Friday, September 05, 2008

Marshall, Donald G. "Review of Francis Ambrosio's DANTE AND DERRIDA." NDPR (August 2008).

Ambrosio, Francis J. Dante and Derrida: Face to Face. Albany: SUNY Press, 2007. Francis J. Ambrosio tackles . . . Jacques Derrida "as a sort of Virgil to contemporary readers of the Commedia" (6). More precisely, to this end, he deploys a "thematically and chronologically . . . narrow cross-section" of Derrida's work (8), in particular a selection of the later texts in which Derrida reflected on religion. These include his engagement with Augustine in Circumfession (Derrida's part of the book Jacques Derrida, authored with Geoffrey Bennington and published in French in 1991); The Gift of Death (1992), which centers especially on the work of the Czech philosopher Jan Potočka and on Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling; the catalogue for an exhibition Derrida organized at the Louvre, Memoirs of the Blind: The Self-Portrait and Other Ruins (1990); and the lecture "To Forgive: The Unforgivable and the Imprescriptible" from Questioning God, edited by John Caputo et al. (2001). Derrida wrote much more about religion, but these texts are well chosen to resonate with Dante. It is important to stress that Ambrosio is not "applying" Derrida to Dante in the manner of some interpreters who treat deconstruction as a shiny new sausage grinder they can run texts through to produce all-too-predictable results. On the contrary, his aim is "to engage the questions [Dante and Derrida] engage, which are primarily questions about faith, hope, and love, about responsibility, and about writing" (160). Derrida guides Ambrosio's reading of Dante, but Ambrosio is equally alert to how reading Dante helps us "read Derrida better" (132). He mediates a dialogue through which to probe deeply both writers' "shared commitment to forgiveness as the fundamental and universal concern of the religious dimension of personal existence" (11). . . . Read the rest here:

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