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PH944 Derrida and Literature

Tutor: Dr Leslie Hill (French Dept)
Summer Term:  tba

No other philosopher has exerted as powerful an influence over literary studies during the last thirty years as Jacques Derrida. At the same time, the nature and importance of Derrida's contribution to an understanding of 'literature' remains widely contested. Does Derrida's interest in literary texts stem from a special disregard for the proper boundaries between philosophy and literature? Is philosophy itself therefore just another kind of writing? Is Derrida's impact on literary criticism ultimately destructive, or does he provide us with a way of responding to the radical questioning of literature as such? Have literary critics profoundly misunderstood the purpose of Derrida's thinking about literature? What (if anything) does deconstruction have to say to the institution of literary criticism? What (if anything) does (a certain sort of) literature have to say to philosophy? These will be the issues that will provide the framework for a series of readings and discussions centering on Derrida's best known and most important essays on literary texts, including those of Mallarmé, Blanchot, Kafka, Joyce, Ponge, and Shakespeare.

Prescribed Texts
Jacques Derrida 'Signature événement contexte', in Marges de la philosophie, Paris, Minuit, 1972 ('Signature event context' in Margins of Philosophy, translated by Alan Bass, Brighton, Harvester, 1982)
Acts of Literature, edited by Derek Attridge, London, Routledge, 1992 (contains essays on Mallarmé, Kafka, Blanchot, Joyce, Ponge, Celan, Shakespeare)
La Carte postale, Paris, Flammarion, 1980 (The Post Card, translated by Alan Bass, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1987)
La Dissémination, Paris, Seuil, 1972 (Dissemination, translated by Barbara Johnson, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1981)

Note: this course does not require a knowledge of French; however, those candidates who do possess a reading knowledge of French are very much encouraged, wherever possible, to consult the texts in the original versions.

Course Structure
Seminars for this course will take place weekly, from 2.00 p.m. till 4.00 p.m., on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the Summer Term. Students will be expected to prepare at least one oral presentation and submit one piece of written work during the module on topics to be arranged with the Module Tutor.