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Writing and Difference Reprint, 1993 Edition

4 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226143293
ISBN-10: 0226143295
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Perhaps the worlds most famous philosopher. - New York Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 362 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; Reprint, 1993 edition (February 15, 1978)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226143295
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226143293
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #162,122 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jacques Derrida (1930-2004), was born in Algeria, has been called the most famous philosopher of our time. He was the author of a number of books, including Writing and Difference, which came to be seen as defining texts of postmodernist thought.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Begin with essay #10. It's short, it's famous (it launched deconstruction in America), and it's fairly lucid. Then turn to essay #1 for another stunning discussion of the limits of structuralism.
Essay #5 is devoted to structuralism's rival, phenomenology. Just as essay #10 suggested that structuralism can't conceive of a structure with a fluid center, and essay #1 suggested that structuralism tends to impoverish literary texts because it can't account for certain textual energies, this essay insists that Husserl's phenomenology cannot do justice to origins, cannot think genesis. Unhappily, this is a dense and difficult piece of writing.
Next take up essay #9. Derrida is interested here with Hegel's attempt to repress the free play of signification via conceiving philosophy as a totality. Derrida also discusses Bataille's attempt to think the unthought of the Hegelian system, to ascertain what, if anything, can elude such philosophical closure. This is a great essay, but familiarity with Hegel's Master/Slave dialectic is a prerequisite.
If you have read Foucault's MADNESS AND CIVILIZATION, you'll want to read essay #2. Here Derrida attempts to call into question that book's major thesis by arguing that Foucault misreads Descartes. This essay is nicely structured but, for this reviewer at least, not terribly convincing. I also feel that essay #7, on Freud, is not a success. It is so difficult, so tedious, that most readers will cease to care about Derrida's point long before he gets around to making it.
Happily, there are two essays (#6 and #8) dealing with the writings of that fascinating artist/lunatic Antonin Artaud. They are both pretty dazzling, but I suggest taking on #8 first.
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By A Customer on July 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
In the beginning of Jacques Lacan's work "the ethics of psychoanalysis", Lacan speaks of honey that has no natural divisions and is instantly all over the place. Enter Derrida. This was only the second work I had read by Derrida at the time a few years ago and it astounded me. The breadth of commentary, play, and insight in these essays is radical - moving from freud, to foucault, to levi-strauss, to Artaud, to an amasing and important work on Levinas, to writings of his own, and more. This work (is it one or many?) is perhaps Derrida at his most poetical and yet at his most clear. In other works, his knack of writing seeming hieroglyphics makes his ideas extremely difficult to decipher. In this work, however, his play actually opens itself up to what he's doing. Not only that but where his poetics become more analytic, his language is fairly clear and understandable, given a background on the subject (freud, levinas, etc.). In multiple readings through the years this work has proved more and more fruitful and is still one of my favorite works by him (besides possibly the clear and consice Speech Event Context in "Limited Inc.", "Spurs", and "Gift of Death"). This is Derrida's insights all over the place - thank God.
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With this collection of subversive essays, Jacques Derrida exploded onto the scene of post-modern philosophy in Europe and the US though he didn't have a doctorate or teaching position at the time. In it, he demonstrates for the first time his conception of `deconstruction,' an apparently inexplicable concept which enables the analysis of `inter-textuality' and `binary-oppositions,' to be revealed. `Writing and Difference,' is of course a difficult text, and analytic philosophers don't even bother with it, though that may be their greatest mistake, for Derrida attempts (and not without success) to demonstrate that the notion of purely objective, enlightened truth seeking is an impossibility. That the essence of thought always operates within a given schema, a given facticity. "Differance," the famous phrase of Derrida, indicates that writing is necessarily primary to speech, we can see the `differ a nce' in text, not phonetically.

The first essay in this collection `Force and Signification,' attempts to apply a philosophical rigour to the analysis of literature, wherein Derrida explains Flaubert, Mallarme, and a number of others. `Cogito and the History of Madness' is an extremely famous essay about Foucault which triggered a feud between the two intellectuals that would never fully be mended. In it, Derrida argues that Foucault's book does not address the Cartesian notion of the Cogito adequately in the History of Madness, and that Foucault ultimately relies on the same principles of the enlightenment while attempting to expose the dynamics of its power simultaneously. The essay (along with violence and Metaphysics) is a perfect example of Derrida's capacity to deconstruct. However, he moves very quickly and without and assistance to the reader.
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This review does not aim to give a comprehensive commentary of Derrida's Writing and Difference, even less of deconstruction generally. For that, there are the other reviews posted here, or published introductions, of which John Caputo's Deconstruction in a Nutshell is worth considering. My aim is simply to warn you that this is heaving-going for anyone who is not a philosophy student. It is not so much that the writing is difficult, or the concepts subtle or paradoxical, which they are. The problem is that understanding most of the essays in this collection requires prior knowledge of a number of philosophical concepts and schools of thought. If you are unable to define the term 'structuralist', or are not conversant on writers such as Descartes, Husserl, or Hegel, most of this book will be unintelligible. A good acquaintance with modern anthropology will also help. For illustration, I studied history and came at postmodernism from that discipline. So I had heard of Foucault's work on madness; I have a historian's understanding of what structuralism might mean. I also did a year of philosophy some while ago. I was able to get, and find interesting, Derrida's pieces on Freud, on Descartes, and on Foucault: three essays out of eleven. The rest ranged, for me, from the tantalising to the downright obscure.
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