57 of 61 people found the following review helpful
Dense, difficult, and fantastically rewarding,
This review is from: Writing and Difference (Paperback)
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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Initial post: 12 Dec 2010 23:43:48 GMT
Last edited by the author on 12 Dec 2010 23:46:30 GMT
I'm not one of the horde of Derrida-bashers; I've found his work alternately fascinating, boring, remarkable, pointless and intermittently interesting when he can be bothered to make genuine arguments. I have to say that I don't think you've successfully conveyed why this book is so good. It seems to me that if the point Derrida wants to make is to get people to realise how much they 'take for granted when [they] engage in the act of reading', then to write deliberately obscure and so-called 'playful' prose (actually I find Derrida's much-hyped 'playful'-ness merely whimsical and rather narcissistic) is to beg the question that you are supposedly asking. If Derrida wanted to argue that writing and reading are more complicated than we think they are, it would have been more convincing if he had actually bothered to argue the point. It so happens that, from time to time, he did bother to do that, which is why I for one would call 'Dissemination' a far better book than 'Writing and Difference'. Instead he chose to make his own writing difficult. This was a bad idea, because Derrida's difficulty does not so much direct the reader's attention towards the supposed ambiguities and aporias in other, more superficially 'easy'-seeming kinds of writing, but only on the difficulty of understanding what Derrida was on about and why he wrote the way he did. (Derrida's difficulty does not necessarily open up new ways of reading, say, J.L. Austin. Btw, Derrida and de Man, inventing a concept and giving it an ancient Greek name does not necessarily make it any more real than just calling a difficulty a difficulty, as opposed to an 'aporia'.) I first read Derrida as a teenager and have been reading him on and off since then, and I must admit that the only conceptions I had about the world that have been changed in the process, were conceptions about Derrida. I used to think him formidably difficult and possibly very, very important. I now think him needlessly obscure and only moderately important.
In reply to an earlier post on 11 Dec 2011 17:24:52 GMT
Deridda: much ado about quite nothing.
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