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Shorter Reviews237 appreciative of what the masters of the written word have accomplished, he would like to see that accomplishment echoed and re-echoed in individual consciousnesses . He is worried that the "inscape" of humanity is becoming barren, desolate—filled with the din of outer distractions. The difficulty he speaks of is an antidote to such distractions. It is not something that should be corrected or shunned but rather gratefully and wholeheartedly embraced as a condition of finding what is best in us. Our spiritual homecoming can have a measure of success only if we listen to the voices of those who have felt and thought deeply about their, and our, humanity. Rice UniversityKonstantin Kolenda Positions, by Jacques Derrida, translated by Alan Bass: vii & 114 pp. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981, $11.95. Presumably it is safe to say that apart from Heideggerians, and by no means all Heideggerians, Derrida's impact on English and American philosophy has not nearly matched his remarkable influence in academic departments of literature . The curious discrepancy becomes an issue once again with the appearance in English of this slim book of three interviews with Derrida, dating from 1967-71. Brief as it is, and regulated by the decorum of spoken conversation , the format of the book might suggest that hesitant or skeptical philosophers , and laggard literary critics, could find here a somewhat more accessible or normalized introduction to Derrida's thought. Such hopes are likely to be disappointed. Derrida speaks in conversation exactly as he writes—which is only fitting for the chief critic of illusory oppositions between speaking and writing. Those who are easily irritated by his literary style will find no lack of occasions here. There is the familiar Jamesian hyper-fastidiousness: "I even, if it can be put thus, started there" (p. 54). Even "yes" comes swathed in layers of protective padding: "I am tempted to answer very quickly: yes. In any case, that is what I would like to do" (p. 68). And apart from the trivial quirks of style, the general level of argumentation here, as with all of his other writings, makes few concessions to the newcomer. But having said all this, I must hasten to add that the dialogues also abound in exceptionally clear and forceful formulations of Derrida's positions on Saussure and structuralism, on the nature and goals of deconstruction, on diffirance, on French Freud, phenomenology, and Marxism. My copy of the book is now more underlined than not. But in most cases, 1 think, the clarity of the summations depends to a considerable degree on the reader's prior acquaintance with the more extended arguments they encapsulate. It is likely, then, that this little book will find its destiny as a breviary or aide-mémoire, rather than as a primer. 238Philosophy and Literature Of the three interviews, the last and longest is perhaps the most interesting. The two interviewers try to bring Derrida to agree that there are fundamental affinities between deconstruction and dialectical materialism, hence, that Derrida is ultimately bound to concede a certain primacy to the Marxist categories of society, or matter, or the means of production. This solicitation Derrida naturally declines, indicating repeatedly (the interviewers are very dogged) that whatever texts of would-be materialism are cited—Hegel, Marx, Engels, Lenin—they will prove to be as deeply marked by traces of metaphysics as any overdy theological system. In its adversarial quality, this sparring match provides a quite vivid example of deconstructive method in action. The tbird dialogue is also particularly instructive in delineating Derrida's concept of the "double gesture" (p. 59) as the basis of deconstructive writing. The deconstructive act involves 1) a vigilant opposition to any system that would grant absolute or primary status to any term whatsoever, be it speech, writing, structure, history, sign, logos, text, being, meaning, self, and so forth, and 2) an equally vigilant insistence on the need to re-utilize these very terms of untenable ontology, theology, and metaphysics in order to generate new discourse . One recognizes that the "reinscribed" terms are at perpetual risk of relapsing into metaphysics, but are indispensable if critical discourse is to continue its activity. It is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 237-238
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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