Saturday, July 31, 2010

Earlie, Paul. Review of David Mikics, WHO WAS JACQUES DERRIDA?. MOR July 6, 2010.

Mikics, David. Who Was Jacques Derrida? An Intellectual Biography. New Haven: Yale UP, 2010.

Before he ever puts pen to paper, the biographer of Jacques Derrida is faced with an immense stumbling block: a body of work which is in many ways anathema to the art of biography. For David Mikics's Who Was Jacques Derrida? - which claims to be the first objective account of the life and work of 'the most famous North African thinker (along with Albert Camus) since Augustine' - the stakes are dauntingly high. Derrida spent the greater part of his philosophical career demonstrating the dangers inherent in simplifying or unifying the meaning of a text or a corpus; the same holds true, no doubt, for the art of biography.

David Mikics surmounts this difficulty by largely jettisoning biographical detail from the pages of Who Was Jacques Derrida? The reader looking for the standard staples of biography - a robust genealogy, the drama of intellectual apprenticeship, lurid details of trysts and other romantic entanglements - will be for the most part disappointed. Mikics's primary focus is the structural and genetic relationship between Derrida's texts: a task he takes up with admirable skill and scholarly rigour. . . .

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