Study Guide

Jacques Derrida Files

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Notes to self for my next project

Working title: DeconWHATtion?!: Derrida Reveals All

  • Am doing this book for the $$$$. They tell me it will be front-and-center on display racks at airports and major supermarkets. Oh, how the mighty have fallen! All these tailored suits and hair products are costing me bucks. (Am dying to buy that khaki-colored Nehru suit I saw the other day—how cute would that look with silky-looking shirt and gaudy silk tie?)
  • I need a good endorsement from, like, Pantene or Calvin Klein or even Nespresso like that hunky American actor George Clooney (I kinda look like him—handsome, graying, with a sparkle in my eye). Am I a sell out? Yes. Is there some way to deconstruct my way out of this sordid compromise I have made and save my hide? You betcha!
  • Everyone wants me just to define deconstruction like a big fat sell-out. Journalists, writers, pesky graduate students, colleagues, even my long-suffering wife, Marguerite, implore me: Please just define it! It's so insulting because I think they think even I don't know what it means—that I am like some small monkey chasing its tail. I feel like they are pushing me to declare an absolute truth that cannot be. Just have to keep my eyes on the prize: a big advance and royalties up the wazoo.
  • Must get involved in social media. Love all of the hyperlinks. It's so deconstructy how you can click through endless links and never get to where you want to go. My agent says Twitter won't work for me because I'm too long winded. (He's still going on about the one sentence I wrote that ran on for three pages—get over it).
  • Brainstorm. Brainstorm. Brainstorm. How do I define deconstruction for the haters, naysayers, bozos, nags, colleagues, talk show hosts, theorists, professors, journalists, and intellectually curious?
  • Must get past the anger at my critics. Why am I the only one who has to explain himself? 
  • No matter what, people love me.
  • Am thinking people who don't understand deconstruction may just be lazy (go back to this, but not in an insulting way—spin it). Deconstruction requires work. If deconstruction is so obscure, why are the audiences in my lectures in the thousands? They feel they understand enough to understand more. Focus on the positive.
  • That New York Times interview was a disaster. That Dinitia Smith kept pestering me. "What is deconstruction?" "What is deconstruction?" "What is deconstruction?" I even told her that the question sends me and my fellow deconstructionists into ''paroxysms of rage,'' but she was like a three-year-old with a lollipop—she just wouldn't give it up. To get out of that mess I had to make it about myself, so I just said: "It is impossible to respond. I can only do something which will leave me unsatisfied."
  • Am looking back over some old transcripts and notes to see how I have defined deconstruction in the past. Why recreate the wheel? I know I have a clear definition somewhere. Aha, I knew it! Here it is
    • "What is called 'deconstruction'—and I will be very sketchy here, because time does not permit detailed analyses—has never, never opposed institutions, philosophy as such, discipline as such. Nevertheless, as you rightly said, it is another thing for me to be doing what I am doing here. Because, however affirmative deconstruction is, it is affirmative in a way that is not simply positive, not simply conservative, not simply a way of repeating a given institution."
  • That's just not as clear as I remember it. Okay, so… deconstruction. Deconstruction. Deconstruction. Think! I'm starting to confuse myself!
  • What I do know for sure: 
    1. Deconstruction exposes meanings, ideas, values, and ideologies. Lots of 'em.
    2. Deconstruction is about baring the truth hidden inbinary opposites: male/female, truth/ fiction, good/evil, beautiful/ugly, yummy/icky, popular/hated, French/not-French (Algerian?), famous/unknown, having a lush head of hair/bald, filling a lecture hall beyond capacity/speaking to an empty room (just a few random examples). ADD TO THIS.
    3. Binaries usually involve one term being the bossand the other being marginalized.
    4. Deconstruction means accepting—indeed, surrendering to—ambiguity. Don't use it to determine right and wrong.
    5. Deconstruction is not a noun—it's a verb. It happens, like a shooting star, gravity, or slipping on a banana.
    6. Deconstruction, if such a thing even exists, as an understanding of the impossible.
    7. ANYTHING can be deconstructed: Jane Eyre, Star Wars, The Empire State Building, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Brad Pitt's face in a Chanel commercial, a haute couture catwalk, the way Queen Elizabeth does that ginger little hand wave, The River Dance.
    8. Everything is a text!
    9. Meaning is unstable, therefore stop pestering me about defining deconstruction. (Don't know if this one will fly.)
  •  To recap: Deconstruction is not deconstruction. You just can't narrow it down to one, singular, tidy meaning so you can sleep at night. (You know who "you" are.)
  • Deconstruction means being wide-eyed about the implications, to the historical layers of our language—and that is not destruction, ergo, deconstruction is not deconstruction. Okay, so I think that ties it up and will silence my critics. If they are not satisfied, I will give throw the quirky, cute, romantic response: Deconstruction is "above all an act of respect and of love." That one makes people feel too warm and fuzzy to be confrontational.

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