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Derrida somnambule

Thomson, S. (2021) Derrida somnambule. Angelaki: Journal of Theoretical Humanities, 26 (5). pp. 101-106. ISSN 1469-2899

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/0969725X.2021.1963084


This article traces the appearance of the rhetoric of somnambulism in Derrida’s writing, arguing that it undergoes a late (and subtle, but important) shift, germane to the concerns of the seminars on the beast and the sovereign. Until around 1997, all instances of the term position sleepwalking in the third person, and seem to point at it as a property of an other in which the speaker would have no part. This gesture risks short-circuiting the ways in which Derrida otherwise complicates the dialectic of sleep and waking, underwriting a vigilance that would be rather classic and assured, and indeed constituting a moment of mastery at odds with the decentring impetus of deconstruction. The turn that leads to Derrida saying ‘je somnambule’, in the first person, in Fichus marks an acknowledgement of this problem and an attempt to negotiate it. What is at stake is the problematic mastery of the critic of mastery; a problem which, I contend, becomes all the more important as critical theory confronts a rise in authoritarian thinking. Examining the theatre of prize- and thanks-giving in Fichus, alongside similar concerns in Genèses, généalogies, genres et le génie, and the problems of intellectual celebrity in La contre-allée, provides a space for meditating on the constitution of critical authority, and most especially the need to avoid meeting urgency with a critical state of exception that caricatures the power it confronts.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Literature
ID Code:89810
Publisher:Taylor and Francis Group


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