Thursday, November 18, 2004

Derrida Day

The Village Voice has an essay about Derrida and his abilities as a lecturer written by Leland de la Durantaye, an assistant professor of English and American literature and language at Harvard University, who attended one of Derrida's classes. It is an admiring essay with some funny personal anecdotes like this one:

A group of elegant women invariably sat in the front row. They were often warmly dressed and, to the wonderment of the auditorium, would remain so even through the "sultry" period of the lecture when, after roughly an hour, overcrowding and poor ventilation would send temperatures soaring and induce light-headedness in listeners sitting in the upper reaches of the vertiginous auditorium. Various theories reigned as to how the elegant women kept cool. A man in the seat next to me (himself clad from head to foot in leather) speculated that as Derrida's thought operated according to special "magnetic principles," and as "weather is essentially magnetism," temperatures very near Derrida's body might be much different than those, say, 20 feet away. I changed seats.
Oh to have been a fly on the wall. Richard Lea, irked by the mixed outburst of commentary and reporting after Derrida's death, investigates the most common charge of relativism The critics are merciless:
"Some areas of academic life are indeed pointless and out of touch, precisely because of their embrace of sloppy, fashion-following, jargon-ridden, introverted, authority-besotted nonsense," [AC] Grayling nods. "Very little harm would be done if literary critics and postmodernist anthropologists, lawyers and the like were told to go and get real jobs."
But Lea finds that real relativists are practically nonexistent.