Does anything lie beyond a text? Can we understand being outside of writing? Last month, Paul Harris and I met up via Google+ to discuss the third essay in Derrida’s Writing and Difference entitled “Edmund Jabés and the Question of the Book.” One of the shorter essays in this book, it provides a great example of what would later be deemed “Deconstruction.” Using the poetry of Jabés, Derrida involves the reader into this process, using the text to help argue an absolute origin of being. The text is available to all citizens on the free stuff page.
Here’s an example of some of the sections Paul and I discussed:
But—and this is the heart of the matter—everything that is exterior in relation to the book, everything that is negative as concerns the book, is produced within the book. The exit from the book, the other and the threshhold, are all articulated within the book. The other and the threshhold can only be written, can only affirm themselves in writing. One emerges from the book only within the book, because, for Jabès, the book is not in the world, but the world is in the book.
“The world exists because the book exists.” “The book is the work of the book” “The book multiplies the book” (p. 33). To be is to-be-in-the-book, even if Being is not the created nature often called the Book of God during the Middle Ages. “If God is, it is because He is in the book” (p. 32). Jabès knows that the book is possessed and threatened, that “its response is still a question, that its dwelling is ceaselessly threatened” (p. 32). But the book can only be threatened by nothing, non-Being, nonmeaning. If it came to be, the threat—as is the case here—would be avowed, pronounced, domesticated. It would be of the house and of the book.”
There were definitely points of frustration and parts where Paul and I were both throwing up our hands, but this discussion left the both of us a little more assured and ready to tackle more Derrida. If you enjoy what we’re talking about, join the group. On the other hand, if you completely disagree, then definitely join the group.
PEL Citizens (whether members of the group or not), can find the discussion recording on the Free Stuff for Citizens page.