Love That Derrida

I sort of hate to agree with The National Review about anything, but then it’s not my fault: if the left will insist on being so silly all the time, they have only themselves to blame. Anyway this is a very funny piece about Jacques Derrida and his inexplicable hold over the minds of far too many literary critics and other “theorists”.

Indeed, the critical point to be borne in mind with regards to Derrida…is that he is not now, nor has he ever been, a philosopher in any recognizable sense of the word, nor even a trafficker in significant ideas; he is rather a intellectual con artist, a polysyllabic grifter who has duped roughly half the humanities professors in the United States…into believing that postmodernism has an underlying theoretical rationale.

This is something I have been wondering about for years. What is it about literary critics that makes them so easy to fool? What is up with them, that they can be buffaloed into thinking someone is a profound and original thinker in a field not their own when all the other thinkers in that field could have told them he’s just a popularizer with a dash of vaudeville? Literary critics used to be such decent, modest, hard-working people, quietly reading their books and pondering ambiguity and metaphor, a nice harmless activity and, when done well, quite interesting and stimulating to youthful minds. But that’s all in the past, now they do Theory, and they are very keen for you to know that they do Theory and how important it is and how omniscient it makes them. Chaos theory, quantum gravity, paradigm shifts, de-centering the discourse of the hegemonizer, valorizing the signifier of Otherness, none of it is too much for them.

The fact that Derrida’s influence is least felt in the very discipline he claims to practice testifies to the ascendancy of dilettantism in the humanities.

Oh dear. It’s true. One has met a few such dilettantes in one’s time, and one has read or skimmed a great many of their books. They are out there, neglecting the metaphors and ambiguities for the sake of a bogus High Theory about every subject except the one they actually wrote their dissertations on. They are the snappiest dressers though.

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