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Thursday, 24 January 2019

Decentring Western European History … in the History of Western Europe

As many of you will know, I am (endlessly it seems) working on a book about Western Europe around 600 AD.  I work on Western Europe partly because it is what, over the years, I have become most (if far from exclusively) interested in, and partly because it is the limit of my scholarly competence.  I have little time for people who study regions or periods of history where they can’t read the sources in the original language (why yes, ‘Latin East’ Crusades studies, I am looking at you, but not exclusively).  I can get by in reading all of the western European Romance or Germanic languages, to some degree, ranging from fluent (French) to ‘basically getting the gist if it’s not too complex’ (Norwegian; Portuguese).  But my Greek is pretty basic; I have a very (very) little Turkish but not enough to call a reading knowledge (and none at all prior to Ataturk’s reforms of script and grammar); and I can’t read any Slavic languages, let alone Arabic or Parsi, or Sanskrit, or Chinese…  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the main reason why I restrict myself to the West.  The other reason is simply to put some sort of geographical limit on the projects.

Partly, though far from entirely, as a means of making a virtue of this necessity, I have developed an interest in the North-South axes of communications and connections in the West, from Scandinavia to the western Mediterranean, rather than in the East-West axis that has generally dominated the historiography.  I think that has allowed a slightly different perspective on the ‘Late Antique Paradigm’ and a slightly different way of seeing the last century or so of the Western Roman Empire.  Clearly, it’s impossible to study that period without keeping the Eastern Empire in the picture but I maintain that the disintegration of the Western Empire was chiefly attributable to entirely western imperial factors.

One of the many things that is interesting about the period between c.550 and c.650 is that in this period links with the East, the old East-West Mediterranean axis, let alone more far-flung connections, began to reduce further, and dramatically.  Now, this is not news, and not just because it’s stuff that happened 1400 years ago.  If Pirenne was right about anything, it was about the ways in which the North-West, the North Sea World, had become more important in Western Europe, than the Mediterranean world by Charemagne’s day.  That’s not to say that the Mediterranean was without any importance at all; recent studies have shown that East-West contacts were much more important than Pirenne, for instance, had thought.  But the picture, grosso modo, pertains.  In Pirenne’s narrative, the closing of the Mediterrranean by the Arabs, as he thought, led to western Europe turning inwards and creating new economic systems around the North Sea.  ‘Without Mohammed, Charlemagne is inconceivable’, in Pirenne’s famous dictum. Pirenne was wrong about almost all of the specifics of his model.  The North-Western European, North-Sea world was effectively separated from the Mediterranean at least by the fourth century, for example.(1)  Whether the Arabs are to blame for the end of the Mediterranean’s domination of the western economy is debatable; the shift comes a generation or more too early in my view but Simon Loseby, whose understanding of the Mediterranean economy is far superior to mine, thinks otherwise (or at least used to).  Nonetheless, that the shape of western European networks, c.650, differed very importantly from those of c.550 seems incontrovertible to me as does the comparative applicability of the phrase ‘inward-looking’ to those networks.

In even grander narratives, of European exceptionalism, of the Rise of the West and so on, that phase becomes yet more important.  Allegedly, it is this ‘inward-looking’ period that saw the creation of the features, and the dynamics, that enabled Europe to expand outwards, ultimately to dominate the world in the period after c.1800.  There’s a danger, perhaps, of this study of western Europe in the generations either side of 600, becoming incorporated in one of those tiresome narratives about Why the West is the Best, worse still in one of those narratives of modernity.  Rather like Simon Critchley, I don’t really believe in modernity, other than as a narrative construct, and I reject ‘modernity fundamentalism’.(2) The concept of the modern world is a rather Eurocentric one.

It has become fashionable recently to discuss Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages in more global terms.  In some ways this is excellent; in other ways it’s a huge conceptual muddle.  Of course, the rest of the world had a history before European colonization and there were links that connected Europe with most of that world.  Traditional Late Antique Medieval History can be criticized for its Eurocentricity (or Mediterranean-basin-ocentricity) but I am not sure that foisting European periodization on the rest of the world is any less Eurocentric; perhaps it is more so.  I recently received a ‘reply-all’ email criticizing a proposed history general course for being divided into Medieval, Early Modern and Modern on the grounds that that periodization made no sense outside Europe.  That of course begs the question of whether it makes any sense within Europe.  It is a bit disheartening to see a history professor mistake traditional, contingent chronological divisions, which have been endlessly called into question and have never really been based upon more than convenience, for reflections of concrete, regional historical actuality.  But we are were we are, and the proposed response, to divide world history into two equal periods, before and after 1800, is (among many other absurdities) even more Eurocentric.

As signs, labels have their signifieds.  To talk of the global Middle Ages or the global Late Antiquity, implicitly confers on extra-European, or extra-Mediterranean, regions not simply a name but a place in a teleological narrative or a historiographical problematic.  Periods referred to as a ‘middle’ age in various parts of South or East Asia, for example, are so called for quite different reasons than those which led European humanists to designate the period between them and the Roman Empire as the age that lay ‘in the middle’ between them, and consequently those different Middle Ages do not map directly onto each other.  Does the history of South Asia benefit from being labelled according to a periodization devised to address the issues of continuity on either side of the political events of fifth-century Western Europe and the Mediterranean?  I am not sure it does.

That is not, by any means, to argue against the interest or importance of looking at the links that existed between western Europe, say, and China or South Asia, via the Steppe, or the sea routes around the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa.  There has been much recent work done that sees Roman history as a part of a Eurasian history that connects it with the other great Empires of the period.(3)  I am thinking about a radically revised, second edition of Barbarian Migrations and these developments definitely need to be taken into account there.  Just the other day, via a quite different process, I found myself wondering whether the collapse of the Gupta state in India had some role in kicking off the changes in East-West connections that can be seen in the period I am studying.

But connections need closer critical consideration.  There are two dangers, as I see it.  One is that the Eurasian perspective on Late Antiquity runs the risk of reintroducing the idea of the Huns as the Deus Ex Machina that ruins the Roman Empire (though of course there are some areas where that idea has never gone away).  It either kicks the explanatory can back off across the steppes, leaving us not to have to worry about conflicts, tensions and political dynamics within the Roman Empire itself, or it leads us on a goose-chase, wild or otherwise, to seek some sort of ultimate point of causation, the place where change started, where no further external factor can be adduced: an Ursache indeed.(4). 

This raises the next problem, which is that connections, like narratives, have to be deconstructed.  When we join the dots are we creating a picture that had no contemporary historical reality?  Just as the arrows on ‘migration maps’ have been correctly critiqued for joining up into what looks like a coherent process series of separate phenomena, distinct, contingent movements motivated by quite other intentions than to arrive at the next ‘stage’ on the map or the final ‘goal’, carried out by fundamentally different groups of people.  Do links that join up trading connections or cultural contacts commit the same fundamental error?  Do the people who stood at the beginning and end points of these arrows even have an awareness of each other?  What does this connectivity mean? How does it compare with other social relations, if at all?  How is each link in the chain seen, enacted and employed by the people involved?  What are the (quite possibly very different) effects of connectivity, on the various societies connected by these chains?  These questions are not at all posed to reject placing fourth- to seventh-century Europe and the Mediterranean in a wider world of connections and contacts.  They are meant to invite a more critical reflection, even if also to challenge the notion that joining the dots is a blessing in itself.

But what if, as I think is the case, the dots leading to or from Western Europe between c.550 and c.650 don’t actually go very far?  Is there a less Eurocentric way of thinking about European history of a period when Europe (if we can even talk about Europe – let’s call it Europe ‘sous rature’) had little to do with anywhere else?  Is it possible to recast the period in terms other than those of European exceptionalism: the time ‘when Europe discovered itself’ and when the foundations of modern Capitalism were laid?  Maybe there isn’t and it isn’t.  One idea that occurred to me comes out of the placing of Europe sous rature, just now.  I once referred to the area I work on as ‘far western Eurasia’.  I did so partly in jest but perhaps it is worth taking that nomenclature seriously.  It has the benefit of decentring the perspective that led westerners until recently to talk of the ‘near’ and the ‘far’ East.  It has the advantage, too, of pointing out, that in global terms, especially if you eschew the Mercator Projection, the area I work on lies at the extremity, at the edge, whether of the great Eurasian landmass, or northwards, across the sea, from the equally great landmass of Africa.  It is interesting to think not only of Britain, but of all of Eurasia west of the Upper Elbe and the Adriatic, as peripheral.  But that, it seems to me, if very much the case in the period I am currently looking at.    In many ways it won’t make much difference to the story I have to tell and the factors I want to adduce, but words matter and ‘The Isolation of Far Western Eurasia’ has a rather importantly different signified from ‘The Origins of Europe’.

[1] Indeed the preceding period, between say the Late Roman Republic and the ‘Third-Century Crisis’ when this may not have been the case, is rather more exceptional.

[3] See Nicola Di Cosmo and Michael Maas (ed.), Empires and Exchanges in Eurasian Late Antiquity: Rome, China, Iran, and the Steppe, Ca. 250-750 (Cambridge, 2018).  Some of this thinking makes its way into Michael Kulikowski’s excellent Imperial Triumph. The Roman World from Hadrian to Constantine (London, 2016), which I heartily recommend.

[4] The German word die Ursache (‘cause’,‘root cause’, ‘reason’)  contains the stem ‘Ur’’, which usually denotes something primordial or original, and die Sache – ‘thing’, ‘matter’: the ultimate, primary thing. A root cause indeed.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Saints, 'Scholars' and Jacques Derrida

TL:DR Synopsis: Historians who haven’t read Derrida should STFU about Derrida 

I get increasingly worried about the comparative intellectual level of academic history. Partly it comes from seeing university history professors (professors, mind: not lecturers or readers) making the most unbelievably stupid comments about Brexit, on Facebook or elsewhere, or more generally just in the levels of critical sophistication in the arguments one sees published, or in the degree of intellectual ambition or reach. I have said before that I find academic history – in the UK at least – to be a very lazy, complacent discipline. US history seems to have different, existential, problems and challenges, but not ones that have produced better thought. 

One of the ways in which this is manifested is in some historians’ attitudes to supposedly ‘postmodern’ philosophy, attitudes which suggest that they think that the normal scholarly principles can be suspended when discussing it and, moreover, that this will somehow make the author appear clever or witty. 

Here is an example: 

‘We should not pretend that Jacques Derrida has revealed something radically new to us: that hagiography reproduces hagiography rather than some putative reality. Hippolyte Delehaye pointed this out in 1905 in his Legends of the Saints, although because he wrote in plain, comprehensible language, his message was perhaps not as clear as that of Derrida.’ (Patrick J. Geary, ‘Saints, scholars and society: the elusive goal’, in id., Living with the Dead in the Middle Ages (Ithaca NY, 1994), pp.7-29, at p.17) 

Take that, Derrida! Note also the barbed comment about Derrida’s language. This is the old Anglo-American trope of the French bullshitter with nothing new to say who only gets away with it because of his impenetrable prose. You can find that in too many flippant discussions to decide on a representative sample but look up Derrida in ‘Sir’ Anthony Kenney’s New History of Western Philosophy for a particularly shabby and libellous example. (1

I read Geary’s article in 1995 before I had read anything by JD and promptly forgot about it. Maybe I thought ‘ha ha! Good zinger there, Professor Geary!’ Who knows? The passage above has reappeared in my consciousness recently, however, quoted by another good historian whom I know and (at least currently) get on with: James T. Palmer, in his new Early Medieval Hagiography (? s’-Hertogenbosch: ARC Humanities Press, 2018, p.68), which is otherwise rather a useful little primer on the topic. Later in the same chapter, Palmer goes on (p.83): 

‘Postmodernism is not a licence to make everything up. Nevertheless, we are not far away from Derrida’s maxim ‘il n’y a pas de hors-texte’ (there is no outside-text), a claim that reality and language never truly intersect. For many medievalists this is largely unproblematic because we know that we are locked into partial views of textual discourses with no possibility of external validation (subject to the invention of time travel, of course). Indeed we have already seen Geary’s dismissal of the idea that Derrida announced something new here, because Delehaye, Graus and many more had already explored issues about textuality and truth. Geary, building on thoughts by Gabrielle Spiegel, even wondered if manuscripts could help to supply something like the “outside-text” that would lead to a better appreciation of the social logic of the text.’ 

For me, this kind of thing is nowadays like a red to rag to a bull, not least because I should get out more. It’s pretty commonplace to misunderstand the arguments made by other people – indeed Derrida would have said, I imagine, that it’s pretty much inevitable. If I were to say that Patrick Geary or James Palmer had nothing new to say, because loads of people had said what they had to say before, and took a side-swipe at the clarity of their prose-style, people might say I was being a bit rude. If my statement represented an utterly bizarre misrepresentation of their arguments anyway, I would come in for more (justifiable) stick. If, however, it turned out that I had made those remarks without even having read Geary’s or Palmer’s works in the first place, then I’d really be ruled out of court. Yet, it appears that when it comes to continental philosophers, that kind of behaviour is accepted as fair play and even cheered heartily. 

I have said, for many years now, that the degree of venom spat at Derrida stands in inverse proportion to the familiarity of the writer with Derrida’s works. Indeed, if one reads Geary’s article, there is no sign from the footnotes or text that he had, at that stage at least, read anything at all by Derrida or that, if he had, he’d made much effort to understand it. What he had read, and what is cited in the passage quoted earlier, is Gabrielle Spiegel’s well-known article ‘History, historicism and the social logic of the text in the Middle Ages’ (Speculum, 1990: reprinted in ead. The Past as Text. The Theory and Practice of Medieval Historiography, Baltimore, 1999). For many, perhaps most, medievalists, Spiegel’s widely-read and -cited article appears to have stood in for any first-hand acquaintance with Jacques Derrida’s writing. This is a shame because Spiegel misunderstood Derrida and deconstruction pretty badly (I will leave that for another time, perhaps). She had, however, at least read some of Derrida’s early works and made an effort to engage with his thought. 

Palmer has made the effort to look up the page reference for the phrase ‘il n’y-a pas de hors-texte’, infamously mistranslated by Gayatri Chakravorty-Spivak in the first edition of the English translation of De la grammatologie as ‘there is nothing outside the text’ (Chakravorty-Spivak possibly read the phrase as something like ‘il n’y-a pas dehors texte’ but who knows?). Palmer quotes the more correct translation: there is no outside-text. 

Neither Geary nor Palmer – manifestly – had/have the faintest idea of what Derrida was talking about, however, as is abundantly clear from their comments. Abundantly clear, that is, to anyone familiar with Derridian philosophy. The gamble in statements like theirs, though, is the fairly safe one that none of their medieval historian readers will be familiar with Derridian philosophy. It is a – not untypical – rhetorical ploy to suggest familiarity with ‘postmodern’ philosophy while simultaneously dismissing it, and thus staying securely and unthreateningly within the accepted, traditional historical paradigm and its attitude to ‘postmodernism’ (see also the misuse of Derrida’s term ‘deconstruction’).(2) That is to place a bet on what look like good, safe odds. It’s actually a high scholarly stake to gamble but normally it pays off. If it doesn’t, though, you run the risk of looking pretty foolish. 

Over the past decade or so, I have read quite a lot of Derrida’s writing, and exegesis of it. Indeed I was partly drawn to Derrida precisely by the venomous reaction any citation of his name appears to excite. If people hate him that much, he must have something important to say, thought I. Over the years it became clear to me that my hunch was exactly correct. What Derrida’s thought calls into question is the very project of modern, ‘rigorous’ Anglo-American ‘analytical’ philosophy. Indeed, in my opinion, he makes it fairly clear that that project, the whole search for logical truth, is entirely pointless. (3) No wonder that, even 14 years after his death from cancer, you can still find British philosophy professors deriding Derrida (pun intended) as a French fraud. 

Derrida had nothing to say about the things that Geary mentions. ‘Hagiography reproduces only hagiography’ has nothing to do with Derrida’s thought. Contra Palmer, Derrida’s thought is absolutely not about ‘textuality and truth’ in the sense that Delehaye, Graus and the rest were discussing it. There is almost no intersection between the philosophy of Jacques Derrida and those topics. Derrida didn’t say anything that Delehaye had said before, which is no slur on Delehaye. They were discussing quite different topics. 

So, what was Derrida on about? Let’s start with ‘il n’y-a pas de hors-texte’ and work back. To understand that phrase you need to understand what Derrida meant by ‘texte’. One key point made in De la grammatologie, actually a pretty prescient point (as John D. Caputo says in his recent, excellent Hermeneutics: Facts and Interpretation in the Age of Information (Penguin, 2018)), is that the fundamental characteristics of writing apply to all other means of the communication or recognition of information. The features that allow a written text to convey information regardless of the presence or absence of the initial writer or the intended recipient – the idea of iterability – underlie spoken language too. Indeed, they underpin any form of the conveyance of meaning. Once a signifier of any sort has become associated with a signified it can be repeated ad nauseam. This feature of iterability brings with it all the possibilities for the slippage of meaning when the sign is deployed in new, different contexts. The sign (of any sort) has meaning only because of its place in an endless chain, or infinite network, of relationship to and difference from other signs. Even on the very first time that a specific signifier is used to relate to a particular signified it has always already acquired the feature of iterability, the capacity not just to relate to that one thing but to any other instance of that thing, and to relate to it ironically or sarcastically, and its meaning is always already conveyed in part through its difference from other things. Thus – in time – you can never get back, however hard you try, to an ‘originary’ meaning where sign and referent are entirely co-extensive. Such meaning is perpetually deferred. And – in space – you can never leave the chain or network of differences. Even to imagine such a thing you have to move into the realm of theology: in the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God (John 1.1): ontotheology. This applies to speech, to writing, to pictorial representation, to mathematics, to basic cognition of the world around you. Nothing can be understood outside a network of presences and absences, beyond the play, or motion, of différance (Derrida’s neologism that conveys the combination of deferral and difference just alluded to). This was what Derrida meant when he talked about ‘texte’: the features of ‘text’ that in fact all cognition and communication are based upon. All transmission of information works using the structures and principles of writing, to describe which he coined another of his many neologisms: archi-écriture (a word that combines architecture and écriture – writing – and the word arche, meaning beginning or origin). All such systems work with ‘graphemes’, signifying-units subject to différance. 

So: there is no ‘outside-text’: no ‘neutral’ vantage-point, outwith archi-écriture, outside the features of writing and text, from which to assess absolute meaning; no point from which it would in any case be possible to convey absolute meaning, self-present to, co-extensive with, the means by which it was conveyed. If Hippolyte Delehaye or František Graus ever said anything even remotely like this I would be extremely glad of the reference as their significance within the history of continental philosophy has been entirely ignored! The other point to be made, is that the discussions of différance, texte and archi-écriture are the spring-board for, not the end-point of, Derrida’s thought about deconstruction. 

Is ‘il n’y-a pas de hors-texte’, then, ‘a claim that reality and language never truly intersect’? Clearly not. It is a claim that, insofar as it is perceived and understood, reality is ‘text’. In the Venn diagram metaphor, the sets of ‘Derridian ‘text’’ and ‘perceived reality’ do not merely intersect; they are the same set. Anything outside those sets simply cannot be perceived, understood or represented; it’s equivalent to the Lacanian Real, the Kantian ‘Ding an sich’, the reason why Speculative Realism is speculative. Once something is perceived, understood and described, it becomes iterable, subject to the potential slippage that comes with différance, caught in the features of text and archi-écriture. 

None of that, you will note, has anything – at all – to do with text reproducing other text, or discourse staying within the bounds of discourse (that’s Foucault, not Derrida: the two were very different). Geary ought to read Derrida on ‘the law of genre’, in that regard.(4) Nor does any of it have anything to do with the problems involved in dealing with the partiality of our evidence or the dangers of reconstructing the past from partial evidence. The vantage point ‘outside text’ (hors du texte) or a means of expressing reality via a supposed hors-texte can hardly be equated to going back to ‘seeing it for yourself’ via time-travel (ho ho). That (sorry, James) is a simply absurd misrepresentation. Equally absurd is the idea that manuscripts would create an ‘hors-texte’ (to be fair to Geary, I can’t find any point in his article where he claims this). No one with any familiarity with Derrida would suppose that it could. The only way that you could recognise, extract and convey information about the past from manuscripts, whether in their contents or in their physical construction, or the statistical analysis of their distribution, production, etc., would be – inescapably – through ‘text’ in Derrida’s sense. The mistake here – on both Palmer’s and Geary’s parts – has been to wrongly assume that Derrida was talking about actual texts in the most narrow, scriptural sense. That is an error of the most egregious kind.(5) These representations of Derrida’s argument in De la grammatologie are unrecognisable. The usual ‘clever’ (with a big K) cop-out response is to say ‘ah, but if text is inherently slippery, isn’t my reading as valid as anyone else’s? Is the author not dead?’ To which the answer is, firstly, that the argument that the slipperiness of text makes interpretation a free-for-all is that of Paul de Man and the ‘Yale School’ of deconstruction, not Derrida’s. Derrida distanced himself from that use of his idea. He did that not least because Derridian deconstruction is based upon the most minute, careful close-reading of the authorial text. The ‘death of the author’ is Barthe’s idea, not Derrida’s, though clearly there are points of contact. Derridian deconstruction leaves the (apparent) authorial text and intended meaning in place; it just, additionally, points out the other readings and texts that inhere within it so that the intended meaning is not the only one. Alternative texts, though, are nevertheless produced via the act of close reading. You might want to argue that there are other conflicting texts within Derrida’s writing but you still have to leave the text and argument (6) as it is. That is why Derrida’s writing is as difficult as it is. He was, ironically, attempting to make his argument as clear as is possible within language. ‘Plain, comprehensible language’ – language, in other words, predicated on accepted style – is precisely the sort that renders itself open to the presence within it of other texts. 

It’s an indefensible, disgraceful way to handle a scholar’s work and Palmer and Geary should really be ashamed of themselves. Leaving out the comments discussed here would hardly have made any difference to their works, so why are they there? If they treated their medieval texts and the ideas expressed in them, or the works of their contemporaries or near contemporaries in the historical profession, in anything like the same way – and I am pretty sure that neither of them does – they would rightly be hounded out of the academy. If one handled, say, some of Augustine’s more recondite texts like this, on the assumption that it was a safe bet that none of your audience was familiar with them, and were found out, the consequences for one’s scholarly reputation would (or ought to) be serious to say the least. Treating philosophical in such cavalier fashion should be seen as equally poor scholarship. 

1: I have long thought it a sorry indication of the state of play in British philosophy that Derrida gets a fairer hearing in Bluff your Way in Philosophy than in Kenney’s New History

2: The best place to read this is, probably, in his responses to John Searle: Limited Inc. translated by A. Bass & S. Weber (Evanston, IL: Northwestern Univ. Pr., 2008). Charles Barbour (Derrida's Secret: Perjury, Testimony, Oath (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017)) describes Searle’s attempt to take on Derrida’s critique of Austin’s category of performatives as like taking a knife to a tank battle. A more balanced account can be found in Raoul Moati (trans. T. Attanucci & M. Chun), Derrida/Searle: Deconstruction and Ordinary Language (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014) 

3: The outstanding example of this approach is Richard J. Evans’ In Defence of History, which consistently sets itself up in opposition to continental philosophers like Derrida, Lyotard, Derrida, Baudrillard, but without giving any indication, via footnotes or text, that the author had read anything at all by any of these writers. This is an irony in a book championing empirical research. The way in which ‘deconstruction’ has acquired a wholly different meaning from that which it was coined, by Derrida, to convey is an interesting ‘scholarly’ phenomenon in itself. Misusing the word to mean ‘critically taking apart’ allows the author to sound ‘philosophically’ or ‘theoretically’ sophisticated (note how French philosophers are so often called ‘theorists’, buying into the ‘analytical’ narrative that denies them even their status as philosophers) while doing nothing new at all. 

4: English translation in Jacques Derrida, Acts of Literature. Edited by Derek Attridge. (New York: Routledge, 2009). 

5: Palmer also says (Hagiography, p.78), ‘This leads us, directly or indirectly, of theorists such as Derrida and Foucault who encouraged such decentring – and who in the process encouraged greater attention to narrative’. Any ‘leading’ going on here would have to be extremely indirect. Again, the frequent pairing of Foucault and his student-friend-enemy-friend Derrida (in the terrifying two-headed beast Foucaultandderrida) is problematic. I am not sure what Derrida (or Foucault) said about the sort of de-centring going on in the paragraph from which I just quoted. The paragraph is more haunted by the works of Lyotard than by either Foucault or Derrida. Palmer moves seamlessly from the dreaded mythical two-headed French monster to that rather more domesticated animal, Hayden White. White, however, was entirely dismissive of Derrida, with whom, like so many others, he barely took the trouble to engage. 

6: I originally wrote ‘his text’, but Derrida was opposed to the idea of proprietary ‘ownership’ of texts – one reason he fell out with Chakravorty-Spivak and other Marxists (see also Searle and Limited Inc.). ‘Texts to which the name Jacques Derrida has been appended’ would have been his preferred circumlocution. I have left the phrase ‘Derrida’s writings’ (or ‘Derrida’s works’) elsewhere simply because it was too much like hard work to change them all.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

It was nine years ago today...

Professor Grumpy taught the band to play.  Or rather that I began this blog (on the other site).  It's become increasingly quiet over the past few years.  This is not because I consciously gave up on it.  I have many, many half-finished blog posts on my computer/s/iPad etc.  I did experiment with other forms of engagement - a Facebook Page and then a Group, neither of which turned out so well in that they brought the sorts of personal abuse that I can a: do without, and b: that I no longer have the resilience to deal with.  Partly it's been the result of a bit of a collapse in self-confidence, related to mental health issues (the old Black Dog) that have dogged me (no pun intended) for as long as I can remember but which have become quite acute since maybe 2013, especially since 2015.  I hope that such personal revelations don't make you uncomfortable, dear reader; I think it's important to be up-front about such things.  That said, I think I may be on the up again since then, not least owing to a change in my private life and a concrete 'exit strategy' with relation to academia and my 'career' and I have been meaning to start blogging more regularly again for some time.

Some of the issues with Blogger that led me effectively to close the other version of the blog down and start this parallel version seem to have waned. This makes me want to start running the 'main site' properly again, not least because it is the one with almost of all of my blog followers, though I might keep them both going in tandem, so new posts will appear here too.

I also had an interesting conversation about turning some of the blog posts into a book.  Whether or not anything comes of that remains to be seen but it is (for me) an exciting idea.

Anyway, to those who still visit this page, thanks for bearing with me.