Jacques Derrida Biography



(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Johnson, Christopher. Derrida. New York: Routledge, 1999. An excellent biographical introduction to the thoughts of the philosopher, clearly presented and requiring no special background. Bibliography.

Lamont, Michele. “How to Become a Dominant French Philosopher: The Case of Jacques Derrida.” American Journal of Sociology 93, no. 3 (1987). Serves as a brief synopsis of the life of Jacques Derrida and his importance to French and North American philosophy. Contains an appendix that includes a list of secondary sources.

Lucy, Niall. A Derrida Dictionary. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2004. An entertaining and informative reference, including thoroughly readable discussions of terms and concepts.

Morag, Patrick. Derrida, Responsibility and Politics. Brookfield, Vt.: Ashgate, 1997. Morag’s examination is directed toward the foundations of legal, moral, and political authority and at the questioning of form itself as it relates to the ethico-political significance of deconstruction.

Norris, Christopher. Derrida. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988. This text introduces Derrida in a post-Kantian light without delving too far into technical detail. Norris covers a broad spectrum of ideas while focusing on the subtle logic that surrounds Derrida’s reasoning. Its emphasis on the philosophical importance of ontology presents the reader with a solid foundation for further inquiry.

Powell, Jason. Jacques Derrida: A Biography. New York: Continuum, 2006. This biography provides an enlightening overview of Derrida’s work and writing.

Powell, Jim. Derrida for Beginners. New York: Writers and Readers, 1996. Powell offers a superb introduction to the thought and life of Derrida. Recommended for readers who are approaching Derrida’s ideas for the first time.

Roden, David, and Christopher Norris, eds. Jacques Derrida. 4 vols. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, 2002. A comprehensive survey of key secondary literature on Derrida, organized thematically. Provides a core conceptual vocabulary of deconstructive terminology.

Sallis, John. Deconstruction and Philosophy: The Texts of Jacques Derrida. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988. This text represents the first attempt to compare Derrida’s deconstruction to Western philosophy up to and including Heidegger. Includes a work by Derrida previously unavailable in English.

Salusinszky, Imre. “Jacques Derrida.” In Criticism in Society. New York: Methuen, 1987. Focuses on the application of Derrida’s deconstruction to education. Includes an introduction to the main ideas of grammatology and deconstruction.

Whitford, Margaret. “Jacques Derrida.” In Makers of Modern Culture, edited by Justin Wintle. New York: Facts on File, 1981. Summarizes the life, work, and philosophical significance of Derrida.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The French philosopher Jacques Derrida (dayr-ee-dah) is the founder of the theory of deconstruction, the main philosophical tenet of poststructuralism, an intellectual movement that from the late 1960’s through the 1990’s had a tremendous influence on the development of literary studies. Derrida was born in 1930 in El Biar, Algeria, of assimilated Sephardic-Jewish parents. He received his baccalaureate in 1948 in Algeria and in 1950 began studies in France, working at the École Normale Supérieure with the Hegel scholar Jean Hyppolite. In 1957 he temporarily abandoned his doctoral thesis, “The Ideality of the Literary Object,” and moved toward the deconstructive questioning presented in his “Speech and Phenomena.” Derrida’s reservations about the very idea of thesis presentation and the tradition of positional/oppositional logic indefinitely impeded his dissertation. Beginning in 1960 he taught at the Sorbonne in Paris for four years, continuing his work on the interface of literary theory and philosophy, particularly the phenomenology of G. W. F. Hegel, Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, Georges Bataille, and Maurice Blanchot. In 1966 Derrida presented his paper “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences” at the now-famous structuralism conference at The Johns Hopkins University, and in 1967, the single most significant year in his publishing history, he published three major works, Of Grammatology, Writing and Difference, and “Speech and Phenomena,” and Other Essays on Husserl’s Theory of Signs.

After 1972 Derrida divided his time between teaching in Paris at the École Normale Supérieure and in the United States at universities such as Johns Hopkins, Yale, and the University of California, Irvine. Also in 1972 Derrida published his second set of major publications (Dissemination, Margins of Philosophy, and Positions), in which he further develops his theory of deconstruction, always within the context of sociohistorical issues. The term “deconstruction” cannot be unequivocally...

(The entire section is 857 words.)