Literary criticism in the 21st century : theory renaissance - Vincent B. Leitch 2014
French theory’s second life
During the closing decades of the twentieth century, French theory constituted a powerful shaping force on many academic disciplines, especially literary and cultural studies. Now at the opening of the twenty-first century, most of its major figures, born between the two world wars, have passed. Yet a flood of posthumous publications, a second wave, has poured from French presses. As of 2013, there have been, by my rough count, seven posthumous volumes by Jacques Lacan; ten by Roland Barthes (not counting five bulky volumes of the complete works); seven by Louis Althusser; five by Pierre Bourdieu; three by Gilles Deleuze; thirteen by Michel Foucault (not including four big volumes of miscellaneous pieces Dits et écrits); and five by Jacques Derrida. More is to come. For example, there are two tomes yet to appear of Foucault’s annual courses at the Collège de France (eleven of 13 have thus far been published). Of the projected 43 volumes to be published of Jacques Derrida’s annual seminars, only three have seen print. We should expect more posthumous works by Jean Baudrillard, Jean-François Lyotard, and others. The leading French feminists, prolific authors Hélène Cixous, Julia Kristeva, and Luce Irigaray, continue to publish, as do leading male philosophers today, Alain Badiou, Etienne Balibar, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Jacques Rancière. And this group snapshot does not take into account later generations of poststructuralists in France or elsewhere.
The current dominant schools and movements of literary and cultural theory, namely postcolonialism, new historicisms, and cultural studies, do not refute but extend poststructuralist work. What contemporary French theorists took from structuralism and phenomenology—for instance, the focus on social systems and institutions and the attention to temporal sequencing and interactive flows—condition humanistic and social scientific inquiry to this day. French poststructuralist concepts remain essential research instruments such as abjection, biopolitics, cultural capital, deconstruction, docile body, écriture féminine, ideological state apparatus, mirror stage, rhizome, simulation, spectacle, and surveillance society. These key notions continue to shape protocols of close reading, of historicizing, and of critiquing. They fill today’s guides, handbooks, and glossaries. French poststructuralist modes of analysis are recognizably different from anything that precedes them (they are distinctive assemblages), and they have not been superseded. In short, they are more durable than anyone living during recent decades in our globalizing consumer societies, so addicted to the newest of the new and to rapid turnovers, had any reason to expect. French theory is not going away anytime soon.
The posthumous publication of Jacques Derrida’s seminars promises to be an unparalleled project among the leading first-generation French theorists. It will publish 43 years of seminars and courses (a volume for each year). That covers his teaching in France at the Sorbonne (1960—1964), the École Normale Supérieure in Paris (1964—1984), and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (1984—2003) as well as his visiting positions in the US at the Johns Hopkins University (1968—1974), Yale University (1975—1986), the University of California at Irvine (1987—2003), plus in New York from 1992—2003 at the New School for Social Research, the Cardozo Law School, and New York University. The American lectures largely repeated the French, although they were improvised in English after 1987. Galilée is the French publisher (it published more than half of Derrida’s many books during his lifetime), and the University of Chicago Press is doing the English translation under the editorship of the British Geoffrey Bennington and the American Peggy Kamuf, longtime Derrida scholars and translators. Derrida always wrote out his material for courses and seminars, which could range anywhere from a few to 15 two-hour sessions. After the 1960s, most of the lectures were taped as well. As I write, three volumes have seen print: Séminaire La bête et le souverain, Volume I (2001—2002) and Volume II (2002—2003), published in 2008 and 2010, followed by Seminaire La peine de mort Volume I (1999—2000) released in 2012. In 2009, the University of Chicago Press inaugurated its series of English translations when it published Volume I of The Beast and the Sovereign. Volume II appeared in 2011. The textual editors of these initial two volumes, Michel Lisse, Marie-Louise Mallet, and Ginettte Michaud, provided the manuscripts with supplementary name indexes, filled in Derrida’s documentation, and inserted via footnotes helpful materials from the tapes such as missing words and his improvisations and oral annotations. They set the pattern. The lectures appear to be carefully edited, which augurs well for the scholarly quality of the project. One imminent future for French theory is its well-curated materials from the archives.
In many ways, the often-cited Foucault series of lectures serves as a model, fastidious yet reader-friendly, of posthumous editing and genre packaging of French theory. Each two-hour session is broken into two parts (first and second hours), complete with separate endnotes and explanatory footnotes. And each of these article-length texts is preceded by a short summary of topics (abstract) supplied by editors containing roughly 50—150 words. In addition, there is a meticulous lengthy index of concepts as well as one for names. Each volume ends with an editorial “Situation,” an essay covering relevant contexts ranging from Foucault’s biography and political milieu to methods and developments across his oeuvre. Where available, Foucault’s own retrospective résumé of the course, taken from the Annuaire du Collège de France, concludes the dozen or so sessions and precedes the “Situation.” Unlike the editors of Derrida’s seminars, the Foucault editors work with tapes checked against his notes. So they must systematically add punctuation, paragraphing, and conjectures on missing words; they have to cut repetitions, patch interrupted sentences, and correct grammar. This is in addition to supplying explanatory notes. Accessibility as well as accuracy mark this exemplary work of curating.
By comparison, the Derrida seminars are lightly but no less scrupulously edited. Manuscripts are the source text, with occasional interpolations from tapes signaled by the editors in their footnotes. As was his habit, Derrida often analyzed at length texts and keywords in Greek, German, English, and French, correcting or annotating translations as he proceeded in his close readings. The textual editors document such variants plus improvised additions from the tapes while tracking down references and explaining allusions. Occasionally, they straighten out or let stand oddities with Derrida’s use of brackets, parentheses, and quotation marks, which he exploited to the full and not infrequently abused. It is not uncommon for Derrida when quoting a long passage to interrupt it several times with his own long distracting bracketed comments. Unlike the editors of Foucault’s courses, the editors of Derrida’s seminars do not supply abstracts, résumés, and concluding essays on contexts. There are no concept indexes. The lectures are not divided into two manageable parts. In short, Derrida’s seminars are much less reader-friendly than Foucault’s. But the same goes for the works he published during his lifetime. To all appearances, his seminars will not be expurgated or “improved.” So far so good.
Derrida’s first two published seminars, characteristic late works, tend toward rambling meditations, performances of thinking. The nearest recognizable genre is the occasional essay. Introductions and conclusions, more often than not, seem mystifications or provocations, but in any case nothing like abstracts, previews, or summaries. Taken together either packaged as a seminar or each singly, the lectures fall far short of the classical criteria for well-made works. When there is a clear thesis, a rare occurrence, it is continuously modulated and delayed, remaining less than firmly argued from beginning to end. Where French sentence structure can often be more relaxed than English, Derrida’s style takes that privilege to extremes. So it is that the promising idea of a clean-cut and comprehensive index of concepts is foreign to Derrida’s work. In his case, it’s more a matter of invaginated clusters of motifs in motion. The “burial-survivance-fantasm” complex that I discuss in a moment offers a good illustration of Derrida’s influential mode of excessive reading. But first I want to consider Derrida’s fascinating final observations for his students on reading and textual interpretation, a topic central to Literary Criticism in the 21st Century. My prognostication is that Derrida’s distinctive mode of deconstructive reading will remain influential for the foreseeable future.
Reading and textual interpretation
At the opening of the ten sessions of Séminaire La bête et le souverain, Volume II, Derrida tells his audience, addressing both new members and carryovers from the previous years, he “will do everything so that the seminar just getting underway may be intelligible without the earlier premises and therefore be as independent as possible from the outset and during its development” (36; translations mine). I focus here in Chapter 6 on this free-standing seminar of 2002—2003, Derrida’s final course.
What Derrida does in this year’s work is compare and contrast two texts, Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and Martin Heidegger’s Die Grundbegriffe der Metaphysik: Welt—Endlichkeit—Einsamkeit (The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude). It’s less a systematic analysis of the two texts than a characteristic free-form and allusive, meandering discourse on the motifs of human world building and of mortality, especially burial and obsessions surrounding it. Derrida offers innumerable short divagations and takes detours on related major figures, some concentrated, some extended, for instance, Maurice Blanchot, Paul Celan, Sigmund Freud, Immanuel Kant, Jacques Lacan, and a half dozen others, all appearing more or less regularly across his broad oeuvre composed over four decades. Along the way many subsidiary motifs, new and old, often conjoined, are developed and explored for the most part inconclusively yet suggestively. Leading examples here would be mourning, sovereignty, autoimmunity, prayer, as-if trope, animals, logos, wheels/circles, nostalgia, and homesickness. At roughly a half-dozen moments, Derrida frets over the loose structure of his seminar, explicitly raising questions about reading and interpretation.
The first instance of Derrida’s worrying the cohesiveness as well as cogency of his analysis comes toward the end of the third lecture, following readings of Heidegger and Rousseau but primarily Robinson Crusoe. “Is it artificial and abusive to bring together all these motifs (the mechanical technology of the wheel, self-declared autonomy, self-destructive obsession and autoimmunitary paradoxes that render Robinson Crusoe his own destroyer and Defoe perhaps his own enemy, his own foe, the parrot and the wheel, etc.)?” What to make of this odd and expansive cluster of topics? Derrida’s reply “I cannot justify in all rigor, I cannot prove that I am right by another argument but this one, which is to begin with a question or a demand: does it seem to you interesting to listen to what I am saying and thus to read Robinson Crusoe otherwise?” (137). Here is a recognizable literary appeal to the nowadays very popular critical criterion of “smartness,” meaning surprising and more or less believable quirky innovation in textual interpretation. Today many scholars aim to be smart. It’s the kind of reading strategy Derrida carries out perhaps most memorably in linking Hamlet and Marx plus their ghosts across his Specters of Marx. In the case of the seminar I would judge this preliminary, highly interesting reading of Robinson Crusoe and its cluster of motifs neither artificial nor abusive, but not quite simply believable. Too many questions remain unanswered about authorial intention, the psychology of the protagonist, the dynamics of textual motifs, and the projections of double reading (Heidegger with Defoe). That said, Derridean-styled smart reading here retains its allure and a future.
At one other key moment in the seminar, near the start of the eighth lecture, Derrida offers a page of reflections for his students on textual interpretation. His remarks address three topics, progressing from the necessity of slow linear reading and rereading to factoring in the psychology of each reader like himself to the techniques and benefits of reading two texts in tandem [my brackets].
 It is necessary to read and reread in a linear, continuous, and repeated manner these two works, each of these readings being intended to promise you surprises, changes of emphasis, a thousand discoveries in moments apparently furtive or secondary, etc. … . Years would be necessary for this … . I believe also in the necessity … and even the fecundity, when I am optimistic and confident, of certain leaps, of certain renewed perspectives for a turning of the text, for a crossing of the route that gives us another view of the ensemble … .(289—290)
Then Derrida adds parenthetically in mid-sentence, extending the central motif of routes adapted from Heidegger and Defoe:
 (it goes without saying that each of my choices and perspectives depends here, I will never seek to hide it, largely on my history, my earlier work, my manner of proceeding, directing myself along this route, of my drives, desires, and fantasms, even if I strive always to render them at once intelligible, shareable, convincing, and discussable, open to discussion) … .(290)
Here he gives bracketed space to intimate critique, knowing it can be neither denied nor contained. Concerning the texts of Defoe and Heidegger, he promotes their double complex reading, characterizing both his goals and the parallel motifs of routes in doing so. It’s a project of enriching interpretation through multiple perspectives:
 To read together the Seminar of Heidegger and Robinson Crusoe, that is to say, two routes, two discourses [genres] also, on and about routes can multiply the perspectives from which the two vehicles can illuminate with their intersecting brilliance the general cartography and landscape in which we are traveling and driving together, driving one another over all these routes intertwined, interspersed, and overloaded with bridges, fords, one-way and detoured routes, etc. (290)
For students the take-away message comes down to unusually straightforward though arguable advice from Derrida. Read not only repeatedly, carefully, and creatively, but also self-interestedly yet convincingly for your audience. Be on the lookout for odd moments and multiple perspectives. Take chances. Expect telling textual blockages as well as connections. Derrida provides unspoken advice too. Select rich canonical figures and texts on related topics, only ones never before linked. Go for surprise. Don’t fret overly about the intentions of the author. Meanwhile, the unconscious of the authors, characters, and readers (yourself included) reveal rich motivations and thematic clusters. Mine them. This is a psychoanalytic version of intimate critique. It’s a question of singular personal obsessions, fantasms, and repressions as well as odd displacements, condensations, and symbolizations. The text too has an unconscious. Work on it. Take note interpreters: nothing is necessarily irrelevant in the freighted language of complex textual systems complete with antisystemic elements, particularly contradictions, paradoxes, and dysfunctional sets of binary concepts, all valuable materials for the interpreter.
Derrida is a connoisseur of impasses, double binds, and aporias. As a reader, he goes looking for them; they preoccupy him. A representative instance in the seminar of 2002—2003 occurs with the cluster of three motifs “burial-survivance-fantasm,” where he reinscribes keywords and deconstructs traditional binary concepts. This kind of excessive reading has been influential going on five decades now. And, I predict, it has a future.
Life death theme
The texts of Defoe and Heidegger address a range of common topics: the state of nature, solitude, the world and its configuration, human sovereignty over animals, gods and prayer (logos), technology (for example, the wheel), homesickness, plus life, death, and modes of burial. What sets Derrida to work are Heidegger’s statements that animals are poor in world, and that they do not relate to the entirety of being. Moreover, they do not die, but rather perish or finish living. In addition, tradition tells us they do not speak, pray, lie, or laugh. They are neither nostalgic nor melancholic. They lack history. They are incapable of the uniquely human “as if” and “as such” transcendental modes of rationality. According to Derrida, all this animal lore is well known and a banal part of traditional thought. He excoriates the self-interested, solipsistic generalization of all animals to the one category “animal” (280). He labels primitive the idea that the animal doesn’t have language (310). To generalize, he is critical of Defoe’s and Heidegger’s handling of animals and, by implication, of their unreflective dominating sovereign standpoints characteristic of Western philosophical thought. Parenthetically, this is ideology critique yet without the word “ideology” mentioned anywhere in the seminar or, as far as I know, in Derrida’s oeuvre. His celebrated deconstructions of several dozen fundamental Western binary concepts instantiate cultural critique à la Derrida.
It is said that animals don’t die, and that they don’t have burial rituals. But humans do, which defines their mortality. Derrida explores this line of thought, particularly the simple binary opposition between life and death. Yet he does so in a scattered somewhat distracted manner across the seminar, which, nevertheless, generates some striking leaps of thought on fantasms and some rewarding shifts of perspectives on “survivance” (life death).
Much discussion occurs in the seminar about fantasms of the “living dead,” of “dying alive,” of being “buried alive,” and of being “swallowed alive.” Robinson Crusoe, for instance, is terrified and obsessed by thoughts of an animal or cannibal who might swallow him alive as well as by storms at sea and earthquakes that would do the same. As much literature testifies, it is possible for some other to burn me, eat me, swallow me, or bury me while I am alive. People and cultures plan their burial rights focused usually on how to settle cadavers, a decision generally overseen by the family, community, and state. In any event, stresses Derrida, the line between life and death is regularly crossed, consciously and unconsciously, in imagining death, worrying it, planning for it, and regulating it. It’s a matter of fantasms, to use Derrida’s frequent psychoanalytical terminology in the final seminar and elsewhere:
It goes without saying that the decision on this subject (burial rather than cremation) can only be the decision of a living not a dead person (what would be the decision of a dead person? Isn’t it impossible? Doesn’t the concept of decision imply at least life and the living person disposing of a future? … ); we need to consider this decision from the point of view of the survivors, the heirs, or the one who gives the instructions about the moment when he or she is going to die but is not yet departed, and can thus speculate on his or her own death only through the imagination or the fantasm of the living dead, at the limit of the dead one who lives enough to see him or her self die and be buried … .(212—213)
The mixed undecidable state of the living dead Derrida labels survivance. “Like respiration itself, nothing is for me as natural, spontaneous, habitual, unthought-of, automatic, and indispensable to life as to be obsessed by the post mortem, fascinated, worried, and constrained … ” (249). The idea of death infiltrates and shapes life. It’s a mode of haunting that produces specters in our dreams, arts, and philosophies. The line between thinking and imagining, thought and imagination, implodes, notably on the subject of death, yours and mine. Living summons survivance.1 The future invades and haunts the present.
Derrida provocatively extends the deconstructive concept of survivance to the life death of the book, to archives, and to reading cast as resuscitation, which activity also touches on the community. “A book, the survivance of a book, from the first moment, is a living dead machine, surviving, the body of a thing buried in a library, bookstore, in some caves, urns, drowned in the worldwide waves of the Web, etc., but a dead thing which resuscitates each time the breathe from a living reading, each time that the breathe of the other or the other breathes … ” (194). Derrida propounds an interactive view of life and death that neither Defoe nor Heidegger could consciously subscribe to. He assigns a profound role to the other against the notion of pure solitude of the existential or desert island sort. This encompasses both the external other and the other in me. Community appears in the background, yet it is there borne along in language as well as social convention.
There is more to survivance, fictional and real. It’s an odd kind of sovereign non-sovereign force or power in Derrida’s account:
Since one cannot be at once dead and living, the dying living person may be only a fantasmatic virtuality, a fiction, if you wish, but this fictive or fantasmatic virtuality diminishes by nothing the real omnipotence of what shows itself in the fantasm, omnipotence that no longer leaves, never departs, and organizes and commands the whole of what one calls life and death, life death. This force of omnipotence belongs to a beyond of the opposition between being and not being, life and death, reality and fiction or fantasmatic virtuality. (192—193)
For Derrida, death is almighty in its reach, and no god will save us. Survivance is what we have in place of heaven-purgatory-hell. Others insure and protect afterlife such as it is, stemming from imagination, thinking, fear of desecration, conventional burial rites, and the sense of responsibility. It’s a matter here of an atomized sovereign force manifested in imagination, fantasm, and logos (the latter defined as discourse, rationality, and convention). But just here Derrida’s claims for the omnipresence of fantasm strike me personally as unconvincing, hyperbolic, and transcendentalist yet, for all that, still provocative.
Jacques Derrida spent a lifetime at the crossroads of literature and philosophy. He was a historian of philosophy, but philosophy was never enough. Literature regularly supplemented philosophy, sometimes enriching, sometimes usurping it. Here is a final exemplary passage, difficult and wily, that aims to tie up, to thematize, the loose threads of the 2002—2003 seminar:
There is not any logic or logos of the fantasm or of the fantom or the spectral. Unless the logos itself may be precisely the fantasm, the element itself, the very origin and resource of the fantasm, the form and formation of fantasm, and even of the revenant.
That is why on all the topics we treat here, sovereignty, animal, living dead, buried alive, etc., the spectral and the posthumous, and indeed, the dream, the oneiric, fiction, so-called literary fiction, the so-called literature of the fantastic will still be less inappropriate, more pertinent, if you prefer, than the authority of watchfulness, than the vigilance of the ego, and than the consciousness of so-called philosophical discourse. (262—263)
It is literature, not philosophy, that gives us to think the living dead, the fantasm, and survivance. Like dreams, it plumbs the unconscious; it goes beyond conscious attention and philosophical reason. The logos criticized in Derrida’s early work, notably in the famous critique of traditional Western logocentrism in his Of Grammatology, is not the enriched logos of this late work. The latter is something else. Fantasm flows in the place of pure reason, logic, and neat binary oppositions, three stocks in trade of philosophy and logocentrism. The springs of the unconscious infiltrate involuntarily the ego, bringing to bear dreams, revenants, and fantasms, the stuff of literature. Death does not simply come at the end of the road marked by burial rituals. It is there from the start, a fantasm shaping life. Derrida here provides a most memorable example of the widespread postmodern return of the Gothic specter. Just so, the 43 volumes of his annual seminars will come back to life.
The last seminar of Derrida, consisting of ten lectures delivered in 2002—2003, put in the form of a 400-page published book, has strengths and weaknesses warranting critical assessment. Like much of his work, particularly the late works, it is loose in structure and style. From a scholarly point of view, it is quirky, inventive, daring—in a word—inimitable as well as excessive. On its chosen topics it offers rewards along the way, but no doubt too few and far between for most contemporary fast readers, me included. It feels slow and meandering. One quickly learns to look for the nodal points, the golden passages where connections at last occur, patterns emerge, and insights crystallize. They are scattered across the work, as are moments of incoherence and deadends. Reading Derrida in seminar becomes a workout as well as a treasure hunt, as is often the case with his other texts.
Derrida breezes past contemporary postcolonial, feminist, and Marxist readings of Robinson Crusoe, offering perfunctory nods. That is too bad, although it is perhaps an understandable judgment call. A professor can’t cover everything in one seminar. Still, to jettison such cultural critiques seems malpractice at this point in academic history. Also he spends too much time on Heidegger, speaking comparatively. He is particularly preoccupied with Heidegger’s use of Walten/walten (German noun/verb designating govern, rule, reign). He notes that Heidegger surprisingly does not employ the concept of sovereignty, which was very much in the air during the interwar period. What takes its place, Derrida belatedly discovers after a lifetime of reading Heidegger, is evidently Walten/walten, an undecidable pre-metaphysical concept connecting life and death via its primordial force, violence, and absolute power that mysteriously flows through Nature, politics, theology, philosophy, and law like an originary drive and ultra-sovereign form of sovereignty. But Derrida remains mystified and unconvincing, coming to no satisfying or sure position, not to mention any judgment. This was evidently unfinished business to be taken up later. Other shortcomings of this seminar? When all is said and done, there is not much offered on animals beyond rehearsing Defoe’s and Heidegger’s views (compare Derrida and Roudinesco). Ironically, the animal serves as a foil for human being once again. It is also ironic that the title figures, beast and sovereign, receive scant attention in the end.
To conclude this assessment of the book, let me return to the plan for the autonomy of the seminar. The major focus, if there is one, of Derrida’s final course falls on human life and death as portrayed in Robinson Crusoe and The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, accompanied by occasional comparisons with a dozen or so major figures. The most productive figures for Derrida and the audience turn out to be arguably Blanchot, Freud, and Kant. The least rewarding are, again arguably, Genet, Hegel, and Levinas, who in any case receive only passing commentary in a few pages. But Derrida refers frequently in footnotes to his earlier works on many of these figures. Indeed, this seminar is deeply rooted in Derrida’s sprawling corpus as well as the tradition of Western philosophy and the Great Books. So his plan to make this course free-standing, however understandable, goes amiss. Without their intertextual backgrounds, often thick and intricate, Derrida’s lectures can appear willfully allusive, unmotivated, and unrigorous. Too many routes get provocatively opened but not followed to any ends. It’s impossible to bracket context and intertext in the interests of purified free-standing close reading.
Futures for French theory
Like Foucault’s courses at the Collège de France, Derrida’s lectures during the latter part of his career were public events with packed houses and heterogeneous audiences. This raises interesting questions and prospects. To whom did the philosopher intend to speak in this situation with tapes and cameras rolling? Looking to the future, it is likely such performances will be put posthumously on CDs, DVDs, and online archives. What will be the future, the afterlife, of the intellectual property of contemporary celebrity public intellectuals? In the short and long runs, it will be a question of survivance not only for the legal estates, but also for the public domain as well as for intellectuals and scholars. It’s a matter, in large part and at present, of digital files and multimedia platforms. But for tomorrow, who knows?
Might the 43 seminars of Jacques Derrida receive second life not only as books but as searchable electronic files or, again, as CDs or DVDs or online video casts? The maverick mid-career French philosopher Michel Onfray (b. 1959, two generations younger than his admired poststructuralists), author of 60 books, has made his lectures on the history of philosophy available in 14 packs of 12 CDs each (published 2004—2010). At midpoint in the series, the last two discs of each pack record question-and-answer sessions with the audience. It is worth mentioning that a three DVD set exists of Gilles Deleuze’s Abecedaire (eight hours of television interviews), as do roughly a dozen audio CDs of his courses on Spinoza, Leibniz, and cinema, plus an immense online compendium of his seminar transcripts on webdeleuze. Jacques Lacan’s legendary 1973 television lecture Psychoanalysis is available in French on video as well as in book form. The famous Foucault versus Chomsky debate exists on video and in print. Moreover, issued by Des Femmes Press, a five-CD package (or alternatively a four-cassette pack) of Derrida reading Circonfession, taped in 1993, set to music in 2006, followed this publisher’s earlier issue of his Feu la cendre in its series Library of Voices. Beyond these copyrighted items, there exist innumerable bootleg tapes of Derrida making presentations. There are many unpublished recordings of French theorists, both audio and video, in the archives of the RTF (French Radio and Television Broadcasting) and the INA (National Audiovisual Institute), not to mention Bernard Pivot’s TV interview show, Apostrophes. One can foresee innumerable permutations in formats and in packaging. With Derrida one can imagine, for instance, the top ten lectures about literature on CDs; or Derrida’s lectures on psychoanalysis available in DVD format; or his scattered late lectures on politics, ethics, and law edited and videocast online; or his exemplary deconstructions of key Western binary concepts like life and death anthologized electronically and suitable for e-readers. My concluding point is that there are futures for French theory, some predictable, others unforeseeable. On this news, antitheorists may read and weep.
1The word “survivance” has been around for centuries in French and English. Derrida’s various deconstructions and reinscriptions of the life/death binary opposition appear across his vast oeuvre from the 1970s on. Gerald Vizenor (Ojibwa) famously inflects this poststructuralist term from a Native American perspective.