No Cover Image

Deconstruction Is/In America: A New Sense of the Political

Edited by Anselm Haverkamp
Derek Attridge
Michel Beaujour
Judith Butler
Cynthia Chase
Jonathan Culler
Jacques Derrida
Peter Eisenman
Rodolphe Gasché
Anselm Haverkamp
Peggy Kamuf
Perry Meisel
J. Hillis Miller
Avital Ronell
Gayatri Spivak
Barbara Vinken
Elisabeth Weber
Samuel Weber
David Wills
Copyright Date: 1995
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 274
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Deconstruction Is/In America
    Book Description:

    What impact has deconstruction had on the way we read American culture? And how is American culture itself peculiarly deconstructive? To address these questions, this volume brings together some of the most provocative thinkers associated with deconstruction, among them Jacques Derrida, Judith Butler, and Avital Ronnel. Ranging across a wide field, from the ethics of reading to the rhetoric of performance, the contributors offer provocative insights into a new sense of the political. The America of the volume's title turns out to be the place where the politics and poetics of responsibility meet. It is also the place where we confront the tension between difference and profound otherness.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-4477-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Contributors
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction
    • Deconstruction is/as Neopragmatism? Preliminary Remarks on Deconstruction in America
      (pp. 1-13)
      Anselm Haverkamp

      The first part of the following is a revised version of the author’s opening remarks to the conferenceDeconstruction is I in Americain the fall of 1993, which appears in this volume in a rearranged and supplemented form. The second part underlines some of the political implications of the conference after the event. The sketchy character is deliberate, since the intention of the conference was not to arrive at a new narrative on the subject of deconstruction but to offer a highly selective approach to certain problems. That other problems are missing or remain underrepresented is a part of...

  6. Keynote
    • The Time is Out of Joint
      (pp. 14-38)
      Jacques Derrida

      Forgive me for thanking you in my language. I a m very grateful to you, in the first place, for allowing the foreigner here at New York University—and this is hospitality itself, with which you are unstinting—to thank you in his language. To thank you all, and especially the two friends and colleagues who had the fortunate idea of this colloquium, Tom Bishop and Anselm Haverkamp.

      I thank them in my name, of course, since they have done me the honor of confiding this perilous task to me: to address to the experts and the redoubtable readers that...

  7. I. The Time of Analysis
    • 1 Deconstruction and the Lyric
      (pp. 41-51)
      Jonathan Culler

      It seems thoroughly appropriate for a conference on Deconstruction in America to begin with literature, since literature—the study thereof—is where deconstruction in America itself began to take root. But one might also suspect that, if we lead off with literature, it is in order to get it out of the way and to get down to the important stuff—philosophy and politics. Crucial in a sense, yet perhaps inconsequential, there to be passed beyond—is that of the condition or the fate, shall we say, of literature today?

      My subject is that combination of importance and inconsequentiality known...

    • 2 Reading Epitaphs
      (pp. 52-59)
      Cynthia Chase

      You haven’t really read something until you’ve read it as an epitaph, said a friend of a friend of mine to whom I told this title.

      Tell them that.

      To read something as an epitaph. Not yet having begun to think, what would that mean? one recognizes the prescription, and one’s head fills up with words. Wordsworth’s. I want to talk about the “Essay upon Epitaphs” (the first one), which is one of the datable moments at whichliteratureandepitaphdefine one another, partly in certain familiar post-Romantic terms: what more obviously than an epitaph should be universal, “permanent,”...

    • 3 Upping the Ante: Deconstruction as Parodic Practice
      (pp. 60-76)
      Samuel Weber

      As the Introduction ofDu Droit à la philosophiedraws to a close, Jacques Derrida touches on the place ofknowledgein deconstruction:

      What is involved, of course, is knowledge, still, but above all the knowledge of how,without renouncing the classical norms of objectivity and responsibility, without menacing the critical ideal of science and of philosophy and thus without renouncing knowledge,the obligation of responsibility can be extended. How far? Without limit, no doubt [. . . ]¹

      To know how to extend the demands of responsibility to the very limits of knowledge, “without renouncing knowledge”—this is the...

  8. II. The Point of Teaching
    • 4 The Disputed Ground: Deconstruction and Literary Studies
      (pp. 79-86)
      J. Hillis Miller

      An ideological story is making the rounds. Of course it does not have currency with you and me. We know better. But the traces of this story’s force are widely visible. A recent book by Jonathan Loesberg,Aestheticism and Deconstruction: Pater, Derrida, de Man(1991)¹ defends Derrida and de Man from the claim that they are ahistorical by arguing that neither of them is really interested in reading works of literature. Of Derrida he says: “Because Derrida embeds his analysis of literary language within his analysis of foundational philosophy, it has as little relevance to the interpretation of actual literary...

    • 5 Une drôle de classe de philo
      (pp. 87-94)
      Michel Beaujour

      The education of French literary scholars has traditionally been, and remains, quite different from that of their American counterparts. Two differences strike me as especially significant. First, young French students who are committed to the study of literature are wont to do a great deal of extracurricular and anticurricular reading. Second, philosophy plays an important part in their undergraduate curriculum. Thus, they are likely to keep on reading a good deal of philosophy in their free time. Conversely, American students of literature, who mostly read books that are assigned or recommended by their teachers, are neither required nor expected to...

    • 6 Going Public: The University in Deconstruction
      (pp. 95-112)
      Peggy Kamuf

      As Jacques Derrida illustrated, the title “Deconstruction is/in America” may set one to dreaming about some rather nonacademic uses for that phrase. He indulged this fancy for a moment by describing what might have been a newspaper headline or a brief story on local television: “I read it all of a sudden as if in a newspaper, a travel diary, or a press release: Hey, deconstruction, on this date, finds itself here these days, it is in America, it landed yesterday at JFK and is just passing through, more or less incognito and for a little while.” One effect of...

  9. III. The Politics of Singularity
    • 7 Possibilizations, in the Singular
      (pp. 115-124)
      Rodolphe Gasché

      Undoubtedly, deconstruction has invited us to reconceive the relation between philosophy and literature as it had been understood througout the tradition, by philosophers and, in their wake, by literary critics. But are we truly prepared to accept that invitation? The dominant trend among literary critics who have looked favorably on deconstruction seems to prove that we are not. By claiming that philosophy is literature, or that literature is philosophy, we already have missed the challenge that deconstruction represents. This is also the case where literature becomes construed as the more primordial genre, and philosophy sees itself restricted to a mere...

    • 8 Writing Resistances
      (pp. 125-133)
      Elisabeth Weber

      In his text “Freud and the Scene of Writing” Jacques Derrida states: “Writing is unthinkable without repression” (L’ecriture est impensable sans le refoulement). Analyzing Freud’s “Note upon the ‘Mystic Writing-Pad’ ”, he comments upon the Freudian notion of censorship:

      It is no accident that the metaphor of censorship should come from the area of politics concerned with the deletions, blanks and disguises of writing, even if, at the beginning of theTraumdeutung,Freud seems to make only a conventional, didactic reference to it. The apparent exteriority of political censorship refers to an essential censorship which binds the writer to his...

    • 9 Presentness and the “Being-Only-Once” of Architecture
      (pp. 134-146)
      Peter Eisenman

      In her book,The Optical Unconscious(1993), Rosalind Krauss discusses a Jackson Pollock painting in relationship to its position in space. She contends that when a Pollock painting is placed in a horizontal position, that is, on the floor as it was painted, it is a “savage work”. But the moment the canvas is taken off of the floor and moved to a vertical position on the wall, Krauss continues, it becomes “naturalized,” reinstitutionalized and reinscribed into the discourse of painting.

      All of this is said with an uncharacteristic innocence about the possible effect of the floor or the wall...

  10. IV. The Performance of Difference
    • 10 Burning Acts: Injurious Speech
      (pp. 149-180)
      Judith Butler

      The title of J.L. Austin’sHow to Do ThingsWith Words poses the question of performativity as what it means to say that “things might be done with words.” The problem of performativity is thus immediately bound up with a question of transitivity. What does it mean for a word not only to name, but also in some sense to perform and, in particular, to perform what it names? On the one hand, it may seem that the word—for the moment we do not know which word or which kind of word—enacts what it names; where the “what”...

    • 11 Republic, Rhetoric, and Sexual Difference
      (pp. 181-199)
      Barbara Vinken

      The feminism of the last four decades spans two poles that could somewhat schematically be labeled identity versus difference; Simone de Beauvoir and Luce Irigaray are their most obvious representatives. For Beauvoir the emancipation of women consists in becoming men, i.e., self-reliable subjects, capable of speaking not only in the name of the particular and therefore necessarily marginal, but in the name of the general, the universal. When Irigaray claims that she is not a feminist, she means this kind of feminism that is concerned with the Subject. The feminism of Irigaray is twofold; in a first step, she deconstructs...

    • 12 The Test Drive
      (pp. 200-220)
      Avital Ronell

      A peculiar feature in the legacy of theGay Sciencelies in the fact that thescientificityof Nietzsche’s use of “science” has not yet been examined. This fact is not to be ascribed simply to some contingent prejudice in reading or to another, equally fugitive, form of blindness. If we have been unable to read Nietzsche’s word on the scientificity of science in contemporary terms, this may be so because his reach is so far ahead of the limits of understanding that our scanners are eluded by it. In fact, Nietzsche’s science has eluded commentators not only because of...

  11. V. A New Sense of the Political
    • 13 Ghost Writing
      (pp. 223-227)
      Derek Attridge

      I saw a ghost last night. More important, I heard a ghost, I was addressed by a ghost, we were addressed by a ghost.¹

      Was it the ghost of William Shakespeare? The ghost of Karl Marx? The ghost of deconstruct ion (yet again risen from the dead?).

      Or of deconstruction in America? Or even the ghost of Jacques Derrida? One of the many ghosts of Jacques Derrida?²

      It said many things, but in saying everything that it had to say it also said: “Remember me!” During yesterday afternoon’s session, Philip Lewis posed a question to Hillis Miller, who had been...

    • 14 The Form of Politics
      (pp. 228-236)
      Perry Meisel

      It is, of course, a deconstructive commonplace to observe that the singular or the unique is the function or the effect of a relation. And yet a political and intellectual climate like ours in America today—a New Sanctimony, if you will, a recall of transcendental categories by Left and Right alike—too often propounds the singular as a value in itself, whether it is ethnicity, gender, or oppression as such. Our climate needs to be reminded of this deconstructive commonplace, not only to explain to Neo-conservatives why and how deconstructive relativism is actually very systematic indeed, but also to...

    • 15 At the Planchette of Deconstruction is/in America
      (pp. 237-249)
      Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

      I missed the first flush of Deconstruction in America (1966). I boughtDe la grammatologieoff a catalogue in the fastnesses of Iowa, my first place of work.¹ It was the mid-sixties. In those days postcoloniality was a dirty secret. It took one to know one. All by myself in Iowa, I was resonating with someone who, like me, was not quite not European. He was (un) peeling Western metaphysics as an insider/outsider. Although the theme of the conference which gave rise to this anthology is specifically Deconstruction is/in America, and the talk is of France and the United States,...

    • 16 Jaded in America
      (pp. 250-262)
      David Wills

      The question of deconstruction in America devolves not upon the possibility of an affirmation or constative utterance—“it is a fashion,” “its time has passed,” “it is too powerful”—but rather upon the performance of an enunciative dehiscence such as that enacted by the title “Deconstruction is/in America.” It would be easy to rehearse a history of deconstruction, indeed of deconstruction in America, that described the essential incoherence of any utterance, a history passing through texts like “Signature Event Context” (1977) and “Limited Inc.” (1988), and recounting particulars of the introduction to the American academic scene of those ideas through...

  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 263-263)