A Friendly Response: Fuck theory and leave Derrida Alone

A friend sent me this video on Derrida this morning. It is funny, and I encourage my friend and others to send me such things. But I do want to make a response, a response perhaps too serious for the kairos, but a response that I am forced, by affection, to post. And, yes, it requires some adult language, sorry to the censors. Here it goes: O.k., sure, some might say Derrida deserves this. Derrida is intentionally difficult. We've been over this before: if he presented linear, ontological, easy to interpret prose arguing against the possibility of easily interpretible prose, then he would be dismissed or ignored, or even worse: mis-interpreted as interpretable. See Kenneth Burke and Burke-lovers arguments that Burke was doing "deconstruction" years before Derrida--did-ya notice how no one noticed? What Derrida produced is, in many ways, illogical. Unreadable. An utter interuption of our daily practices. And there lies much of its profundity. It produces an affective response ("what the fuck is this shit?") and that affective response engenders a wave of activity. Productive activity. Activity that does not merely reproduce, but still inventive activity ("maybe it could mean..."). And, I would add, that Derrida is not empty of thought, or of original thought. Yes, his thought connects to pre-Socratics. That's why, as a rhetorician, I am drawn to him. But I don't think such a connection devalues his ideas or his rather unique critiques of Heideggerian ontology, Hegelian teleology, and Kantian / Platonic metaphysics. He contributes to the move from truth as Being to truth as Be-coming. And he brought this movement "to the people" of the academy. People who are/were/will choose to particpate in a very specialized, historic conversation over the meaning of life, relation to God/Otherness, and the possibility of peace, consensus, community, and relation. This discussion, he reminds us (as many others have), takes place in.through.with.around language. And language is not "full" of meaning. And language continues, infinitely, through a series of ands in a constant struggle to erase its limitations. I relish Derrida's difficulty. It is a poetry. I don't necessarily read it for transferable meaning. To do so is to ask it to BE as I see it and to force it into the tradition which it seeks to deconstruct (define: expose the underlying assumptions). Rather, I strive to participate in a mutual be-coming (semination, a semination that dis-es traditional phallologocentric BE(cum)ings). What becomes? Both wreader and text--impossible to Rightly write, a differAnce (this is the worst part of the clip--the book is Writing and Difference and painstakingly introduces the complexities of differance--a neologism that simultaneously expresses the difference between signifier and signified, the impossibility of distinguishing between the different signifieds for a signifier, and the infinite, repressed deferal (deference) of these impossibilities). Differance -> Impossibility -> I am impossible. "I think therefore I am" or "I desire an I (think therefore I am)" or"desire seeks embodiment, I get in the way" or something Otherwise than Being altogether. I rarely read fiction. I haven't purchased a volume of Poetry in more than eight years. Instead, I invest my interpretive/inventive/imaginative energies in theory. While I recognize this might not be for everyone, I am sick of the "because-I-don't-get-it-it-must-be-empty-and-worthless" stuff. Just a little bit. And, of course, this video has created an affective response (raised heart-rate, sweaty palms, nervous shifting) that has triggered my more "logical" machinations. And, volia, post. Constructive participation with others in light of Other engenders production--a.k.a., Fuck theory. Was it as good for you as it was for me?


Casey said...

Well -- welcome to the club! Poets have been sick of being treated as crazies for thousands of years... the way I see it, choosing Derrida has been easy (too easy) for the past two decades. Now the fun begins. To stick with Derrida when the rest of the academy moves on -- to read Derrida even when reading Derrida puts you in a marginal position -- that's when it might become really interesting.

At least so-I-say.

Interesting post though, seriously.

Insignificant Wrangler said...

In rhet-comp, this relationship to Derrida has existed for a number of years: those who deal in theory are often treated skeptically. Understandings of Derrida, even by some quite reptutable scholars, are extremely myopic, and often allow brief sections of a single (early) work to represent his entire career.

It seems fitting that Derrida rests on the margins, the inbetween, a Master of illuminating the repressed himself repressed. In some Other place, a ghost smiles wryly...or coldly, depending on one's perspective.

Mark said...

Boy, do I not want to jump in the middle of this, but let me just say that I don't get as much out of Derrida as I do out of reading other people talking about Derrida. Whether there's anything valuable in Derrida himself, I don't know.

On the choosy choosers choose Derrida tip, the scholarship surrounding him can only be improved by the abandonment of idiot grad students and assistant professors trying to align themselves with whoever appears to be king of the mountain at this particular intellectual moment. Meanwhile the rest of us are doing work.