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Jacques Derrida and the Question of the University

Simon Morgan Wortham

Publication Year: 2006

This book provides a definitive account of Jacques Derrida's involvement in debates about the university. Derrida was a founding member of the Research Group on the Teaching of Philosophy (GREPH), an activist group that mobilized opposition to the Giscard government's proposals to rationalizethe French educational system in 1975. He also helped to convene the Estates General of Philosophy, a vast gathering in 1979 of educators from across France. Furthermore, he was closely associated with the founding of the International College of Philosophy in Paris, and his connection with the International Parliament of Writers during the 1990s also illustrates his continuing interest in the possibility of launching an array of literary and philosophical projects while experimenting with new kinds of institutions in which they might take their specific shape and direction. Derrida argues that the place of philosophy in the university should be explored as both a historical question and a philosophical problem in its own right. He argues that philosophy simultaneously belongs and does not belong to the university. In its founding role, it must come from outsidethe institution in which, nevertheless, it comes to define itself. The author asks whether this irresolvable tension between belongingand not belongingmight not also form the basis of Derrida's political thinking and activism where wider issues of contemporary significance are concerned. Key questions today concerning citizenship, rights, the nation-state and Europe, asylum, immigration, terror, and the returnof religion all involve assumptions and ideas about belonging; and they entail constitutional, legal, institutional and material constraints that take shape precisely on the basis of such ideas. This project will therefore open up a key question: Can deconstruction's insight into the paradoxical institutional standing of philosophy form the basis of a meaningful political response by theoryto a number of contemporary international issues?

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page

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pp. xi

Earlier versions of some chapters have previously appeared in print. “Teaching Deconstruction: Giving, Taking, Leaving, Belonging, and the Remains of the University” was originally published in Diacritics 31, no. 3 (2001): 89–107. “Auditing Derrida” appeared in Parallax 10, no. 2 (2004): 3–18. ...


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pp. ix

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pp. 1-24

As Derrida himself points out, in a number of texts we shall come to in a moment, the contre or counter implies a “with-against” movement, a turning toward and away from, a measure both of distance and proximity (inordinately difficult to calculate, and therefore in constant need of reckoning), ...

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Chapter 1: Counter-Institution, Counter-Deconstruction

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pp. 25-43

In recent times, thinking in particular of his lecture on “The University Without Condition” from 1999, Derrida has once more added his voice to others in calling for a rethinking of the university, which would include an analysis of its ongoing redefi nition in a variety of contexts: globalization; ...

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Chapter 2: Teaching Deconstruction: Giving, Taking, Leaving, Belonging, and the Remains of the University

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pp. 44-67

In an essay on “Literary Study in the Transnational University,” J. Hillis Miller tries to account for the hostility shown by some practitioners of a certain kind of cultural studies toward what is perceived as “high” theory and, in particular, deconstruction. Describing the emergence of cultural studies as a quasi-discipline, ...

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Chapter 3: “The Fidelity of a Guardian”: The “Double Keeping” of Jacques Derrida

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pp. 68-84

“The Principle of Reason: The University in the Eyes of Its Pupils”— perhaps one of Derrida’s best known and most infl uential texts on the question of the university institution—was first presented, in English, in 1983, as the inaugural lecture for the Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large Chair at Cornell University.1 ...

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Chapter 4: Auditing Derrida

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pp. 85-118

As long ago as 1995, a special issue of the Oxford Literary Review (17) was devoted to the topic of “The University in Ruins.”1 The obvious reference in the journal’s title to the work of Bill Readings was triply underscored in its pages. The volume was dedicated to Readings, who had been killed tragically in an air crash ...

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Chapter 5: The Claim of the Humanities: A Discussion with Christopher Fynsk

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pp. 119-146

Christopher Fynsk in his book The Claim of Language contributes to current debates about the state of the contemporary university by acknowledging the decline in fortunes of those disciplines traditionally associated with the liberal arts, particularly (although by no means exclusively) in North America. ...


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pp. 147-154


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pp. 155-160


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pp. 161-164

Fordham's Perspectives in Continental Philosophy Series

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E-ISBN-13: 9780823247622
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823226658
Print-ISBN-10: 0823226654

Page Count: 150
Publication Year: 2006