Saturday, 17 November 2007

Academic attachments

The attachment to Zizek, the fond and indulgent ways people have of referring to him, are in no way new or worthy of individual analysis. They are to be understood as part of the behaviour of a fraktion of homo academicus. I remember from my undergraduate days a similar stance around Derrida. Now it’s by no means obvious (to say the least) that Derrida comes off best from his exchange with John Searle. But of course, no, Jacques was just playing with Searle, it was so amusing, Searle didn’t even realise it etc. I remember another acolyte, visible excited after hearing Derrida speak, ‘Jacques was so funny’ he opined, ‘pretending he couldn’t speak English very well..’Of course, he and 'Jacques'[he’d never met Derrida] knew this, the Others didn't. The thing was Derrida was always ‘in the know,’ archly clever and ludic. There were no errors or flaws, only masks, ruses, tricks, and other pretexts for complicit laughter. But always this presumption of intimacy on the part of the acolyte, this curious identification with the Master. And in fact it’s not that far removed from how some Shakespeareans treat Shakespeare – he’s unbelievably clever, there’s nothing in the text that he hasn’t anticipated, he’s already stood in the place towards which you’re myopically stumbling. Same kind of thing. The need for the master, the complicity and identification with this genius-Imago… To put it in more demotic terms, they all want a piece of him


Dominic said...

Now it’s by no means obvious (to say the least) that Derrida comes off best from his exchange with John Searle

Derrida at bay often reminds me of a line of Geoffrey Hill's: "Obnoxious means, far back within itself, / easily wounded". There are certain respects in which I think Derrida was right in that dispute and Searle wrong. But the signal-to-noise ratio in Derrida's response to Searle is not high. Of course one is supposed to read this as placing in question certain implicit and metaphysically-operative norms of communicative efficiency and so on, but I think he milks it for considerably more than it's worth.

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