Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Can you misread Derrida?


This is a book that I bought on a whim, one of those many (my wife would say too many) books purchased to fulfill the requirements of Amazon's free shipping. I confess I purchased it more for the author's upcoming book, Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism, but I thought I would get acquainted with the prose style, dip my toes, so to speak, to see if the water would be to my liking.

I must say it is well written, indeed, I am engaged so far, and it has confirmed many of my own 'preliminary' readings of Derrida. But enough of what I think!

Jacques Derrida Live Theory is an attempt to reread Derrida in light of the many misreadings that have spawned over the years by those who have either been less than enamored with or those who have been over enthralled with his writings. Most of these misreadings, James presumes are due to critics not taking the time and effort to read Derrida carefully and thoughtfully (I must confess, I too am among the lazy, I have only read, Margins of Philosophy, and only read it once). According to Smith this has led to the creation of a 'derrida-monster', a mythical monster that is alive and haunts the public’s conception of what Derrida was all about.

I am looking forward to reading this book more thoroughly in an effort to correct my own possible/probable misappropriations of Derrida. That being said I do have a strong attraction to Derrida's notion of alterity, and am intrigued by the theological possibilities of such an ethical approach.

I imagine that I will probably post further on this book. But let it be known that my lame, and befuddled attempt to synthesize Jamey's accessible and elegant prose, should in no way discourage you from buying this book, he really does say it so much better!

1 comment:

Sean du Toit said...

While I applaud the effort to understand Derrida, goodness knows I surely don't, this book begs the question: how come so many have found Derrida's writings so difficult/confusing/the-destroyer-of-meaning?

Vanhoozer takes seriously the postmodern program, and engages well with Derrida. But even then, the "monster" rears its head. Can Smith really claim that no-one, except himself, has taken the time to read Derrida carefully?

Or is this book just one of the countless "plays" that one engages/creates as one reflects off of Derrida's verbal strokes?

Just curious, as I'm currently reading Eco's The Limits of Interpretation, which engages a few of his questions directly.

thanks for the post!