The well-known quarrel between Lacan and Derrida over Poe’s “The Purloined Letter” did not come from nowhere. Consider in this regard Lacan’s formulation from “The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious,” that one is to grasp the letter à la lettre, that is, literally, and Derrida’s counter in the title to section one of his Of Grammatology, “Writing Before the Letter,” in French, avant la lettre, that is, before the fact, before, that is, the literal. Never to shirk a provocation, Lacan responded in the points edition of the Écrits by instating that his insight into the “instance/agency of the letter preceded any grammatology.” This in turn appears to have prompted The Title of the Letter: A Reading of Lacan by Derrida partisans Jean-Luc Nancy and Phillipe Lacoue-Labarthe. The titular phrase, le titre de la lettre, might also be rendered as “the deed to, or rank of the letter.” Here is not the place to elaborate the stakes of this face-off, but suffice it to say that at issue is the nontrivial problem of whether philosophy can think the general economy of signs that conditions the possibility of language, whether spoken or written.
~John Mowitt, in Lyotard – Discourse, Figure, Editor’s Introduction, pg. 397, endnote 7.
[I recently had to type this out for an acquaintance, so I figured that I might as well post it for fellow confuzzled readers of D&G. One should, however, note the suspicion of 'tautological' definitions explicitly posed by Bourdieu, evidently adopted from Wittgenstein, who decried the assumption of Western metaphysics that every word references a distinct object. Rather, says Wittgenstein, we should look at words in terms of what they do: as a 'toolbox'. Here, then, is a glimpse into some of the tools utilized by Guattari and Deleuze, though these are by no means exhaustive, tautological definitions, but merely two-dimensional renditions of multifaceted concepts. For other renditions, the reader is directed to this and this, as well as the following books:
- Parr, A. (Ed.). (2005). Deleuze Dictionary. Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh University Press.
- Bonta, M. & Protevi, J. (2004). Deleuze & Geophilosophy: A Guide & Glossary. Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh University Press.]
[These are my notes for a presentation I made on Structuralism a couple years ago for an assignment on schools of thought related to literature, though I admittedly don't dwell on literature at all. The presentation is about as accessible as I could make it, though many of my colleagues found it overly complicated. Most of the material is from the book European Intellectual History Since 1789 by N. Roland Stromberg, the "Structuralism" entry in the Colliers Encyclopedia, and some websites that I have since forgotten. For a magnificent & extremely accessible comparison of structuralism to poststructuralism (the best I have read on the topic), I direct the reader to John Lye's essay Some Post-Structural Assumptions here.] Read the rest of this entry