Friday, September 26, 2014

Derrida and Olson discuss Composition

These quotes are from an interview between Jacques Derrida and Gary A. Olson on rhetoric and composition:
You have to adjust your teaching according to the situation. I call my students in France back to the most traditional ways of reading before trying to deconstruct texts; you have to understand according to the most traditional norms what an author meant to say, and so on. So I don’t start with disorder; I start with the tradition. If you’re not trained in the tradition, then deconstruction means nothing. It’s simply nothing.
That’s why there is not one deconstruction, and deconstruction is not a single theory or a single method. I often repeat this: deconstruction is not a method or a theory; it’s something that happens—it happens. And it happens not only in the academy; it happens everywhere in the world. It happens in society, in history, in the army, in the economy, and so on. What is called deconstruction in the academy is only a small part of a more general and, I would say, older process. There are a number of decon­structions occurring everywhere.
Now, if we refer to deconstruction as an organized discourse which appeared under that name some twenty-five years ago, of course, this phenomenon, as such, appeared in France. Nevertheless, it was not originally French; it appeared in France as already the heritage of a number of old things—German things, for instance. It was a new hybrid or graft, the French graft, of something older which implies Marxism, Heideggere­anism, psychoanalysis, structuralism, and so on.
So contrary to what some people think I think—for instance, Habermas—I would be on the side of philosophy, logic, truth, reference, etc. When I question philosophy and the philosophical project as such, it’s not in the name of sophistics of rhetoric as just a playful technique. I’m interested in the rhetoric hidden in philosophy itself because within, let’s say, the typical Platonic discourse there is a rhetoric—a rhetoric against rhetoric, against sophists. I’ve been interested in the way concepts or arguments depend intrinsically on metaphors, tropes, and are in themselves to some extent metaphors or tropes. I’m not saying that all concepts are essentially metaphors and therefore everything is rhetoric. No, I try to deconstruct the opposition between concept and metaphor and to rebuild, to restructure this field. I m not at ease with metaphor either. I’m not saying, “Well, we should just substitute metaphor for concept or simply be content with metaphors”.

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