged that many of Derrida's ideas were recycled from the work of Borges (from essays and tales such as "La fruición literaria" (1928), "Elementos de preceptiva" (1933), "Pierre Menard" (1939), "Tlön" (1940), "Kafka y sus precursores" (1951)), opening his article with:

Critical obituaries of Derrida were published in The New York Times (" Jacques Derrida, Abstruse Theorist, Dies at 74") and The Economist[8513]. Both of these obituaries were criticised by academics supportive of Derrida; other obituaries were less critical.

In Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, Richard Rorty argues that Derrida (especially in his book, The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond) purposefully uses words that cannot be defined (e.g. Différance), and uses previously definable words in contexts diverse enough to make understanding impossible, so that the reader will never be able to contextualize Derrida's literary self. Rorty, however, argues that this intentional obfuscation is philosophically grounded. According to Rorty, this technique precludes any metaphysical accounts of Derrida's work. And since his work itself ostensibly contains no metaphysics, Derrida has consequently escaped metaphysics altogether. Derrida himself however never claimed to have escaped metaphysics. In his work he presents the deconstruction of metaphysics as a commitment to an impossible operation.

Charges of nihilism

Some critics charge that the deconstructive project is "nihilistic". They claim that Derrida's writing attempts to undermine the ethical and intellectual norms vital to Academe, if not Western civilization itself. Derrida is accused of effectively denying the possibility of knowledge and meaning, creating a blend of extreme skepticism and solipsism, which these critics believe harmful.

Derrida, however, felt that deconstruction was enlivening, productive, and affirmative, and that it does not "undermine" norms but rather places them within contexts that reveal their developmental and affective features.

Perhaps most persistent among these critics is Richard Wolin, who has argued that Derrida's work, as well as that of Derrida's major inspirations (e.g., Bataille, Blanchot, Lévinas, Heidegger, Nietzsche), leads to a corrosive nihilism. For example, Wolin argues that the "deconstructive gesture of overturning and reinscription ends up by threatening to efface many of the essential differences between Nazism and non-Nazism" . When Wolin published a Derrida interview on Heidegger in the first edition of The Heidegger Controversy, Derrida argued that the interview was an intentionally malicious mistranslation, which was "demonstrably execrable" and "weak, simplistic, and compulsively aggressive". As French law requires the consent of an author to translations and this consent was not given, Derrida insisted that the interview not appear in any subsequent editions or reprints. Columbia University Press subsequently refused to offer reprints or new editions. Later editions of The Heidegger Controversy by MIT Press also omitted the Derrida interview. The matter achieved public exposure owing to a friendly review of Wolin's book by Thomas Sheehan that appeared in the New York Review of Books, in which Sheehan characterised Derrida's protests as an imposition of censorship. It was followed by an exchange of letters. [8514], [8515]. Derrida in turn responded, in somewhat acerbic fashion, to Sheehan and Wolin, in "The Work of Intellectuals and the Press (The Bad Example: How the New York Review of Books and Company do Business)," which was published in the book Points....


Derrida engaged with many political issues, movements, and debates:
  • He was initially supportive of Parisian student protesters during the May 1968 protests, but later withdrew.
  • He registered his objections to the Vietnam War in delivering "The Ends of Man" in the United States.
  • In late 1981 he was arrested by the Czechoslovakianmarker government upon leaving a conference in Praguemarker that lacked government authorization, and charged with the "production and trafficking of drugs", which he claimed were planted as he visited Kafka's grave. He was released (or "expelled" as the Czechoslovakian government put it) after the interventions of the Mitterrand government, and the assistance of Michel Foucault, returning to Parismarker on 1 January 1982.
  • He was active in cultural activities against the Apartheid government of South Africa and on behalf of Nelson Mandela beginning in 1983.
  • He met with Palestinian intellectuals during a 1988 visit to Jerusalemmarker. He was active in the collective "89 for equality", which campaigned for the right of foreigners to vote in local elections.
  • He protested against the death penalty, dedicating his seminar in his last years to the production of a non-utilitarian argument for its abolition, and was active in the campaign to free Mumia Abu-Jamal.
  • Derrida was not known to have participated in any conventional electoral political party until 1995, when he joined a committee in support of Lionel Jospin's Socialistmarker candidacy, although he expressed misgivings about such organizations going back to Communist organizational efforts while he was a student at ENS.
  • In the 2002 French presidential election he refused to vote in the run-off between far right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen and Jacques Chirac, citing a lack of acceptable choices.
  • While supportive of the American government in the wake of 9/11, he opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq (see Rogues and his contribution to Philosophy in a Time of Terror with Giovanna Borradori and Jürgen Habermas).

Beyond these explicit political interventions, however, Derrida was engaged in rethinking politics and the political itself, within and beyond philosophy. Derrida insisted that a distinct political undertone had pervaded his texts from the very beginning of his career. Nevertheless, the attempt to understand the political implications of notions of responsibility, reason of state, the other, decision, sovereignty, Europe, friendship, difference, faith, and so on, became much more marked from the early 1990s on. By 2000, theorizing "democracy to come," and thinking the limitations of existing democracies, had become important concerns.

Derrida and his peers

Derrida's philosophical friends, allies, and students included Paul de Man, Jean-François Lyotard, Michel Foucault, Louis Althusser, Emmanuel Levinas, Maurice Blanchot, Gilles Deleuze, Jean-Luc Nancy, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, Sarah Kofman, Hélène Cixous, Bernard Stiegler, Alexander García Düttmann, Geoffrey Bennington, Jean-Luc Marion, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Jacques Ehrmann, Avital Ronell and Simon Critchley.

Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe

Jean-Luc Nancy and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe were among Derrida's first students in France and went on to become well-known and important philosophers in their own right. Despite their considerable differences of subject, and often also of method, they continued their close interaction with each other and with Derrida, from the early 1970s.

Derrida wrote on both of them, including a long book on Nancy: Le Toucher, Jean-Luc Nancy (On Touching—Jean-Luc Nancy, 2005).

Paul de Man

Derrida's most prominent friendship in intellectual life was with Paul de Man, which began with their meeting at Johns Hopkins University and continued until de Man's death in 1983. De Man provided a somewhat different approach to deconstruction, and his readings of literary and philosophical texts were crucial in the training of a generation of readers.

Shortly after de Man's death, Derrida authored a book Memoires: pour Paul de Man and in 1988 wrote an article in the journal Critical Inquiry called "Like the Sound of the Sea Deep Within a Shell: Paul de Man's War". The memoir became cause for controversy, because shortly before Derrida published his piece, it had been discovered by the Belgian literary critic Ortwin de Graef that long before his academic career in the US, de Man had written almost two hundred essays in a pro-Nazi newspaper during the German occupation of Belgium, including several that were explicitly antisemitic.

Derrida complicates the notion that it is possible to simply read de Man's later scholarship through the prism of these earlier political essays. Rather, any claims about de Man's work should be understood in relation to the entire body of his scholarship. Critics of Derrida have argued that he minimizes the antisemitic character of de Man's writing. Some critics have found Derrida's treatment of this issue surprising, given that, for example, Derrida has also spoken out against antisemitism and, in the 1960s, broke with the Heidegger disciple Jean Beaufret over a phrase of Beaufret's that Derrida (and, after him, Maurice Blanchot) interpreted as antisemitic.

Derrida's translators

Geoffrey Bennington, Avital Ronell and Samuel Weber belong to a group of Derrida translators. Many of these are esteemed thinkers in their own right, with whom Derrida worked in a collaborative arrangement, allowing his prolific output to be translated into English in a timely fashion.

Having started as a student of de Man, Gayatri Spivak took on the translation of Of Grammatology early in her career and has since revised it into a second edition. Alan Bass was responsible for several early translations; Bennington and Peggy Kamuf have continued to produce translations of his work for nearly twenty years. In recent years, a number of translations have appeared by Michael Naas (also a Derrida scholar) and Pascale-Anne Brault.

With Bennington, Derrida undertook the challenge published as Jacques Derrida, an arrangement in which Bennington attempted to provide a systematic explication of Derrida's work (called the "Derridabase") using the top two-thirds of every page, while Derrida was given the finished copy of every Bennington chapter and the bottom third of every page in which to show how deconstruction exceeded Bennington's account (this was called the "Circumfession"). Derrida seems to have viewed Bennington in particular as a kind of rabbinical explicator, noting at the end of the "Applied Derrida" conference, held at the University of Luton in 1995 that: "everything has been said and, as usual, Geoff Bennington has said everything before I have even opened my mouth. I have the challenge of trying to be unpredictable after him, which is impossible... so I'll try to pretend to be unpredictable after Geoff. Once again."

Relationships and mourning

Derrida's relationship with many of his contemporaries was marked by disagreements and rifts. For example, Derrida's criticism of Foucault in the essay "Cogito and the History of Madness" (from Writing and Difference), first given as a lecture which Foucault attended, caused a rift between the two men that was never fully mended. Others, like Emmanuel Levinas and Maurice Blanchot, found in his critical engagement with their work an invitation for further discussion.

Whatever the outcome of these discussions, Derrida was often left in the unappealing position of too often having the opportunity for the last word, as he outlived many of his peers. Death and mourning are foundational to the analysis which led Derrida to his understanding of inheritance, interpretation, and responsibility. Beginning with "The Deaths of Roland Barthes" in 1981, Derrida produced a series of texts on mourning and memory occasioned by the loss of his friends and colleagues, many of them new engagements with their work. Memoires for Paul de Man, a book-length lecture series presented first at Yale and then at Irvine as Derrida's Wellek Lecture, followed in 1986, with a revision in 1989 that included "Like the Sound of the Sea Deep Within a Shell: Paul de Man's War". Ultimately fourteen essays were collected into The Work of Mourning, which was expanded in the French edition Chaque fois unique, la fin du monde (literally, The end of the world, unique each time) to include essays dedicated to Gérard Granel and Maurice Blanchot.

See also


  1. Jacques Derrida Dies; Deconstructionist Philosopher, accessed 2 August 2007.
  2. "I took part in the extraordinary transformation of the Algerian Jews; my great-grandparents were by language, custom, etc., still identified with Arabic culture. After the Cremieux Decree (1870), at the end of the 19th c., the following generation became bourgeois", Jacques Derrida The Last Interview, may 2003
  3. Geoffrey Bennington, Jacques Derrida, University of Chicago Press, 1999
  4. "Safar surname : occupational name from Arabic saffar which means worker in copper or brass", The Safar surname"
  5. Obituary in The Guardian, accessed 2 August 2007.
  6. "The Chronicle of Higher Education", 20 July 2007, accessed 1 August 2007.
  7. J.E. D'Ulisse Derrida (1930-2004), New Partisan 12.24.2004
  8. Barry Smith et al. Open letter against Derrida receiving an honorary doctorate from Cambridge University , The Times (London), Saturday 9 May 1992
  9. John Rawlings (1999) Presidential Lectures: Jacques Derrida: Introduction at Stanford University
  10. The 'Derrida Affair' at Cambridge University, from "Honoris Causa: 'This is also very funny'" pp. 409-413
  11. Deconstruction icon Derrida dies, accessed 2 August 2007.
  12. Jacques Derrida, "'Genesis' and 'Structure' and Phenomenology," in Writing and Difference (London: Routledge, 1978), paper originally delivered in 1959 at Cerisy-la-Salle, and originally published in Gandillac, Goldmann & Piaget (eds.), Genèse et structure (The Hague: Morton, 1964), p. 167:
  13. If in 1959 Derrida was addressing this question of genesis and structure to Husserl, that is, to phenomenology, then in "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences" (also in Writing and Difference, and see below), he addresses these same questions to Lévi-Strauss and the structuralists. This is clear from the very first line of the paper (p. 278): Between the two papers is staked Derrida's philosophical ground, if not indeed his step beyond or outside philosophy.
  14. Cf., Derrida, Positions (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1981), pp. 95–6: On the phrase "default of origin" as applied to Derrida's work, cf., Bernard Stiegler, "Derrida and Technology: Fidelity at the Limits of Deconstruction and the Prosthesis of Faith," in Tom Cohen (ed.) Jacques Derrida and the Humanities (Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001). Stiegler understands Derrida's thinking of textuality and inscription in terms of a thinking of originary technicity, and in this context speaks of "the originary default of origin that arche-writing constitutes" (p. 239). See also Stiegler, Technics and Time, 1: The Fault of Epimetheus (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998).
  15. On this destabilisation of both "genesis" and "structure," cf., Rodolphe Gasché, The Tain of the Mirror (Cambridge, Massachusetts, & London: Harvard University Press, 1986), p. 146: And note that this complexity of the origin is thus not only spatial but temporal, which is why différance is a matter not only of difference but of delay or deferral. One way in which this question is raised in relation to Husserl is thus the question of the possibility of a phenomenology of history, which Derrida raises in Edmund Husserl's Origin of Geometry: An Introduction (1962).
  16. Cf., Rodolphe Gasché, "Infrastructures and Systematicity," in John Sallis (ed.), Deconstruction and Philosophy (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1987), pp. 3–4:
  17. The dissertation was eventually published in 1990 with the title Le problème de la genèse dans la philosophie de Husserl. English translation: The Problem of Genesis in Husserl's Philosophy (2003).
  18. Positions p. 5.
  19. In Positions (Eng. 1981, pp. 4-5) Derrida stated, "[Speech and Phenomena] is perhaps the essay which I like most. Doubtless I could have bound it as a long note to one or the other of the other two works. Of Grammatology refers to it and economizes its development. But in a classical philosophical architecture, Speech... would come first: in it is posed, at a point which appears juridically decisive for reasons that I cannot explain here, the question of the privilege of the voice and of phonetic writing in their relationship to the entire history of the West, such as this history can be represented by the history of metaphysics and metaphysics in its most modern, critical and vigilant form: Husserl's transcendental phenomenology."
  20. See interviews collected in Positions (Eng. 1981)
  21. On the influence of Heidegger, Derrida claims in his "Letter to a Japanese Friend" (Derrida and différance, eds. Robert Bernasconi and David Wood) that the word "déconstruction" was his attempt both to translate and re-appropriate for his own ends the Heideggerian terms Destruktion and Abbau, via a word from the French language, the varied senses of which seemed consistent with his requirements. This relationship with the Heideggerian term was chosen over the Nietzschean term "demolition," as Derrida shared Heidegger's interest in renovating philosophy.
  22. Positions [1972] p. 5.
  23. Lamont '87, pp. 590, 602-606 (Lamont, Michele How to Become a Dominant French Philosopher: The Case of Jacques Derrida. [1] American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 93, No. 3 [Nov., 1987])
  24. Hélène Cixous, Catherine Clément [1975] La jeune née
  25. Wayne A. Borody (1998) pp. 3, 5 Figuring the Phallogocentric Argument with Respect to the Classical Greek Philosophical Tradition Nebula: A Netzine of the Arts and Science, Vol. 13 (pp. 1-27).
  26. Sven Ove Hansson Philosophical Schools - Editorial From Theoria vol. 72, Part 1 (2006).
  27. Jack Reynolds, Jonathan Roffe (2004) Understanding Derrida p.49
  28. Gift of Death, pp. 57-72
  29. "Truth and Consequences: How to Understand Jacques Derrida," The New Republic 197:14 (5 October 1987)
  30. On p. 123:
  31. Rorty, Richard. Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989. ISBN 0-521-36781-6. Ch. 6: "From ironist theory to private allusions: Derrida"
  32. Carlo Ginzburg, The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller, trans. Anne Tedeschi (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press), xviii. ISBN 978-0801843877
  33. Richard Wolin, Preface to the MIT press edition: Note on a missing text. In R. Wolin(Ed.) The Heidegger Controversy: A Critical Reader. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 1993, p xiii. ISBN 0-262-73101-0
  34. Jacques Derrida, "'To Do Justice to Freud': The History of Madness in the Age of Psychoanalysis," Resistances of Psychoanalysis (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998) pp. 70-71.


An extensive online bibliography can be found at this site. The compilation, copyrighted by Peter Krapp, is still in progress, but all major works are listed, sorted by title or by year of publication.See also: Jacques Derrida Bibliography.

Selected translations

Works on Derrida

Introductory works

  • Culler, Jonathan (1975) Structuralist Poetics.
  • Descombes, Vincent (1980) Modern French Philosophy.
  • Deutscher, Penelope (2006) "How to Read Derrida" (ISBN 9780393328790).
  • Jameson, Fredric (1972) The Prison-House of Language.
  • Leitch, Vincent B. (1983) Deconstructive Criticism: An Advanced Introduction.
  • Lentricchia, Frank (1980) After the New Criticism.
  • Norris, Christopher (1982) Deconstruction: Theory and Practice.
  • Thomas, Michael (2006) The Reception of Derrida: Translation and Transformation.
  • Wise, Christopher (2009) Derrida, Africa, and the Middle East.

Other works

  • Beardsworth, Richard, Derrida and the Political (ISBN 0-415-10967-1).
  • Bennington, Geoffrey, Legislations (ISBN 0-86091-668-5).
  • Bennington, Geoffrey, Interrupting Derrida (ISBN 0-415-22427-6).
  • Caputo, John D., The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida.
  • Caputo, John D. (ed.) Deconstruction in a Nutshell: A Conversation with Jacques Derrida.
  • Coward, H.G. (ed) Derrida and Negative theology, SUNY 1992. ISBN 0-79140-964-3
  • Gasché, Rodolphe, Inventions of Difference: On Jacques Derrida.
  • Gasché, Rodolphe, The Tain of the Mirror.
  • Magliola, Robert, Derrida on the Mend, Lafayette: Purdue UP, 1984; 1986; rpt. 2000 (ISBN 0-911198-69-5). (Initiated what has become a very active area of study in Buddhology and comparative philosophy, the comparison of Derridean deconstruction and Buddhist philosophy, especially Madhyamikan and Zen Buddhist philosophy.)
  • Magliola, Robert, On Deconstructing Life-Worlds: Buddhism, Christianity, Culture, Atlanta: Scholars P, American Academy of Religion, 1997; Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000 (ISBN 0-7885-0296-4). (Further develops comparison of Derridean thought and Buddhism.)
  • Marder, Michael, The Event of the Thing: Derrida's Post-Deconstructive Realism, Toronto: Toronto UP, 2009. (ISBN 0-80209-892-4)
  • Park, Jin Y., ed., Buddhisms and Deconstructions, Lanham: Rowland and Littlefield, 2006 (ISBN 978-0-7425-3418-6; ISBN 0-7425-3418-9). (Several of the collected papers specifically treat Derrida and Buddhist thought.)
  • Mouffe, Chantal (ed.), Deconstruction and Pragmatism, with essays by Simon Critchley, Ernesto Laclau, Richard Rorty, and Derrida.
  • Norris, Christopher, Derrida (ISBN 0-674-19823-9).
  • Rapaport, Herman, Later Derrida (ISBN 0-415-94269-1).
  • Sallis, John (ed.), Deconstruction and Philosophy, with essays by Rodolphe Gasché, John D. Caputo, Robert Bernasconi, David Wood, and Derrida.
  • Smith, James K. A., Jacques Derrida: Live Theory.
  • Stiegler, Bernard, "Derrida and Technology: Fidelity at the Limits of Deconstruction and the Prosthesis of Faith," in Tom Cohen (ed.), Jacques Derrida and the Humanities (ISBN 0-521-62565-3).
  • Wood, David (ed.), Derrida: A Critical Reader.

External links

Archival collections

Online texts and excerpts




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