Cinematic Deconstruction: Derrida Gets a Close-Up

The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE, March 27, 2014 | Go to article overview

Cinematic Deconstruction: Derrida Gets a Close-Up


Film draws on 1980 work to bring philosopher's ideas to general audience. Matthew Reisz writes

A director based at the University of Sussex has made an Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded feature film inspired by the work of Jacques Derrida.

Joanna Callaghan, senior lecturer in film-making, embarked on postgraduate studies in philosophy and then worked in television before shifting to a full-time academic career in 2006.

Yet since 2003, she said, she has been "making a series of shorts taking as their starting points philosophers and philosophical ideas: Descartes, Heidegger, Plato's allegory of the cave and the world of forms. They incorporate extracts from the work as dialogue or voice-over, but I always use narrative to embody the problems or ideas...I want to find a way to express academic ideas for a general audience."

In 2011, Ms Callaghan secured a second AHRC grant for her "Ontological Narratives" project and decided to focus on Derrida's 1980 book, The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond. While the second half consists of essays on psychoanalysis, the first brings together a series of letters written by a married man to his married lover. Although their author is never identified as Derrida, some of his real-life friends and acquaintances make appearances.

To develop a script parallel to this text, Ms Callaghan joined forces with Martin McQuillan, professor of literary theory and cultural analysis at Kingston University, with whom she had worked on I Melt the Glass with My Forehead, a polemical 50-minute documentary about the introduction of tuition fees and what we mean by a university.

The pair also conducted six hour-long interviews with scholars of Derrida, including some of the people mentioned in The Post Card. …

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