Friday, August 22, 2008

Derrida on the Fear of Writing

I'm sure you've heard of Jacques Derrida, inventor of the theory known as deconstruction. Highly controversial guy--a skewed translation of his thinking wrecked a few good English departments for a while there.

His idea--simplistically, that we have no one piece of solid ground to stand on to observe an objective reality (I think I have that right)--was somehow turned into a basis for treating literature as primarily a demonstration of political and cultural assumptions.

Aside from that wild misapplication, this theory is so sound an addition to what we know that it seems like a no-brainer: as if, surely, we always knew that. The name Derrida and the idea itself seem to have been in the atmosphere forever, like the Metropolitan Opera or St. Patrick's Day.

And so I was very surprised to run into Derrida on Youtube, of all places, talking about the fear of writing. The short version is: he is full of fire and conviction while he's writing and full of fear of what he's doing in the moments when he starts to go to sleep. Doesn't seem to have gotten in his way; he's published 45 books.

But it's an interesting version of the experience that most of us deal with in one way or another, well worth listening to. I'm always interested in the kind of conversation between the conscious and the unconscious that he describes. Also,he speaks French (with subtitles) slowly enough to be understood (especially with the subtitles) by a struggling American French-speaker.

Furthermore, I'd sort of assumed the guy was dead. Not a bit. In fact, he seems rather a hottie. So the video undermined at least one of my false assumptions. Who knew the iconic Derrida was cute?



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4 comments:

Debra W said...

Peggy, I read through your thoughts on Derrida and was contemplating everything that you were saying. Then, I got to the last paragraph. And to your very last sentence. And you made my day by making me laugh out loud! Now I will have to go check Mr. Derrida out to see what he looks like.

Hugs,
Debbie

Peggy Payne said...

I felt the really important stuff needed to said.

Debra W said...

He is a rather handsome specimen! Thanks for peaking my curiosity!

Hugs,
Debbie

Peggy Payne said...

Oh, any time.