Cover of the French edition
|Original title||De la grammatologie|
|Translator||Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak|
|Publisher||Les Éditions de Minuit|
Published in English
|Pages||360 (revised English translation)|
Of Grammatology (French: De la grammatologie) is a 1967 book by French philosopher Jacques Derrida that has been called a foundational text for deconstructive criticism. The book discusses writers such as Claude Lévi-Strauss, Ferdinand de Saussure, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Étienne Condillac, Louis Hjelmslev, Martin Heidegger, Edmund Husserl, Roman Jakobson, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, André Leroi-Gourhan, and William Warburton. The English translation by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak was first published in 1976. A revised edition of the translation was published in 1997. A further revised edition was published in January 2016.
The work was initially submitted by Derrida as a Doctorat de spécialité thesis (directed by Maurice de Gandillac) under the title De la grammatologie : Essai sur la permanence de concepts platonicien, aristotélicien et scolastique de signe écrit (Of Grammatology: Essay on the Permanence of Platonic, Aristotelian and Scholastic Concepts of the Written Sign). His submission was unsuccessful.
Derrida argues that throughout the Western philosophical tradition, writing has been considered as merely a derivative form of speech, and thus as a "fall" from the "full presence" of speech. In the course of the work he deconstructs this position as it appears in the work of several writers, showing the myriad aporias and ellipses to which this leads them. Derrida does not claim to be giving a critique of the work of these thinkers, because he does not believe it possible to escape from operating with such oppositions. Nevertheless, he calls for a new science of "grammatology" that would relate to such questions in a new way.
The book starts with a review of Saussure's linguistic structuralism, as presented in the Course in General Linguistics. In particular, Derrida analyzes the concept of "sign", which for Saussure has the two separate components of sound and meaning. These components are also called signifier (signifiant) and signified (signifié).
Derrida quotes Saussure: “Language and writing are two distinct systems of signs; the second exists for the sole purpose of representing the first.” Critiquing this relationship between speech and writing, Derrida suggests that written symbols are legitimate signifiers on their own—that they should not be considered as secondary or derivative relative to oral speech.
Of Grammatology is one of three books which Derrida published in 1967, and which served to establish his reputation. The other two were La voix et le phénomène, translated as Speech and Phenomena, and L'écriture et la différance, translated as Writing and Difference. It has been called a foundational text for deconstructive criticism.
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