English 700
Jorge Luis Borges
& Jacques Derrida

Obsessive Compulsives in the Library
A Graduate Seminar, SDSU | Spring 1998


Jorge Luis Borges  Dreamtigers
    Ficciones (Everyman Library edition)
Edgardo Cozarinsky  Borges In/And/On Film
Jacques Derrida   Specters of Marx
    The Ear of the Other
    Given Time (optional; )


Geoffrey Bennington  Jacques Derrida
w/Jacques Derrida
James Woodall   Borges: A Life

A Reader,  with selected pieces collected and assembled by yours truly will appear at CALCopy later in the semester; I will notify you in class when it is ready.  In addition, depending upon whether we go faster or slower than I had anticipated, I reserve the right to delete or add books to your required texts.  In the event of a deletion, you will be able to return your unmarked book for a full refund; in the event of an addition, I will always give you three weeks notice so said investment will not catch up with you when the rent is due.


Introductions-brief readings and discussions of materials from Borges & Derrida.

The class will be run in three 45-minute sections.  In the first part we will discuss “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” in the second, “The Circular Ruins,” and lastly, we will turn to “The Garden of Forking Paths.”  You are welcome to take a peek at secondary literary critical treatments of the materials but our discussion will derive directly from your reading--estilo New Criticism.

Thursday • February 12, 1998
Read all of Ficciones.  In class, we will debate whether conclusions ought to be drawn regarding basic tenets, characteristics, and motifs of Borges’s textual projects.

Thursday • February 19, 1998
Read Cozarinsky’s collection Borges In/On Film.  During the week before class rent and screen at least one of the films Borges reviews.  Write a two page, double-spaced, typed review of Borges’s review of the film you elect to watch.  I will bring your borg[DE]sRRIDA/SiameseTWINS readerto class today; please bring anywhere from 7 to 12 dollars in unmarked bills.

Thursday • February 26, 1998
Read Borges’s  Dreamtigers and all of the collected Borges items--except for “Autobiographical Essay” and the selections from Universal History of Infamy-- in your borg[DE]sRRIDA/SiameseTWINS reader. 
Thursday • March 5, 1998
Read James Woodall’s biography of Borges.  Write a two page response to the reading focusing upon what you view to be the most excellent and appalling aspects of his biographical concoction.

Thursday • March 12, 1998
Read up to 203 from the curious Jacques Derrida’s and Geoffey Bennington’s autobio/biographical collaboration entitled Jacques Derrida.  Is there any aspect of this work which lucidly bridges the gap spanning the work of Borges and Derrida.

Thursday • March 19, 1998
Finish the Bennington and Derrida daliance and read also, the Bennington Seulemonde interview from the borg[DE]sRRIDA/SiameseTWINS reader.  Today you will receive your semester essay assignment sheet.

Thursday • March 26, 1998
Read Derrida’s “White Mythology:Metaphor in the Text of Philosophy” from your borg[DE]sRRIDA/SiameseTWINS reader.

Thursday • April 2, 1998
Read “Plato’s Pharmacy” in your borg[DE]sRRIDA/SiameseTWINS  reader.

Thursday • April 9, 1998
Spring Break--no class.  Aren’t you sad?

Thursday • April 16, 1998
Read The Ear of the Other: Otobiography, Transference and Translation.  Write a two to five page critical speculation wherein you apply one idea found in this collection of writings and interviews and apply it to one found in a short story or essay by Jorge Luis Borges.

Thursday • April 23, 1998
Your Anthology is Due today!  We will spend the first half of class talking about our collective projects.  The rest of class will be devoted to the first 94 pages of Derrida’s Specters of Marx.

Thursday • April 23, 1998
Class Cancelled

Thursday • May 7, 1998
Finish reading Specters of Marx.  Can we use this work as a lens through which to fashion a speculation on the dynamics of the political in Borges’s writing?

Thursday • May 14, 1998
Read Archive Fever in your borg[DE]sRRIDA/SiameseTWINS reader.  Reread all of Borges’s stories wherein Libraries figure.  Read also the pages from Derrida’s Memoirs of the Blind in your borg[DE]sRRIDA/SiameseTWINS.

Thursday • May 21 1998
Final Papers Due.  Discussion. Party. 

Table of Contents

• The Artful Dodge Interview, 1980.  A mysterious exchange I pulled off the Internet whose source is now lost to me; I would make some reference to it being appropriate to Borges that the citation is lost if I didn’t suspect you’d see through my shoddy, lazy rationalization. 

• A selection from Emir Rodriguez Monegal’s striking, out of print biography of Borges.  The chapter on ‘Tlön.  I think James Woodall is dead wrong about Rodriguez Monegal and hope this chapter convinces you to find his book in a used book store or check it out via the Circuit.

• Borges’s “An Autobiographical Essay,” or the foundation for most, if not all, of Woodall’s findings in his biography.  Read it carefully and slowly; as much as autobiography, one can find in it a subtle meditation on memory and being.

• Introduction to JD: a letter Jacques Derrida wrote to a translator of his in Japan.  A clever, serious and witty intro to the eclectic, word-obsessed mind of France’s theoretical guru--the signature is a true facsimile, whatever that means.

• An other on-line oddity from http://www.hydra.umn.edu/derrida/jd.html; here is an on-line/eMail conducted exchange between a French journal and the author of Jacques Derrida, Geoffrey Bennington.

• From Seven Nights, two short pieces “The Kabbalah” and “Blindness,” the latter key to your reading of the pages from Borges’s Memoirs of the Blind  that follow.

• Key fragment derived from Jacques Derrida’s recent foray into Art Criticism, Memoirs of the Blind.

• From Borges: A Reader several key artifacts culled from Borges’s work: “The Mirror of Ink,” “I, a Jew,” “The Total Library,” “The Aleph,” “Hurry, Hurry,” “From Allegories to Novels,” “Partial Enchantments of the Quixote,” a late story, “Juan Murańa,” a poem, “The Blind Man,” and Borges’s theoretical pivot piece, “Narrative Art and Magic.”  Don’t miss the great notes by Alastair Reid and Rodriguez Monegal.

• Here it is.  In my view, Derrida’s best essay.  Certainly one to have under your belt, to recite at night when in the throws of insomnia: “White Mythology: Metaphor in the Text of Philosophy.”

• Borges returns.  Here in a couple of key stories from Labyrinths:  “Emma Zunz” and “The Zahir.”  Lovely, evocative and, essentially disturbing tales.

• Borges in Spanish.  Assorted poems early and late from Selected Poems.

• Derrida again.  Here we go to town with drugs, or, at least, with the pharmacy.  Only this is Plato’s Pharmacy, and our cure may well be the cause of illness as well.  A remarkable piece--watch for the Borges cameos.

• Borges on Casares.  JLB’s prologue to Bioy Casares’s novel The Invention of Morel

• Interview city:  a collection of revelatory and pleasant exchange between Borges and several interlocutors derived from Twenty-Four Conversations with Borges, Seven Conversations with Jorge Luis Borges & Richard Burgin’s Conversations with J.L. Borges.

• Back in the library with Derrida’s latest translated book-length piece, Archive Fever.  Brace yourself: this is Derrida at his cleverest.

• Borges.  Late Borges.  A parting narrative shot from Doctor Brodie’s Report, “The Gospel According to Mark.”

 E 700 W. Nericcio, brewmaster

“Your 15 to 20 page essay will comparatively assess some aspect, tendency, idea to be found in the writings of Borges and Derrida.  If you wish, I will give you suggested topics, but as I am running this seminar like one I taught in the doctoral degree program at the University of Connecticut, I would prefer you develop your own thesis.”

This is what I wrote.  It is also approximates what I said.  A trip to the pharmacy convinced me that the writing and the saying were less than the same thing, more than the same thing, anything but the same thing.  So last class I promised to deliver some specifics, logistics to serve as a balm against anxiety, an anxiety that, funny enough, I share.

Once a graduate student, always a graduate student--even when you are a professor.  So it is with the hint of some anxiety that I approach the writing of an assignment.  In sharing suggestions, examples and proxies of potential essay ideas I want to give you some guidance, but to guide is to supplement and we have read enough Derrida to know that when I get around to supplementing what you might write, I have always already obliterated that which would have spurted out your pen, exploded via photons upon your computer screen.

---To the point, Nericcio.

Here it is.  Your essays, typed, double-spaced and typed will be handed to me as you walk in the door on Thursday May 14, 1998.  This will be our last class, our last discussion, our last chance to seriously play.  And play we will.  Class, symposium, farewell festival.

Your essay will run anywhere from 15 to 20 pages.  Possible Essay Topics.

1.  Examine and evaluate the proposition that Jorge Luis Borges rewrote books bearing the signature, “Jacques Derrida.”  At first glance, the proposition seems absurd, is there anything to this line of interrogation.

2.  How do the words of Borges and Derrida rewrite the idea of disciplinary, aesthetic or political boundaries.

3.  Write an essay on autobiography and consider how B & D ask their readers to rethink the peculiar conventions of this odd genre.

4.  Literature. Philosophy.  Literature and philosophy.  Literature Against Philosophy.  Navigate these churning fragments using the writings of B & D as a rudder.

5.  Both Borges and Derrida seem to share a fascinations with the figuration of the Middle East, the cultures and literatures of the Arab World.  Rereading the introduction of Edward Said’s Orientalism  as a preparation, selectively explore the figuration of Middle Eastern culture in B & D’s writings.

6.  Why might it be possible to imagine Borges and Derrida laying bets round a roulette table.  Explore the concept of gambling, of stakes, in the work of B & D.

That’s it.  If you want more, eMail me.  I promise not to bark.