Derrida’s Of Grammatology in Ten Weeks

Wikipedia’s page on Derrida and Of Grammatology is dreadful, and the internet apparently is not vast enough to have any good alternatives.

So I’m going to read the book over the next ten weeks, posting about what I’ve read each week. I’ll update this page to reflect my progress. The goal is to explain Derrida in an understandable, accessible way.

The sections:

Part I: Writing Before the Letter

1 Exergue

2 The End of the Book and the Beginning of Writing

Linguistics and Grammatology

Part II: Nature, Culture, Writing

4 The Violence of the Letter: From Levi-Strauss to Rousseau

5 “….That Dangerous Supplement…”

6 Genesis and Structure of the Essay on the Origin of Languages Part I

7 Genesis and Structure of the Essay on the Origin of Languages Part II

8 Genesis and Structure of the Essay on the Origin of Languages Part III

9 From/Of the Supplement to the Source: The Theory of Writing

10 Derrida Explained

I believe the only knowledge of theory necessary to understand Of Grammatology is a basic understanding of Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics.

Derrida trots out big names in philosophy: Hegel, Heidegger, Kant, Jakobson, Nietzsche, etc. all get face time, and as my knowledge of continental philosophy is nothing more than a rusty thumb tack, his refutations and interpretations of their philosophy will be largely unexamined by me. This means I will focus more on what he writes rather than his place in the historical philosophical context. I hope so, anyway.

I’m also going to keep a glossary for the more important terms. That will be on this page.

This website seems to be the best Derrida resource on the web. Academic gobbledygook abounds.

And that’s it.

Glossary

Grammatology: the science of writing, specifically one that overtakes the idea of logocentrism.

Language (langue) is our, and only, first vocab word of this chapter. We will define it, loosely, as “that which encompasses all signifiers, along with the rules for deriving their meaning. Language is abstracted a level above speech, it exists on the same abstract plane as writing.”

Logocentrism: The Wikipedia term is gobbedlygook. This one is central to Of Grammatology.

1.”The metaphysics of phonetic writing… which was fundamentally… nothing but the most original and powerful ethnocentrism” (OG 3).

2. A focus on Logos as the avenue to truth. This makes writing subordinate to speech in Western philosophy. Derrida believes this is wrong and bad.

Logos: see wikipedia Briefly, a philosophical term that conflates vocal speech and divine knowledge, i.e. Speech is closer to transcendental truth (an atheistic way of saying divine knowledge) than writing is. It’s a loaded term.

Phoneme: Taken straight from Wikipedia: the smallest segmental unit of sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances[1].


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    • Derrida Fan
    • April 17th, 2011

    The explanations you posted really helped. Would you be able to post the rest any time soon?

    • mike
    • February 26th, 2012

    Yo please finish this!!! It would be greatly appreciated

    • Elham
    • May 11th, 2014

    Thank you very much, they’re great!
    What happened to the rest of that??

      • deconstructionapplied
      • May 11th, 2014

      These were a lot of work! I intend to return to this project at some point in the future, as I feel Derrida is underappreciated and has a lot to offer. I’ve started blogging at willstamped.wordpress.com, and when I continue this series it will be over there.

      I hope to begin working on it towards the end of the summer.

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