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Title: Derrida's return to Freud : from phenomenology to politics
Author: Earlie, Paul Joseph
ISNI:       0000 0004 5349 9394
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis identifies and explores a ‘return to Freud’ in the work of Jacques Derrida. Resemblances between Derrida’s method of deconstruction and the therapeutic procedure of psychoanalysis have long been a source of debate among critics. Is deconstruction little more than a psychoanalytic reading of the history of philosophy, or is Freud a Derridean avant la lettre? Revealing this dilemma to be a false one, this thesis challenges major interpreters of Derrida such as Jonathan Culler and Gayatari Chakravorty Spivak. By developing Derrida’s well-known yet little understood concept of différance, it argues that this dilemma stems from an inadequate understanding of Derrida’s treatment of time. The structure of temporality implied by différance entails that the meaning of the past is continually reconstituted in its relationship to an ever-evolving present. Far from dissolving the importance of Freud’s contribution, this structure allows Derrida to circumvent nebulous notions of ‘influence’ and ‘indebtedness’ while still engaging psychoanalysis as a key theoretical resource in his own project of deconstruction. A productive engagement with psychoanalytic theory is shown to inform every major stage of the philosopher’s career, from his early phenomenological work to his later reflections on the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Derrida repeatedly turns to Freud as a crucial interlocutor in interrogating a number of philosophical problems encountered in his own work. These problems include the nature of time, space, and memory; the role of the fictive in scientific discourse; the question of the archive; the interdependence of the psyche and technology; and the relationship between politics and the unconscious. At a theoretical level, this thesis provides a detailed account of Derrida’s notion of spacing, arguing that the unconditional belatedness entailed by différance calls us to a difficult, dual responsibility: both towards the legator of an inheritance (that is, towards the textual legacy Freud has bequeathed to us) and towards the unforeseeable future contexts in which this inheritance will require transformation. The discourse of deconstruction, it concludes, enacts a careful negotiation of these two demands.
Supervisor: Howells, Christina Sponsor: Foley-Béjar Scholarship (Balliol College) ; Zaharoff Scholarship (Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages) ; Prendergast Bequest
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Languages (Medieval and Modern) and non-English literature ; French ; Psychology ; Philosophy ; Modern Western philosophy ; Derrida ; Freud ; deconstruction ; psychoanalysis ; unconscious ; influence ; phenomenology ; theory ; politics ; French thought