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3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 27 November 2001
Do not approach this book as you would, say, a reader or an anthology of Derrida's work. This is a dense collection of essays, and at a glance you are liable to be overwhelmed, as I was, by his references, his language and his style. Alan Bass has done a tremendous job of translating Derrida's notoriously playful text, rendering it as clear as possible without undermining the complexity and intertextuality that is so necessary to its flow. This does not mean, however, that it is by any means easy to read. Be prepared to grapple with it and to be frustrated, to re-read a paragraph or sentence several times and still be confused. This is deliberate, although Derrida is not as sadistically obtuse as many critics have damned him as being. Instead, this difficult prose style is intended to make the reader examine the interplay between himself and what he reads, to question the authority of the text, to realise how much we take for granted when we engage in the act of reading.
If you have already come across Derrida's essay 'Structure, Sign and Play' and are intrigued, then this book offers the next logical step, but be prepared. Unless you are superhumanly familiar with the works of Husserl, Edmond Jabes and Foucault, then many of the references here will leave you running to catch up. Get past this, however, and you will find your conceptions about the world challenged in a way that they never have before.
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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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on 24 October 2003
Reviewing Derrida is trying to put value on something that goes beyond the categories of "like" or dislike". Derrida is as opaque, cryptic, oblique and impossible to follow as you can imagine, but if one has the courage and pertinacity to follow through (as much as it can be followed), it discovers a spirit of extraordinary brilliance and originality. In any case, Derrida is already part of 20th century history, so no educated Westerner can afford to overlook him. As for the book itself ( I guess that is the point of this review), it comes in a cheap package, so I presume it targets a wide readership. If this is so, one could use a minimal commentary or an introduction, and, definitely, a concise glossary.
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on 5 April 2014
Derrida has an enormously significant profile in criticism.
I find him tough reading.
Perhaps he urges us to greater circumspection in judgement.
The translation is prefaced by the remark that you can only read
Derrida in French.
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on 10 June 2011
Perhaps not the first book to read if you like to get into Derrida's way of Marxism, but it will make sense in the end...
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on 1 September 2013
The writing style is laborious: If only there could be a selection of the gold nuggets that are buried in it!
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on 12 May 2015
good book. thank you for quick delivering service and kind letter.
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on 29 January 2012
fab book, could read it over and over, still do not understand all of it, but i do not think you are supposed to get it, great buy
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on 7 April 2007
Derrida was a master of bulls**t who piled empty verbiage onto a few scrawny ideas. I recommend Ellis's "Against Deconstruction" as a damning critique of Derrida's central "philosophical" legacy. Reviewers always say that you have to fight through a lot of opacity to get to the good stuff, but whenever this is said (Heidegger...Sartre...Lacan) one ought to be wary. Is it not natural that if a thinker had some really brilliant, earth-shattering ideas, he'd want to explain them as clearly as he possibly could to a waiting world? I think that when a reviewer says that a writer like Derrida is "worth the struggle", they are really loath to admit to themselves that they have put in all that work for nothing. Save yourself the bother.
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