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Of Grammatology Corrected Edition

3.6 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 000-0801858305
ISBN-10: 0801858305
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Editorial Reviews

Review

The translation is a noble job, and we should be grateful to have this distinguished book in our hands... [Spivak's] situating of Derrida among his precursors―Nietzsche, Freud, Heidegger, Husserl―and contemporaries―Lacan, Foucault, and the elusive animal known as structuralism―is very lucid and extremely useful.

(Michael Wood New York Review of Books)

The tool-kit for anyone who wants to empty the 'presence' out of any text he has taken a dislike to. A handy arsenal of deconstructive tools are to be found in its pages, and the technique, once learnt, is as simple, and as destructive, as leaving a bomb in a brown paper bag outside (or inside) a pub.

(Roger Poole Notes and Queries)

There is cause for rejoicing in the translation of De la grammatologie... Just as Derrida discloses in Rousseau a writer who distrusts writing and longs for the proximity of the self to its voice, so Spivak approaches Derrida through the structure of his diction; no ideas but in the words themselves.

(Denis Donoghue New Republic)

Reading Derrida was the shock of a decentering, the critical shift into a world of the interminable movement of difference, the crisis of any closure. Of Grammatology was and remains the most tightly worked... and exemplary... demonstration of the science of this shift and crisis.

(Canto)

One of the major works in the development of contemporary criticism and philosophy.

(J. Hillis Miller, Yale University)

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; Corrected edition (January 8, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801858305
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801858307
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By H. Montandon on April 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
In the context of Derrida's early project - to provide a critique of the foundational human science - linguistics - Of Grammatology is an essential book. In it he develops ideas about "writing" and about the "trace", ideas which illuminate much about the modern science of linguistics. His work is an astringent when applied to other more "analytical" philosophers of language (e.g. John Searle).
Derrida's writing style may seem difficult at first, until one realizes that it embodies two other important ideas - play and undecideability. Of Grammatology is not exactly a book of philosophy, and not exactly a book on linguistics, and not exactly a literary work but one which rests uneasily among these three disciplines. By not drawing conclusions, by keeping in play many concepts at once, Derrida manages to provide provocative ideas on mental representations while at the same time instantiating these ideas in the ebb and flow of the work itself.
Because of its kalidescopic style, the book can be read for the pure enjoyment of a rambunctious entertainment, and as an important philosophical text, and as a satire, and as profoundly serious.
As the academic furor over "decontruction" dies down, Derrida's work perhaps can begun to be read for its human importance. Those who value an insistent questioning will find a champion here.
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I was unable to figure out what this book meant. I kept reading, hoping things would get clearer, but I got the impression that the language just kept on going round in self referential circles, not actually talking about anything clear that I could grasp. It's like, just when I thought it was about to come out and say something that made sense, it seemed to end up saying something else instead. Infuriating. Can someone please sum up what Derrida was trying to say here?
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First, the translation is not so much of a translation at all. We know that many French words were borrowed into English. But their usage in English is very different from French. Even if the word looks similar or the same, you cannot just leave it in your translation without translating it. For example, "exergue" means "a space on a coin, token, or medal usually on the reverse below the central part of the design" according to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary. But in French, in addition to this meaning, it can also mean "citation placée hors-texte, à droite en début d'ouvrage, d'article ou de chapitre, qui illustre le propos du texte." (i.e. "citation placed on a seperate page outside the text on the right at the beginning of a work, of an article, or of a chapter to illustrate the point of the text". In fact the exergue is quite easily understandable in French. But if you put it directly into English, it is much less understandable. What does it have to do with a coin? Thus a good translator would use a normal English word to convey the same meaning. It is obvious that Spivak is a great scholar who knows a lot. It is probably not a problem for her to use "exergue" in the French way in an English text, since she understands the word and it it not a problem for her and also it might sound more impressive than an ordinary English word. Sometimes scholars try to use big words to just sound erudite. I have no objection to using big words as long as the usage is justified. But using big words to sound more impressive is just pretentious. Thus in this translation there are many problems with this kind of lack of translation by using the original French term. Derrida is difficult to read. But he is much better in French.Read more ›
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This volume is central to Derrida's project and is, perhaps, his single most important work. In it, one finds the essentail contentions that inform his other essays. Whether one views, from the analytic tradition, these concepts as indulgent rubish or as culmination of a pre-Socratic force hidden under the ubiquitous effects of Plato and Aristotle, they are critical in understanding the disjunctions of philosophy.
While Derrida's writing may be difficult because it is both dense and playful, allusive and iconoclastic,these presentational "quirks" are not empty but tied to the basic structures of his argumentation.
Since its publication, popular characterizations of this book have attributed to it positions it does not hold. Derrida is, among his other gifts, a scholar of the first order and behind his statements are close readings of many of the philosphical greats that preceded his effort. This is not the babbling of the manic mind but a huge encounter with the dominant tradition of interpretation.
Such a gigantic target cannot be exhausted in one volume, but even if one wishes to affirm the analytic tradition, this volume should be read with the respect and care one gives a worthy enemy.
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I first read this in the eighties, before I was ready. If you want to understand deconstruction, I was told, "Of Grammatology" is the singlemost important text. Then I read the excellent introduction by Christopher Norris, went back and re-read Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," went back and read Plato's "Phaedrus," which Pirsig deconstructs in "Zen." Finally, the pieces came together and it became possible to appreciate Derrida for the genuine philosopher/philologist/phenomenologist/existential thinker that he is.
In reading Derrida I find it useful to keep in mind several key ideas: first, language, spoken or written, is subject to the movement of "real" time. Any "now"utterance is necessarily a past "trace" and a hypothetical future. 2nd, language is not the expression of thought; rather, language "is" pure consciousness. All ideas are words, all words are "interpretations," meanings made by human minds. Hence, there is no escaping the "text." We can "know" nothing beyond the interpretations of the thinking (language-using/meaning-making) human subject. 3rd, the text, while "intranscendable," is necessarily inexhaustible, since every signified must in turn become a signifier. Hence, the awesome (dis)play of language by a thinking subject such as "Shakespeare," whose metaphors never attempt to posit a reality beyond the human world of language (there are no "truth claims" in Shakespeare's sonnets: every meaning can be "proven" by the words which create it. 4th, any "opposition" is more a trick/trope of language than an actual "event." Speaking vs. writing. male vs. female, white vs.
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