Form and Content
In 1967, the French philosopher Jacques Derrida burst upon the scene of philosophy and literary theory with three major publications: Writing and Difference, La Voix et le phenomene: Introduction au probleme du signe dans la phenomenologie de Husserl (Speech and Phenomena, 1973), and De la grammatologie (Of Grammatology, 1976). In 1966, Derrida had presented the most influential essay to be published in Writing and Difference, “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences,” at the now-famous structuralism conference at The Johns Hopkins University. Among other offices, Derrida has been Director of Studies at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, as well as a visiting professor at the University of California, Irvine. More than a dozen of his books have been translated into English. Derrida’s writings constitute an attack on the tradition of Western metaphysics, or what he calls the “metaphysics of presence.” Together with his books of 1967 and a set of three major publications in 1972, including Positions: Entretiens avec Henri Ronse, Julia Kristeva, Jean-Louis Houdebine, Guy Scarpetta (Positions, 1981), Writing and Difference constitutes an explicit, logical statement of Derrida’s philosophical position. He later deviated from this earlier, analytical style and adopted the nonlinear, innovative style of Glas (1974; English translation, 1986) and La Carte postale: De Socrate a Freud et au-dela (1980; The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond, 1987).
Writing and Difference is a collection of eleven essays written between 1959 and 1967 and translated into English by Alan Bass. As Derrida explains in an interview published in Positions, Writing and Difference consists of two parts. Though the essays in each part are arranged in the order of their original publication, the fifth essay, “‘Genesis and Structure’ and Phenomenology,” which appears almost at the center of the volume, was written in 1959. Moreover, the whole book could be inserted in the middle of Of Grammatology, so that the first half of the latter book would constitute a preface to the former. This arrangement is important to bear in mind, because the essays in...
(The entire section is 960 words.)