In the controversy between Agamben and Derrida, Agamben dismisses the trace on favour of a messianic idea of prose wherein the divisions between poetry and prose, singular and general, would disappear and a language would come into place, a being in language, that existed beyond difference. His criticism of Derrida being that the arche-trace disallows any way out of differentiation.
Yet, in fact, Derrida's conception of writing is just such an idea of prose. For in Derrida's writing while the role of differance is essential, he never ending oscillation between the trait and the re-trait, fist as Gaston explains, erases the difference between time and space as it is both time and space, and, as I hope to have shown, the overall effect is that differentiation between poetry and prose becomes simply a rhythm, mostly prose, sometimes poetry.
This being the case Derrida's writing is Agamben's idea of prose. Which might explain Agamben's odd blindspot in reading the trace in Derrida and his regular attacks on the one thinker who, in fact, is in almost complete agreement with him on all other issues.
Posted by William Watkin at 12:38 PM Saturday, March 01, 2008 Links to this post Labels: Agamben, Derrida
Badiou's criticisms of Derrida are, as are all such criticisms, poorly judged based on a representation of his work which is simplistic and misleading. Yet his criticism of the reliance of post-Heideggerian philosophers on a certain rhetoric of late Romantic defeat and melancholy is a point well made.
Not that Derrida cannot also be a funny and affirmative philosopher, but there is an over-reliance on the derelict topographies of melancholia and loss. Spectres, prosopopeia and the like are extremely attractive tropes in Derrida's work but perhaps Badiou is right and they suck him into a Romantic discourse of ending and remnants which disallows a reading of him in an affirmative mode.
For me there must be two simultaneous readings of Derrida.
The first is a meta-philosophical reading. Derrida the philosopher of the trace. A reduction of Derridean singularities to a singular contribution to the theory of the trace as a mobile space-time nexus as Sean Gaston describes it.
The second is quite the opposite, a lapidary, occasional, singular Derrida where one reads the moments of his work as moments, without ever succumbing to summary and generalisation. The Derrida of poetry, the Derrida of lines, numerical Derrida, Derrida and animals.
Thus my reading of Derrida will be a set based on only one multiple, and at the same time a set which includes all multiples.
Derrida must be read as a proper name. As both singular, and as multiple, one and the many.
Negotiating a reading of Derrida against the grain, undermining Romantic rhetoric, that exists in the paradox of the proper name as both singular (Derrida of the trace) and multiple (the encyclopedic Derrida) strikes me as the only post-Derridean way to read Derrida that is neither ridiculously dismissive (Badiou, Agamben, Habermas) or mere hagiographic commentary.
Posted by William Watkin at 12:33 PM Thursday, February 28, 2008 Reading Derrida william watkin's blog