Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Patton, Paul. "Review of Jacques Derrida's PSYCHE: INVENTIONS OF THE OTHER." NDPR May 20, 2008.

Derrida, Jacques. Psyche: Inventions of the Other. 2 Vols. Ed. Peggy Kamuf and Elizabeth Rottenberg. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2007. This volume is the first installment of the English translation of what the editors call a 'work' by Derrida that was originally published in French in 1987 and then republished in two volumes with two additional essays in 1998. It makes up slightly more than half of the original 'work'. However, it is not the first English translation of much of the work that is collected here. Eleven out of the sixteen essays have long been available in English language journals and edited collections. Or almost. As the editors point out, it is misleading to say that these essays were available, firstly because Derrida revised them for inclusion in the French Psyché so that none corresponds exactly to the versions previously published in English, and secondly because the editors themselves have revised the previous translations, sometimes extensively, in accordance with their own principle of 'allegiance or alliance to the idiom of Derrida's writing' (x). Derrida's preface to Psyche describes the contents as texts that have 'accompanied, in some fashion, the works I have published over the last ten years' (xii). This is not so much a 'work' then as a collection of texts that accompanied, in some yet to be determined sense, the works that Derrida published in French between 1977 and 1987, including Spurs: Nietzsche's Styles (1978), Truth in Painting (1978), The Post-Card (1980) and a number of smaller works. In his preface, Derrida suggests that there are connecting threads that link the diverse texts collected in Psyche, although he does not spell out what these might be. The placement of "Psyche: Invention of the Other" at the beginning of the book suggests it provides the frame or theoretical space in which the other texts "link up or correspond to one another" (xii). In French, a psyché is a full length mirror that can be turned at will to reflect what stands at different angles before or behind it. In effect, this collection provides something like a reflection or snapshot of the activity of the French philosopher over this decade. It includes texts written for a variety of occasions ranging from lectures delivered at conferences or colloquia to essays written for collections or special issues of journals devoted to a particular topic or figure. The contents range from important and substantial essays that take up themes of Derrida's earlier or later works to very occasional pieces written to accompany exhibitions, theatrical performances or publications of work by others. Some of the latter are so slight that the reader may well wonder what justifies their inclusion over and above the narcissism that, as Derrida openly acknowledges in his preface, accompanies every gesture of publication, let alone the gesture of republishing that which was already published (xiii). It is not because these texts amount to a representative selection from among all the occasional pieces published during this time-slice from the life of a philosopher much in demand. Another bundle of essays from the same period, dealing with the teaching of philosophy and its place in the university institution, has been published in a separate volume (translated into English as two volumes: Who's Afraid of Philosophy? Right to Philosophy 1, Stanford 2002, and Eyes of the University: Right to Philosophy 2, Stanford 2004). . . . Read the rest here: http://ndpr.nd.edu/review.cfm?id=13124.

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