[Milton-L] PS reply to Kim Maxwell

Alice Crawford Berghof aberghof at uci.edu
Sat Jul 12 09:05:35 EDT 2008


Hi, Jim,
Fine, yes, this is all fine, as far as I'm concerned.  I was simply 
speaking to the fairly reasonable impression, among Miltonists, that 
Derridean deconstruction involves questioning (rather than dismissing) 
authorial intention.  I definitely do not want to drag the Milton list 
through a discussion about kinds of deconstruction.  I was simply 
thinking de Man is useful regarding what Kim Maxwell was talking about.

Off-list we can talk about what I thank you for noting as the 
difference between early and late Derrida, and the seminar Andrzej 
Warminski just gave on late Derrida.  I am happy to continue the 
discussion on list if other people are interested, or if we make more 
direct connections between Derrida and Milton.

Also, although I see your very good point, I have a hard time speaking 
in terms of what Jacques Derrida "wanted", etc.  I feel presumptuous 
doing that.  I am still very sad about his passing.  He was a friend.
Warm regards,
Alice

On Jul 12, 2008, at 1:30 PM, James Rovira wrote:

> To my knowledge, Derrida doesn't dismiss authorial intent or any of
> the other means by which textual meaning can be grounded, centered, or
> established.  Without these, a deconstruction is not possible -- there
> has to be something apparently stable in the text before the text can
> be deconstructed.  He's also aware that he can't talk about
> deconstruction without depending upon the means by which textual
> meaning can be grounded, centered, or established, and in debates over
> his own writing often made reference to his own authorial intent,
> accusing people at times of deliberately misunderstanding him.
>
> He wanted people to understand him before they deconstructed him, and
> attempted to do the same with the texts he deconstructed.  His
> beginning point, so far as I can tell, is that these means of
> stabilizing texts (origin, intent, referent, etc.) are absent from the
> text itself, so that a text is always susceptible to being
> deconstructed.  He also includes a political element in his thinking
> in that the regular means of stabilizing texts often support hegemonic
> structures and serve oppressive purposes.
>
> If Derrida did dismiss authorial intent and other means of stabilizing
> textual meaning, deconstruction in his hands would just be a critic
> making up things to say about the text without regard for the text at
> all.
>
> While this happens quite often in scholarship using deconstruction, I
> don't think Derrida is completely to blame for that and I don't think
> he advocated it himself.  He certainly didn't practice it (well, any
> more than anyone else -- we all get things wrong sometimes -- but he
> does seem to demonstrate a serious attempt to understand the text he
> deconstructs before deconstructing that understanding), otherwise we
> wouldn't be talking about him.
>
> There does seem to be some changes in his position over time, too --
> some differences between the early and late Derrida.  The early
> Derrida is more susceptible to claims that he dismissed authorial
> intent and other means of stabilizing textual meaning, but even then I
> don't think he did.
>
> Jim R
>
> On Sat, Jul 12, 2008 at 8:04 AM, Alice Crawford Berghof
> <aberghof at uci.edu> wrote:
>> Regarding authorial intention and de Man, I find this useful.  Would 
>> love to
>> hear what others have to say.
>> Alice
>>
>> "Rather than dismissing authorial intent, de Man insists on 
>> incorporating
>> hermeneutics, or the search for referential significance, into formal
>> analysis, despite the interference that the formal surface of the text
>> presents to hermeneutic epistemological understanding."
>>
>> Encyclopedia of Postmodernism
>> Entry by Bernadette Meyler
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