By Sarah Wood
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Extra info for Derrida's 'Writing and Difference': A Reader's Guide
This doesn’t mean we are in the presence of something. In this state or possible state how could one indicate the possibilities? Structuralism’s astonishment at language escapes the classical history of ideas. However Derrida stresses that because structuralism is surprisable, and to that extent unreflective and spontaneous, it deserves the attention of historians. Haunting Structuralism may celebrate its interpretive triumphs but knows itself to be bereft of force. This weakness has a clarifying effect because ‘the relief and design of structures appears more clearly when content, which is the living energy of meaning, is neutralised’ (4).
They are an astonishment, rather, by language as the origin of history. By historicity itself’ (2). We are, Derrida insists, surprised by writing, held in it, already in a text. An indirect approach to force, an avowed lack of philosophical originality and muscle makes structuralism, preoccupied with (and astonished by) language and form, the most able to articulate the relation between repetition and surprise that is, for Derrida, the possibility of history. Structuralist analyses, Derrida says, ‘are possible only after a certain defeat of force and within the movement of a diminished ardour’ (3).
5 ‘Force and Signification’ suggests that no image or concept of force can avoid separating force from itself. Force is neither an entity nor a movement; it may get something moving, but it never appears itself. When history, philosophy, psychology or literary criticism take force as a theme, it undergoes a formalization that makes force appear but in the same gesture freezes and thereby de-natures the very thing that is being brought to our attention. We get an image or a memorial of force and not the thing itself.