Jacques Derrida - Various Quotations


Ross C. Murfin  

‘Structure, sign and play in the discourse of the human sciences’, in Modern Criticism and Theory: A Reader, ed. David Lodge, (London: Longman 1988)
The sign represents its presence in its absence. It takes the place of the persent. When we cannot grasp or show the thing, [... W]hen the present cannot be presented, we signify, we go through the detour of the sign [...] The sign, in this sense, is deferred presence. (p.108.)

The structurality of structure [...] has always been neutralised or reduced by a process of giving it a centre or a referring it to a point of presence, a fixed origin. The function of this centre is not only to orient, balance, and organise the structure [...] but above all to make sure that the organising principle of the structure would limit [...] the play of the structure.’ (ibid., 109.)

‘The entire history of the concept of structure [...] must be thought of as a series of substititions of centre for centre, as a linked chain of determinations of the centre. Successively and in a regulated fashion, the centre receives different forms or names. (Derrida, idem.)

Thus, it has always been thought that the centre, which is by definition unique, constituted that very thing within a structure which while governing the structure, escapes structurality. This is why classical thought concerning structure could say that the centre is paradoxically within the structure and outside it. The centre is at the centre of totality, and yet, since the centre does not belong to the totality (is not part of the totality), the totality has its structure elsewhere. The centre is not the centre. (Derrida, 109.)

It was necessary to begin thinking that there was no centre, that the centre could not be thought in the form of a present-being, that centre had no natural site, that it was not a fixed locus but a function, a sort of nonlocus in which an infinite number of sign-substitutions came into play. This was the moment when language invaded the universal problematic, the moment when, in the absence of a centre or origin, everything became discourse. (p.110.)

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Dessemination (1972)
According to this scenario, there is no longer an original light, deriving from the God - Sun of Platonism or from the imagination lamp of humanism. There is only a circling of reflections without beginning or end - “the mirror of a mirror [...] a reference without a referent, without any first or last unit, a ghost that is the phantom of no flesh wandering about without a past, without any death, birth or present. (p.206; quoted in Richard Kearney, Poetics of Imagining: Modern to Post-modern (Fordham UP 1998, p.185.)

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Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression (Chicago UP 1996)
‘[An archive is] not only the history and the memory of singular events, of exemplary proper names, languages and filiations, but the deposition in an arkheion (which can be an ark or a temple), the consignation in a place of relative exteriority, whether it has to do with writings, documents, or ritualised marks on the body proper.’ (p.45; quoted in Joanne Watkiss, ‘Ghosts in the Head: Mourning, Memory and Derridean “Trace” in John Banville’s The Sea’, in The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies, 2 (March 2007) [online].

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Ross C. Murfin, “What is Deconstruction?” in Margot Norris, ed., A Companion to James Joyce's Ulysses (NY: Bedford Books 1998)
[...] Derrida doesn't seek to reverse the hierarchised opposition between speech and writing, or presence and absence, or early and late, for to do so would be to fall into a trap of perpetuating the same forms of thought and expression that he seeks to deconstruct. Rather, his goal is to erase the boundary between oppositions such as speech and writing, and to do so in such a way as to throw the order and values implied by the opposition into question. (p.49.)

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