Jacques Derrida

Jacques Derrida (zhäk´ dĕr´rēdä´), 1930–2004, French philosopher, b. El Biar, Algeria. A graduate of the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, he taught there and at the Sorbonne, the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris, and a number of American universities. In his famously dense and complex writings he refuted the theory of structuralism and attempted to take apart, or "deconstruct," the edifice of Western metaphysics and reveal what he deemed its incompatible foundations. In Of Grammatology (1967, tr. 1976), for example, Derrida contended that Western metaphysics (e.g., the work of Saussure, whose theories he rejected) had judged writing to be inferior to speech, not comprehending that the features of writing that supposedly render it inferior to speech are actually essential features of both. He argued that language only refers to other language, thereby negating the idea of a single, valid "meaning" of a text as intended by the author. Rather, the author's intentions are subverted by the free play of language, giving rise to many meanings the author never intended.

Derrida had a major influence on literary critics, particularly in American universities and especially on those of the "Yale school," including Paul de Man, Geoffrey Hartman, and J. Hillis Miller. These deconstructionists, along with Derrida, dominated the field of literary criticism in the 1970s and early 1980s. Influential in other fields as well, the philosophy and methodology of deconstruction was subsequently expanded to apply to a variety of arts and social sciences including such disciplines as linguistics, anthropology, and political science. Derrida's writings include Writing and Difference (1967, tr. 1978), Margins of Philosophy (1972, tr. 1982), Limited Inc. (1977), The Post Card (1980, tr. 1987), Aporias (tr. 1993), and The Gift of Death (tr. 1995).

See biography by B. Peeters (2012); study by C. Norris (1987); A. Z. Kofman, dir., Derrida (documentary, 2002).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Jacques Derrida: Selected full-text books and articles

Jacques Derrida By Nicholas Royle Routledge, 2003
On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness By Jacques Derrida; Mark Dooley; Michael Hughes Routledge, 2001
Derrida and Deconstruction By Hugh J. Silverman Routledge, 1989
Derrida & Education By Gert J. J. Biesta; Denise Egéa-Kuehne Routledge, 2001
Reading Derrida Reading Joyce By Alan Roughley University Press of Florida, 1999
Plato, Derrida, and Writing By Jasper Neel Southern Illinois University Press, 1988
Deconstruction in a Nutshell: A Conversation with Jacques Derrida By Jacques Derrida; John D. Caputo Fordham University Press, 1997
Displacement: Derrida and After By Mark Krupnick Indiana University Press, 1983
The Theory Mess: Deconstruction in Eclipse By Herman Rapaport Columbia University Press, 2001
The Force of Law and Literature: Critiques of Ideology in Jacques Derrida and Pierre Bourdieu By Leckie, Barbara Mosaic (Winnipeg), Vol. 28, No. 3, September 1995
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