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Writing and Difference, Jacques Derrida (1967)

Deconstruct this.

David Mikics
September 17, 2013

Derrida’s bristling new toy, deconstruction, shook up the intellectual world during the late Sixties, and the shock waves are still echoing today. Derrida was an Algerian Jew, a provincial upstart who conquered Parisian high theory with his thorny, baffling, volatile take on the philosophical greats. Judaism turned out to be surprisingly central to his approach: The Jewish sage Emmanuel Lévinas was one of Derrida’s heroes. “Are we Jews? Are we Greeks?” he brooded. “We live in the difference between the Jew and the Greek”: between Torah-inspired ethics and Gentile philosophy. Derrida’s bold flights were often obscure and wordy—but even those who didn’t read him started to say “deconstruct.”

David Mikics is the author, most recently, of Bellow’s People: How Saul Bellow Made Life Into Art. He lives in Brooklyn and Houston, where he is John and Rebecca Moores Professor of English at the University of Houston.

David Mikics is Professor of English at New College of Florida. He recently edited The MAD Files: Writers and Cartoonists on the Magazine that Warped America’s Brain, and is also author of Stanley Kubrick.