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Acts of Literature
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 12 June 2008
Derrida, as one of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century, spend much time writing about writing. Whilst this might seem self-reflexive, questioning the fixed notions of writing (and everything else) was one of Derrida's most typical strategies. Derrida investigates how the literariness of literature comes about, the tropes, metaphors and un-noticed assumptions shapes our meanings, and how the institutionalisation of literature affects Western culture.

This book is arranged into chapters, each featuring a long essay on one writer. Generally these writers are from the (post)modernist, European side of the tracks - Kafka, Joyce, Mallarme - but also include more traditional greats such as Rousseau (regarding his "Confessions") and Shakespeare (on "Romeo and Juliet"). Be warned, however: even if you enjoy these writers, Derrida can be an impenetrable writer if you are new to him, for both his method and his style lead him to be what some regard as obscure (while for others his verbal play is intoxicating). That said, there is also a long interview with Derrida at the beginning of the book (as well as an introduction which goes over the central premises of Derrida's thought on writing and literature) which highlight and explain certain key topics and words. These include deconstruction, differance, the supplement and iterability. Typically for Derrida, the interview is little easier to understand than the writtem texts - quite how he managed to speak in such lengthy, complex sentences I'll never know.

These book is essentially for literary students, or those studying Derrida. As said above, even for fans of the writers mentioned above, this book would be very hard going for people not already someway inducted into the methodology (though Derrida would denounce that word) of deconstruction (he'd denounce that one too). But if you seek a book where Derrida investigates, critiques, deconstructs and generally sets forth upon literature, this is the best of its kind.
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