Derrida’s Seminars: writing before writing before the letter


Jonathan Basile in 3:AM Magazine:

After beginning with the end, we have ended up at the beginning. The newest of Jacques Derrida’s seminars is the oldest yet published, Heidegger: The Question of Being & History,which pre-dates the philosopher’s 1967 debut, the year he published three of the twentieth century’s most influential works of philosophy. Derrida died in 2004 and left behind more than 14,000 pages of lectures and notes from a half-century of teaching. Thanks to the critical work of the editors of the French editions and the Derrida Seminar Translation Project, five of his seminars have now appeared in book form in French and four in English translation. The editors began with the last seminars before his death, The Beast and the Sovereign andThe Death Penalty, courses taught from 1999-2003, before returning to 1964-5, to a young scholar’s inchoate reflections on Heidegger, who would endure as a focus of Derrida’s career and the frequent subject of his close reading practice, which came to be known as deconstruction.

There’s an intuitive sense to this distribution. The seminars served as a sort of laboratory for Derrida’s published work, often presaging and developing the themes that would appear there. The final seminars, however, had not yet been elaborated in book form. The Beast and the Sovereign, begun in November of 2001 after the attacks of September 11th, dealt in particular with political themes that Peggy Kamuf, member of both the French editorial team and the translation project, described as “most pressing.”

More here.