Issue 39.3


Special Issue: After Derrida

Published: September 2006

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 14 essays, totalling 240 pages

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This special memorial issue, After Derrida, engages the work of mourning. Thirteen contributors offer their remembrances of Jacques Derrida, who died on October 9, 2004, in essays that read his texts affectionately and with a view to their legacy. The issue includes essays by the following Derrida scholars, many of them also his colleagues and friends: Elizabeth Rottenberg, John Sallis, David Wills, Sarah Wood, Michael Naas, Véronique Fóti, John Caputo, Thomas Dutoit, Ginette Michaud, Kas Saghafi, Nicholas Royle, J. Hillis Miller, Michael O'Driscoll, and a photo essay by Elizabeth Presa.

The Legacy of Autoimmunity

Elizabeth Rottenburg

This essay examines the linguistic shift in Derrida’s late work from what might be called the “critical-linguistic” lexicon of terms such as “deconstruction,” “double bind,” and “différance” to the biological resonances of “autoimmunity.” It argues that the future depends on the legacy of this strange, illogical logic that is autoimmunity.

Last Words: Generosity and Reserve

John Sallis

This essay recounts the author’s discussion with Jacques Derrida concerning the question and the import of the chora in Plato’s Timaeus, a discussion that continued for more than two decades. Returning to Derrida’s texts, it seeks to renew the questions that animated the discussion.

Notes Toward a Requiem, or, The Music of Memory

David Wills

Derrida’s 1997 performance with Ornette Coleman restages his questioning of “the event” in the context of music in general and jazz improvisation in particular. Set against “Circumfession” and “A Silkworm of One’s Own,” the texts relating to that performance, as well as the “event” of it, raise the stakes of that questioning to an experience of death which can at the same time be heard as music.


Sarah Wood

Continuity can exist in what Derrida called a “stretch of destroyed surface.” To edit is to be touched by the contractions, displacements and passages disparus of reading and writing as well as to oversee the scholarly reproduction of a text’s signifying structure. This essay sets out from one word: “Meditango,” in the ‘Envois’ section of The Post Card.

Derrida at the Wheel

Michael Naas

In one of his final works (Voyous, 2003), Jacques Derrida expresses in a playful aside his admiration for the craft of the potter and he compares the potter’s work to that of the philosopher. This essay attempts to develop Derrida’s aside in the same playful spirit, following the theme or trope of the potter and his products in Western literature (from Homer to Wallace Stevens), in religion (from Genesis to Romans), and in philosophy (from Plato through Heidegger).


Elizabeth Presa

This photo essay explores portraits of Jacques Derrida through a lens blurred by the artist’s breast milk and Derrida’s own breath.

“Speak, you also”: On Derrida’s Readings of Paul Celan

Véronique M. Fóti

This essay engages with Derrida’s Sovereignties in Question: The Poetics of Paul Celan through readings of selections from Celan’s poetry, together with philosophical analyses and commentary. It points out, in conclusion, that one of the avenues that Sovereignties opens up is that of re-thinking and calling into question certain Heideggerian thought-structures, and that indeed the question of how Derrida has transformed the reading of Heidegger must pass through his engagement with Celan.

Before Creation: Derrida’s Memory of God

John D. Caputo

The analogy between Plato’s notion of khora in the Timaeus and Derrida’s notion of khora as a surname for différance should include the mythic elements described in the opening verses of Genesis. The elements are not an irrational chaos but provide a principle of indeterminacy that gives creation unprogrammability, risk and the possibility of the event.

Mythic Derrida

Thomas Dutoit

Jacques Derrida’s notion of historicity (“Introduction” to the Origin of Geometry) links myth and history. His writing complicates them, read tropically and allegorically at a literary level. A variant of historicity is the relation of voice and discourse; its fable is Persephone and Dis; an alliance that informs “Circumfession” and Jacques Derrida.

“Comme après la vie”: Derrida et Cixous, ou, Apprendre à lire enfin

Ginette Michaud

Entre les textes de Jacques Derrida et d’Hélène Cixous, les rapports multiples, particulièrement intenses depuis une quinzaine d’années, n’ont cessé de se croiser. Mais comment éviter “aujourd’hui” cet “entre” eux deux plus radical, creusé par la mort de Derrida? qu’est-ce que lire, le lire depuis que “Tout a changé, rien n’a changé”? Dans Insister, Cixous interroge, à partir de l’histoire du manuscrit Volant de Voiles, ces questions vitales de la lecture et du rêve. Comment apprendre à lire enfin Derrida? Telle est la question inlassablement poursuivie ici.


Kas Saghafi

This essay explores the occurrence and significance of the term salut (salvation, health, safety, but also greeting and hailing) in some of Derrida’s later work, while highlighting the textual relationship--the constant salutation--between Derrida and Nancy.

Jacques Derrida’s Language (Bin Laden on the Telephone)

Nicholas Royle

This essay considers the distinctiveness of Derrida’s language, the inventiveness of his writing and the force of irony in his work, in an attempt to illuminate the political character of his thinking across a range of topics including literature, the hoax, soccer, psychoanalysis and terrorism.

Derrida’s Remains

J. Hillis Miller

Derrida’s memorials or works of mourning for others function doubly. They put the dead friend in his or her place. They also say the best that can be said for the dead and work to ensure their survival.

Envois / En Soi / Encore: Derrida’s Little Letter

Michael O'Driscoll

In response to a short letter from Derrida received by the author several years ago, this essay focuses on Derrida’s engagement with the postal, the signature, and the paper substrate. Derrida’s serves as the emblem of an argument that foregrounds Derrida’s emphasis on the materiality of writing and the importance of this strain of thought to contemporary studies in material culture.