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Derrida: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – 25 Aug 2011


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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (25 Aug. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019280345X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192803450
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 1 x 10.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 37,330 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

Glendinning's overview is accurate and informed (Times Literary Supplement)

it's very short, and certainly worth reading (New Statesman)

Glendinnings book is dense and fast-paced; although extensive philosophical knowledge is not assumed, its readers are required to assimilate complex ideas at quite some speed and this in itself will be enough to deter some. However, Glendinnings implied reader is perhaps not the philosophical novice, rather the curious student or scholar made wary by Derridas reputation and the hostility of the tradition. In this case, Glendinnings clarity and rigour, his commitment to careful reading, and his skilful mediation between Derridas voluminous back-catalogue and the inexperienced reader will be sufficient to engage and stimulate new readers and new readings of Derridas work.

About the Author

Simon Glendinning is a Reader in European Philosophy in the European Institute at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is the author of On Being with Others: Heidegger-Derrida-Wittgenstein (Routledge, 1998), The Idea of Continental Philosophy (EUP, 2006) and In the Name of Phenomenology (Routledge, 2007). He is also the editor of The Edinburgh Encyclopedia of Continental Philosophy (EUP, 1999), Arguing with Derrida (Blackwells, 2001), and (with Robert Eaglestone) Derrida's Legacies: Literature and Philosophy (Routledge, 2008). He has contributed essays to numerous books and journals and is currently working on topics in the philosophy of Europe.

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3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By manonabus on 3 Nov. 2011
Format: Paperback
The better Very Short Introductions do more than try to be a simple crib sheet. Happily this one succeeds in being a lot more than that, and more than a mere introduction to a writer for whom the very idea of an introduction is problematic anyhow. Glendinning puts forward an argument that Derrida's work is inspired by a deep understanding and a genuine respect for the Western philosophical tradition and is a contribution to that tradition rather than just a nihilistic attack. He also covers fascinating biographical points whilst showing why Derrida was apparently so reticent about the very idea of a writer's origins. The book moves through Derrida's writing thematically and highlights the latter development of his political engagements.

The style, unlike Derrida's, is accessible to the lay reader whilst remaining uncompromising in tackling the challenge of Derrida's writing.

I don't think approaching Derrida is ever for the faint of heart but if you really want to take a fresh look at a writer who is notoriously difficult to read then this is a place to (re)start.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By C. J. Terry on 5 April 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The one upshot is that I do not know enough to find the introduction illuminating.
I would have like to have seen more practical examples of text analysis.
The other upshot really is what everyone know already, Derrida is by no means easy to read.
Some of the questions he appears to ask are challenging.
But do they amount to a coherent viewpoint?
I'm none the wiser, but that may just be my problem.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ray V on 23 Sept. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The series introduction says: "VERY SHORT INTRODUCTIONS are for anyone wanting a stimulating and accessible way in to a new subject".
Accessible this one is not!! It is the most obscure book I have ever tried to read. I persevered in the hope that all would eventually become clear, but it didn't, and I gave up about two thirds of the way through.
The only people I would recommend it to are advanced philosophy students, but I assume they know all about Derrida already.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Peter Vernon on 17 Nov. 2014
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Good delivery date as usual, book up to my expectations.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 6 reviews
27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Not hermetic. It starts you with training wheels... 30 Jan. 2012
By Ardor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I offer a review only to measure out that offered by the other reviewer, which is harsh and (to someone who read the book) undeserved. The outline of the other reviewer is accurate, but in my opinion, his estimation of its value is misplaced; the introduction acts as a necessary 'preface' to Derrida. Most people have a general awareness of the Theory Wars of the second half of the twentieth century (at least those who would seek out such a book as this), foremost among the participants Derrida--thus, the biographicl opening of the book sets to place Derrida, considering the weight of publicity on his philosophizing and how inextricably linked to 'publicity' that his philosphy is by nature. It also serves as an opening to show how Derrida is a philosopher that is not simply contributing to an established problem but a 'shaker' of the tradition's conception.

Yes, Derrida and his 'philosophy' (read the book and you'll understand the need for quotes rather than pure assertion) can be summarized "to be about the fact that the words and texts are age-related, ambiguous and charged by their ideological, political, etc., contexts." But this is like saying Heidegger is about Death and equipment--it doesn't address the movmement of the thought.

Derrida is a crucial philosopher for French thought (one of the major outposts of continental philosophy). This book is a fantastic intro, that slowly builds up its usage of 'Derridean' language for the newcomer. That said, Derrida is a man enmeshed in a time and place which requires prior familiarization if you want more than the simple explanation for his thought given above. An awareness of Kant's Copernican Revolution, structuralism, rudimentary dialectics (its defintion alone is sufficient), and the effect of Heidegger's "Being and Time" on twentieth century thought is the only primer necessary.

Any introduction to Derrida is going to be a bit difficult, but this one reduces as much friction between the laymen and the ideas as possible. A valuable contribution to Oxford's helpful VSI Series.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Like a helpful professor 10 Oct. 2012
By Ryan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've been going through several of these "very short introductions" and I must say I wish I had read them in college. I was a semiotics major, and I feel like I have much clearer understanding of these writers (Derrida, Heidegger, Spinoza) now as opposed to 10 years ago.

One thing I will say is, these are still dense texts. They are dealing with complex abstract concepts that are difficult to explain in plain language (especially in the case of Derrida). The authors, to their credit, will often include critiques of the original texts, which some may consider attacks, but I find to be indispensable. When I encounter something that doesn't quite make sense, I soon learn that the issue has been pointed out before by far more capable minds.

Overall, a fantastic introduction to some of the 20 century's greatest thinkers. Obviously no substitute for the original, but likely much more accessible.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
In the Beginning, There was the Word, and The Word was "Derrida" 8 Mar. 2014
By Craig - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm not a big Derrida fan, but have tried from time-to-time to understand his appeal (one-time appeal) to so many American academics. Since most of Derrida's own writing is impenetrable (sometimes, I think, by design), I have turned to secondary accounts of his life and work and have found some understanding there.

Prof. Glendinning's Very Short Introduction is for me, however, not one of the more helpful guides. Too much of the prose mimics Derrida's style in its unnecessary complexity, making much of its meaning obscure. Of course that could be the point since actual meaning (outside the mystical realm) does not seem to be possible in the written world Derrida purports to describe, deconstruct or dismember.

Since so much of Derrida's "original" thought seems tied to Plato (who was closer in time to the real logos, that which was in the beginning, than was Derrida), I wonder if maybe reading Plato and forgetting Derrida altogether would be a more productive, beneficial and satisfying use of one's time for those interested in Derrida's Platonic razzmatazz.

Yet the only tools I have at hand to express my views are "signifiers of signifiers." And this puts me far away from the original logos, and far out of touch with the idea of its mystical return, it's second coming, which is, it appears, Deconstruction itself, or at least the prophet of Deconstruction, our latter-day Jeremiah who is signified "Jacques." So nothing I can say, or perhaps merely write, has any meaning, at least not any of which I can be aware.

I think of the decoder rings in cereal boxes when I was a kid. Then I think of deconstruction. Who created the code on those rings? And was the code the original deconstructor? Perhaps there is a cereal box somewhere in the world that still holds the answer. For without it, the mass of humanity will remain forever locked outside the inner circle of secret knowledge that is deconstruction. The barriers are high, and the walls are dense, yet there is a glimmer of hope for my fellows and me who stand outside the secret circle waiting for the cereal box to arrive.

So, for a clear, concise and understandable essay on Derrida in the context of 20th Century European philosophy and why his thought was more compatible with American academic thinking than with that of most his fellow French thinkers, you might want to look at Mark Lilla's "The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics." Then read Glendinning's book if you wish and you will find it a bit more useful than I did reading it before reading Lilla's book.

There is one line in Lilla's essay on Derrida that I think captures the spirit of the deconstruction movement (and I think it probably was a movement, a sort of semi-mystical secular messianic movement, more than it was a real school of thought). Here is Lilla's line: "Anyone who has heard [Derrida] lecture in French knows that he is more performance artist than logician."

Perhaps that explains Derrida's appeal, which could mean I've finally found an answer to my original question - Why does (did) Derrida appeal so much to so many American academics? Lilla has a fuller answer to that, which is both sensible and culturally/historically sound, but I won't get into that here.
24 of 35 people found the following review helpful
hermetic 24 Jan. 2012
By Cronos - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I have always been interested in philosophy and wanted to know more about modern philosophers. I had seen some references to Derrida and deconstruction, but all I knew was that these theories seemed to be about the fact that the words and texts are age-related, ambiguous and charged by their ideological, political, etc., contexts. This seemed somewhat unsurprising, so I got this book in an attempt to probe further into the real substance behind Derrida's approach. Being part of the Very Short Introduction Series (Oxford University Press), I thought this book would be particularly accessible.

The author starts by focusing on Derrida's aversion to his image and his concept that the person of the author should not be considered while reading her/his works. No particular reason was provided at this point about this belief, though I guessed it had to do with not biasing the text.

Next we are told about the Cambridge affair. The author takes a long part of his book discussing the polemics that issued about whether to award or not some honors to Derrida. I felt that the lay reader would be little prepared to relate to this affair at this point, as she/he would not have been acquainted with Derrida's contributions yet.

When the author finally started discussing Derrida's ideas, he relied largely on the opinion of other experts, because it seems nobody really knows what Derrida meant as a consequence of his writing style. This treatment turned out to require previous philosophical background that I did not have, so it soon became hermetic. In addition, the text seems too complex. Just consider: "the kind of high-wire textual performances that so delight Derrida's more impressionable readers are the upshot of ground-floor conceptual errancy." It was at this point that I decided to read directly from Derrida's originals.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I don't think presenting Derrida's philosophy in the context of ... 7 Aug. 2014
By Stephen M Whitehill - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I don't think presenting Derrida's philosophy in the context of dispute with Anglo-American philosophers is a helpful way to open survey of his work.
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