Jacques Derrida remains one of the most influential thinkers of the last half of the twentieth century. But for many the difficulty of reading him is a huge barrier to a full appreciation. Having emerged fully formed in 1967, it can be hard for the general reader to find a way into his thinking.
In this weekly course Peter Salmon, author of An Event Perhaps: A Biography of Jacques Derrida (Verso 2020), will situate Derrida in the philosophical tradition, starting with his long engagement with phenomenology and thinkers such as Heidegger and Levinas, and in particular Edmund Husserl, whose work Derrida engaged with for many years before his breakthrough.
It will then follow Derrida’s linguistic turn – often the starting point in Anglophone reception – and examine how Derrida’s earlier work led to his engagement with thinkers such as Saussure. Finally, it will explore the later Derrida, in particular his hugely influential work on ethics, hospitality, the gift and the law, and his great work Spectres of Marx, as well as the ways in which Derrida has become part of the culture wars has re-emerged as a lightning rod for a certain resistance to pluralist thinking.
The course will explore some of the main Derridean ideas, such as deconstruction, the metaphysics of presence, différance, logocentrism, trace and hauntology in ways that make them accessible to those new to Derrida, and deepen their understanding for those already engaged with his work. And as Derrida’s biographer, Salmon will also identify those aspects of the thinkers life which influenced his thinking – his contested childhood, and the ethical battles of his later life.
Please note, the below lists the text which will be helpful to each session, but do not constitute a reading list – unless you want to!
- Derrida, Monolingualism of the Other; Derrida, ‘Circumfessions’
2. Derrida as Phenomenologist
- Husserl, ‘The Origin of Geometry’; Zahavi, Phenomenology the Basics; Derrida, Speech and Phenomena
3. The Birth of Deconstruction
- Derrida, “Violence and Metaphysics”; Derrida, Of Grammatology
4. Here Comes Everybody
- Derrida, Glas; Derrida, ‘Plato’s Pharmacy’
5. The ‘Ethical Turn’ – Spectres of Derrida
- Derrida, ‘Force of Law: The “Mystical Foundation of Authority”’; Derrida, Spectres of Marx