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  • Derrida and Lacan: Another Writing
  • Seán Hand
Derrida and Lacan: Another Writing. By Michael Lewis. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008. xii + 282 pp. Hb £66.50.

The key claims of this strongly comparative study, which according to Lewis’s own ambiguous formulation attempts to write Lacan’s thought over Derrida’s, are that a critical re-examination of Derridean deconstruction may be effected via the alternative vision of the place of language in Lacan, and that Lacanian criticism, if successful in this endeavour, may thus legitimately be applied to all transcendental thought, if Derridean philosophy is accepted as the most advanced formulation to date of a Western transcendental tradition. While the second of these claims can hardly be proved, the first forms the basis for the work’s re-readings, in which deconstruction is shown to be susceptible to criticism, and that Lacanian analysis is the alternative approach to the real that inter alia opens up deconstruction to further enquiry. This claim in itself involves a large distinction, amounting to a self-deconstruction, being established between an early Lacan associated above all with the name-of-the-father, and a later Lacan, whose work presents the phallus as a re-examination of the position of the real and therefore of the imaginary. In four large chapters the book develops this slightly progressivist and oppositional reading. The first chapter therefore postulates the Lacanian presentation of the phallus as a moment of resistance to deconstruction, in contrast to the still-deconstructible earlier opposition of the symbolic and the real evinced in the name-of-the-father. Explication of this opposition, in which early Lacan is really synonymous with structuralism, is the second chapter; while the third chapter then argues at length that Lacanian development of the real, and the transformed position that this in turn gave to the imaginary, thereby lent to the phallus the power among other things to resist the deconstruction of a transcendental approach. Lewis thus returns a certain analytic thrust, as it were, in announcing a residual transcendentalism in Derridean deconstruction, which can be detected via Lacan’s revisions of the real that produce an imaginative archi-writing that differs significantly from that of Derrida. The shorter final chapter presents the reasonable view that if Lacan deconstructs otherwise than Derrida and in a manner beyond the analytic scope of the latter, this nonetheless represents less a criticism than a prolongation of Derridean deconstruction. While it can be difficult on occasion to follow (or even to wish to follow) the author through all of his enthusiastic and involved adherence to certain Lacanian obfuscations that once upon a time held so much criticism in thrall, the key analytic mechanism of the book produces a persuasive and properly comparative reading of two dominating late twentieth-century transcendental philosophies.

Seán Hand
University of Warwick
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Additional Information

ISSN
1468-2931
Print ISSN
0016-1128
Pages
p. 374
Launched on MUSE
2010-07-15
Open Access
No
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