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  • The Marrano Specter: Derrida and Hispanism ed. by Erin Graff Zivin
  • Patricio Boyer (bio)
The Marrano Specter: Derrida and Hispanism. Edited by Erin Graff Zivin. New York: Fordham University Press, 2018. ix + 167 pp. Hardcover $105. Softcover $30.

This collection offers a diverse series of contributions, both in terms of the subfields within Hispanic studies represented as well as the different iterations of the late Derrida explored. Their shared origin in a series of panels at the American Comparative Literature Association and at the University of Southern California, however, gives them a thematic and theoretical focus that allows them to work together as a collection with great success. The essays herein attend to the ways that the praxis of theory is, in itself, a way to work through increasingly urgent debates within the university. A number of the essays take up the way that the marrano, historically a figure for exclusion and spectrality in the Hispanic Atlantic, offers a useful way to reflect on the vicissitudes of disciplinary formation and demarcation. As humanists, questions of exclusion and the intellectual labor of inclusion are of particular salience in the contemporary academy. For Hispanists specifically, this collection offers models of engagement with Derridean deconstruction that seem to shake loose of the well-trod paths of the francophone and anglophone academies in order to “track and address the double movement of the Derridean trace in the world(s) of Hispanism and the Hispanist trace in Derrida’s thought” (5).

Jacques Lezra, David Kelman, and Jaime Hanneken’s contributions in Part I directly tackle the question of disciplinarity, engaging with the kinds of formal and institutional questions that have plagued the academy since the advent of poststructuralism so many decades ago. Lezra imagines a “primal scene for Hispanism” (15), examining Cervantes’ “El licenciado Vidriera” as an allegory for disciplinarity. Kelman explores the relationship between the disciplinary sovereignty of monolingualism versus that of comparative [End Page 639] literature in an attempt to think not about the way limited regionalisms contrast with each other, but rather to examine how the limited and the unlimited might simultaneously be held in contemplation. Hanneken’s analysis of Derrida’s notion of “mondialatinization” closes out this first section by examining how it might illuminate how “the name ‘Latin’ serves Latin Americanism as a toponym for the same kind of autoimmune activity that Derrida sees patent in religion’s mondialatinization” (49).

In Part II, Brett Levinson and Patrick Dove attend to the relationship between form and secrecy. Levinson’s reading of Derrida’s “Abraham, the Other” and Dove’s analysis of the relationship among Derrida, de Man, and Borges both engage the figure of the marrano as central to understanding identity and its relationship to the world. Derrida’s inclusion of the marrano “among all the other figures he casts as irreducible to the signifier” (p 78) is of particular importance to Latin Americanism, argues Levinson, not only for the proliferation of marranos in Latin American discourse but also for its exemplarity in thinking through an unstable identity like “Latin American.” Dove challenges the traditional periodization of an early versus a late Derrida, with the aim of excavating a thread in both Derrida and de Man always already engaged in a shuttle between linguistic and philosophical concerns and an interest in “the real world,” characterized by Graff Zivin in her introduction as an interest in the “ethical and political implications of form and secrecy” (7). Reading the de Manian notion of “formal materialism” through Borges’s “La muralla y los libros,” Dove offers just one example of how theoretical traditions might be served by intellectual and disciplinary recontextualization within Hispanism.

Part III, Between Nonethics and Infrapolitics, focuses on the troubled relationship between ethics and politics in deconstruction. By filtering the vicissitudes of that relation through the figure or spirit of the marrano, the final three contributors offer stimulating reflections on the current state of this aporia in critical theory. Gareth Williams challenges the very terms of the collection, examining the viability of the notion of a marrano spirit. Reading “The Part about Archimboldi” from Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 as a space in which to theorize an “other scene...


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