Wednesday, April 05, 2006

I have been reading Derrida recently

(Glas that is, my friend A. invited a few of us to join his Derrida seminar just for three sessions on this book which I had not read before & which is really very moving in parts though also quite maddening, a set of meditations on mourning and families--I must say it's better on fathers than on mothers--and Hegel and Genet and all sorts of other things including nature and nurture and grafting and surrogacy, I was taken aback but pleased to find my own obsessions so front-and-center as it were), in general I never feel guilty about writing long blog posts here because I think it's complementary to rather than detracting from the other writing I do but in this case I certainly cannot justify plunging into a deep discussion, I've got other stuff more pressing. And I've got an awful cold and must try and get some sleep tonight.

A paragraph I especially like, though, for your delectation if you have any taste for this stuff (he's been talking about Saussure and words and the "filial filaments" that may or may not tie signifiers to the things they signify, Saussure having the crazy--dingue--idea that language can be somehow "remotivated"):

“And what if mimesis no longer allowed itself to be arraigned, to be compelled to give accounts and reasons, to subject itself to a verification of identity within such a frame. And what if it operated according to ways and necessities whose laws are entangled and determined otherwise. With resources that would lead within the language’s system: importing into linguistics all the questions and all the codes of questions that are developed here, around the effects of ‘proper name’ and ‘signature’; concealing, in the course of this break-in, all the rigorous criteria of a framing—between the inside and the outside; taking away the frame no less than the inside or the outside, the picture or the thing (just imagine the havoc of a theft that would only deprive you of frames and of every possibility of reframing your valuables or your art objects). And what if mimesis so arranged it that language’s internal system did not exist, or that it is never used, or at least that it is used only by contaminating it, and that this contamination is inevitable, hence regular and ‘normal,’ makes up a part of the system and its functioning, makes up a part of it, that is, also, makes of it, which is the whole, a part of a whole that is greater than it” (p. 94).

I am not going to make any attempt at exegesis, but don't you love (frivolously) the thought-experiment of imagining the theft of frames that would deprive you of all possibility of reframing, even of remembering or imagining frames? Very science fiction-y in a way I approve of. Stimulating reading altogether, the continuities between Derrida and Perec seem very clear since I've just been reading the other.


  1. I don't often think of literary theorists as writing "beautifully" (which is not to say that they can't, but that it rather doesn't seem to be the primary motivation), but I have fallen in love with this section from Derrida's "Politics and Poetics of Witnessing" - so much so that I used it in an essay that I wrote about my best friend:

    Logically, it obliges one to take any address to another to be a testimony. Each time I speak or manifest something to another, I bear witness to the extent that, even if I neither say nor show the truth, even if, behind the “mask,” I am lying, hiding, or betraying, every utterance implies “I am telling you the truth; I am telling you what I think; I bear witness in front of you to that which I bear witness in front of me, what is present to me (singularly, irreplaceably). And I can always be lying to you. So I am in front of you as in front of a judge, before the law or the representative of the law. As soon as I bear witness, I am in front of you as before the law, but, as a result, you who are my witness, you who witness my bearing witness, you are also judge and arbiter, judge and party as much as judge and arbiter.”

  2. ,
    im writting my thesis about witnessing discourse and i was wandering if you could guide me about the source of the piece "Politics and Poetics of Witnessing".
    i have tried to find it in my library resource system, but that didnt work. 'amazon' research system was no good either (which is very strange nowadays).
    so i wander what exactly is it (a book, an article, etc) and under what title should i look for it.
    thank you