On Derrida’s Difficulty (of Telling Stories of His Life), Or, How to Appreciate Derrida as a Late Romantic

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Derrida’s writings are notorious for their difficulty. Indeed, their difficulty manifests itself in many different ways. Philosophers as well as literary critics have, for instance, found it hard to determine which genre Derrida’s texts belong to. Does Derrida write philosophy or literature? And Derrida is also difficult in the sense that reading him is often considered to be almost impossible. Yet, if his readers have difficulties with his writings, it seems that Derrida has his own difficulties as well.
The film Derrida is a very good example of that. A number of times during the film Derrida is asked to tell about crucial events in his life such as how he and his wife first fell in love, personal traumas, and the death of his mother. Without exception he falls awkwardly silent each time, refuses to speak and wards off the interviewer’s questions by remarks to the effect that he regards these things as ‘too difficult’, ‘too complex’ or ‘impossible’ to talk about. This anti-narrative thrust in Derrida is interesting from several points of view, but most significant is it perhaps that he flaunts it in a biographical film about himself, whose generic conventions have always courted the assumption that it is possible to give a full account of a person’s life. Derrida obviously sabotages the biographical intent of the film, yet also affirms it by consenting to its making in the first place.
This short paper is an attempt to deal with Derrida’s ambivalence towards biographical narrative in Derrida and his difficulties with it, suggesting that it represents perhaps one of his least recognized personae – that of the late, maybe even the last Romantic in Europe.

Original languageEnglish
Publication date2006
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2006
EventFollowing Derrida: Legacies - University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada
Duration: 4 Oct 20067 Oct 2006


ConferenceFollowing Derrida
LocationUniversity of Manitoba


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