What if Derrida was wrong about Saussure?

What if Derrida was wrong about Saussure?

RUSSELL DAYLIGHT
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 208
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3366/j.ctt1r20w0
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    What if Derrida was wrong about Saussure?
    Book Description:

    Between 1907 and 1911, Ferdinand de Saussure gave three series of lectures on the topic of general linguistics. After his death, these lecture notes were gathered together by his students and published as the 'Course in General Linguistics'. And in the past one hundred years, there has been no more influential and divisive reading of Saussure than that of Jacques Derrida.This book is an examination of Derrida's philosophical reconstruction of Saussurean linguistics, of the paradigm shift from structuralism to post-structuralism, and of the consequences that continue to resonate in every field of the humanities today.Despite the importance of Derrida's critique of Saussure for cultural studies, philosophy, linguistics and literary theory, no comprehensive analysis has before been written. The magnitude of the task undertaken here makes this book an invaluable resource for those wishing to interrogate the encounter beyond appearances or received wisdom. In this process of a close reading, the following themes become sites of debate between Derrida and Saussure: o the originality of Saussure within the history of Western metaphysicso the relationship between speech and writing o the relationship between 'différance' and differenceo the intervention of time in structuralismo linguistic relativism and the role of the language user.This long-overdue commentary also poses new questions to structuralism and post-structuralism, and opens up exciting new terrain in linguistic and political thought.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-4490-2
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Abbreviations and Textual Notes
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    On 21 October 1966, Jacques Derrida presented ‘Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences’ to the International Colloquium on Critical Languages and the Sciences of Man, at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. According to its organisers, the conference ‘sought to explore the impact of contemporary “structuralist” thought on critical methods in humanistic and social studies’ (Macksey and Donato 1972a: xv), and was ‘the first time in the United States that structuralist thought had been considered as a cross-disciplinary phenomenon’ (xvi). The invited speakers were drawn from the fields of ‘anthropology, classical studies, comparative literature, linguistics, literary criticism,...

  6. 1 Classical Semiology
    (pp. 19-32)

    Derrida often uses the epithet ‘classical’. It appears most often in his expression ‘classical metaphysics’ (S&P: 51; GS&P: 166), but also in ‘the classical concept of writing’ (SEC: 9), in ‘the classical opposition’ between speech and writing (SEC: 21), and in how signs can be eliminated ‘in the classical manner’ (S&P: 51). Derrida first uses the expression ‘classical semiology’ in ‘Différance’, to name the metaphysical system in which a sign takes the place of the thing in its absence:

    The sign represents the present in its absence. It takes the place of the present. When we cannot grasp or show...

  7. 2 The Originality of Saussure
    (pp. 33-49)

    We have just considered the notion of ‘classical semiology’, and the methods and techniques by which Derrida brings semiology into the framework of classical metaphysics. The centrepiece of evidence in that effort was Roman Jakobson’s testimony, cited by Derrida in Of Grammatology and in ‘Semiology and Grammatology’, that the medieval theorisation of the sign has been adopted by Saussure and the structuralist science of signs. This evidence is used by Derrida to posit a metaphysical epoch reaching from Aristotle to Augustine to Saussure, governed by the conceptuality of the sign. Within such an epoch, the more homogeneous the concept of...

  8. 3 The Concept of the Sign
    (pp. 50-62)

    I have just spent some time working through what Derrida calls ‘the tradition of the concept of the sign, and . . . the originality of Saussure’s contribution within this continuity’ (OG: 324). This analysis of Saussure’s contribution to this tradition was undertaken in the faith that we can speak coherently of ‘the tradition of the concept of the sign’. It is curious, however, given his efforts to identify logocentric operations in the metaphysics of philosophy, that Derrida should be so willing to speak of ‘the concept of the sign’ as if it had an identity and a history independent...

  9. 4 Writing, Speech, and the Voice
    (pp. 63-85)

    In many of his early works, particularly Of Grammatology, ‘Structure, Sign, and Play’ and ‘Semiology and Grammatology’, Derrida presents the concept of the sign as essentially produced by, and limited by, a certain metaphysical tradition. That claim produces, for us, three interwoven themes of inquiry. The first assessed the originality that Derrida would grant to Saussure within the tradition of the sign; the second explored the identity and history of what Derrida calls the concept of the sign. The third, and probably best-known theme of inquiry in Derrida’s engagement with Saussure, concerns the relationship between writing, speech, and the voice....

  10. 5 The Sign as Representation
    (pp. 86-107)

    We have so far considered Derrida’s engagement with Saussure only in relation to linguistic signs, even if we have had to deliberate the inclusion or exclusion of writing. But the sign is more commonly understood as the basic unit of general semiology, or semiotics, rather than as a strictly linguistic object. Even Saussure, as a linguist, indicates that the linguistic sign is merely part, albeit the most important part, of a more inclusive science (Course: 68/101). And within this field of semiotics, or the science of signs, it is almost universally agreed that the sign conforms to the medieval maxim...

  11. 6 Linguistic Identity
    (pp. 108-129)

    The work of the preceding five chapters has, I believe, gone some of the way towards demonstrating my claim that Derrida’s engagement with Saussure is fragmented, tangential, and implicit. To make Derrida’s writings engage more fully and directly with the Course, to gather together the threads of engagement from disparate sources and turn them towards the arguments of the Course, has required something of the ‘interminable hesitations’ that Derrida found in Saussure (OG: 329). If this hesitating work has allowed us to argue that Derrida’s commentary on Saussure is not always attentive to the detail of the Course, then in...

  12. 7 The Sign and Time
    (pp. 130-146)

    The lecture titled ‘Différance’ was first presented to the Société française de philosophie on 27 January 1968, and published in the Société’s Bulletin in July 1968. In June 1968, in between the presentation of ‘Différance’ as a lecture and its first publication, Julia Kristeva interviewed Jacques Derrida for the journal Information sur les sciences sociales, which was later reprinted in Positions as ‘Semiology and Grammatology’. In this interview, Kristeva suggests to Derrida that: ‘Semiology today is constructed on the model of the sign and its correlates: communication and structure’ (Kristeva, qtd in S&G: 17). ‘Semiology and Grammatology’ itself is oriented...

  13. 8 The Horizon of Language
    (pp. 147-171)

    Let us start again, one final time, from the conclusions and questions of the previous chapters. First, in examining how Derrida and Saussure each approach the question of linguistic identity, it was discovered that the role allocated to the language user is critical. We understand that, for Saussure, linguistic identity is more a matter of linguistic identification, and is solely in the hands (or brains) of the language user. And when we say that meaning is determined by language users, we might also say that meaning resides within consciousness. However, it is precisely this privilege given to language users, and...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 172-186)

    In his translator’s introduction to Writing and Difference, Alan Bass notes that:

    Derrida has closed each of the essays on Jabès with the name of one of Jabès’s imaginary rabbis: Rida and Derissa. In this way he alerts us to the ‘latent’, philosophically ‘unconscious’ impact of Writing and Difference: an expanded concept of difference through the examination of writing. Derrida’s rebus-like play on his own name across this volume reminds us how unlike the Book this one is. (Bass 1978: xx)

    Which helps to explain the exasperation of theorists such as Searle or Harris when all that Derrida offers might...

  15. List of Works by Derrida and Saussure
    (pp. 187-188)
  16. References
    (pp. 189-192)
  17. Index
    (pp. 193-200)