Derrida's Remains: Derrida's Memorials or Works of Mourning for Others Function Doubly. They Put the Dead Friend in His or Her Place. They Also Say the Best That Can Be Said for the Dead and Work to Ensure Their Survival

By Miller, J. Hillis | Mosaic (Winnipeg), September 2006 | Go to article overview

Derrida's Remains: Derrida's Memorials or Works of Mourning for Others Function Doubly. They Put the Dead Friend in His or Her Place. They Also Say the Best That Can Be Said for the Dead and Work to Ensure Their Survival


Miller, J. Hillis, Mosaic (Winnipeg)


[...] etre mort, avant de vouloir dire tout autre chose, signifie, pour
moi, etre livre, dans ce qui reste de moi, comme dans tous mes restes,
etre expose ou livre sans aucune defense possible, une fois totalement
desarme, a l'autre, aux autres.
--Jacques Derrida, "La bete et le souverain,"

In a remarkable passage I have cited in part as my epigraph, Derrida gives, in the fifth seminar of his last seminars, "La bete et le souverain (deuxieme annee)," one more definition of l'autre, the other. The concept of the other plays a crucial role in Derrida's later writings on ethics, responsibility, politics, friendship, decision, religion, sacrifice, death, and other topics. An example is the long meditation on the phrase, tout autre est tout autre, in Donner la mort (114-57), translated as "every other is wholly other" in The Gift of Death (82-115). In the last seminars, Derrida defines the others as those who will survive my death, "apres le pas d'eloignement du trepas, apres ce passage, quand je serai passe, quand j'aurai passe, quand je serai parti, decede, eloigne, disparu, absolument sans defense, desarme, entre leurs mains, c'est-a-dire, comme on dit, pour ainsi dire, mort" ("La bete" n.p.). To be dead, Derrida goes on to say, in a characteristically hyperbolic or emphatic way, is to have one's remains, not just one's body, but everything one leaves behind, totally at the mercy of others, to be exposed, in what remains of him, in all his remains, to be delivered over to the others, without any possible defense, to be at once totally disarmed.

What will happen, or should happen, to Derrida's remains, now that he is, so to speak, dead, and therefore at the mercy of us others? Who should have the responsibility to decide about that? What is the destiny of Derrida's legacy? Will Derrida's work continue to be read, or will it be rapidly forgotten? Will what Derrida wrote and said, that is, his "remains," be understood and appropriated correctly, or will they be misunderstood and misappropriated? What does that mean, "appropriated correctly"? How would one, with the best will in the world, "apply Derrida" accurately? How should his work be used productively, now that he is dead? How would we (or I) wish it to be used?

"Understanding Derrida" implies a constative or cognitive operation. I either understand correctly what Derrida wrote or I do not. "Appropriating Derrida," however, is a double performative event. It assumes, first, that Derrida's work is not simply the object of cognitive understanding or misunderstanding, but that it works performatively to make something happen in the reader when it is read. Reading Derrida is a way of letting something be done to me with words by responding responsibly to the demand Derrida's works make on me to read them. Second speech act: reading Derrida obliges me to do something with words in my turn, to intervene productively, performatively, in my own situation or context, on the basis of my response to the demand to be read that Derrida's works have made on me.

My context or "life situation" may be, almost certainly is, radically different from Derrida's own context when he wrote whatever it is that I am now reading by him. Derrida is a "world writer," that is, his works are read all over the world, perhaps most often, as is the case with Freud, in English. Derrida is a world writer in English. This means that people of all sorts read Derrida in translation, as part of the extremely problematic global hegemony of English. Derrida's readers are in radically diverse cultural and personal situations. What in the world do all these readers in China, in India, in Brazil, in Norway, in Africa, in Russia, in Canada, not to speak of the United States, make of Derrida? What should they make of him? How should they all use his work? Surely in different ways in each case. But should they even read him at all? That does not go without saying, certainly not for all people. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Derrida's Remains: Derrida's Memorials or Works of Mourning for Others Function Doubly. They Put the Dead Friend in His or Her Place. They Also Say the Best That Can Be Said for the Dead and Work to Ensure Their Survival
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.