Chasing Derrida
Lights, Camera, Philosophy
Professor William Nericcio

bennington bookWith the work of Jacques Derrida we will have been, from the beginning, always already, chasing--pursuing the elusive shadow of a brilliant mind that has already anticipated our coming. He wants us to chase, or, (better put, as he has recently left the realm of this chaotic planet), he wanted us to chase. Jacques Derrida: the wily flirt, and we, his would-be, adoring suitors. This graduate seminar will dedicate itself to a hunt, a safari, a quest for Derrida and his major works, but I need to confess that the focus will be on his later writings --sometimes at the expense of his earlier operatic odysseys. So we will read Memoirs for the BlindDerrida (written with Geoffrey Bennington), , Archive Fever,  and Paper Machine--leaving us no time for the vagaries and delights of GLAS and Of Grammatology.  Rest assured we will not spend all our time wrestling with ponderous philosophical tomes. Derrida was and is, in edition to being a philosopher, an artist, an autobiographer, a film star(!), and a celebrity. And to chase him will mean that we will, at times, have to ignore him, in order to get him--and really, entre nous, that is deconstruction in a nutshell. 

Derrida was a big flirt, really, and the only way to snag our quarry, will be to go the other way, to give our handsome prey the brush-off, ignore the seductive charms of his alluring trace. To that end, the class includes films by director Hal Hartley (Flirt) and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind) and Kirby Dick/Amy Ziering Kofman (Derrida); each of these cinematic visionaries cleverly parse the sinewy, luscious labyrinths of Derridean architecture in a way that deepens our understanding. This class is open to all graduate students in all disciplines; adventurous undergraduates are also welcome to take the course for E499 credit with the permission of your resident Derrida channeler for this holy philosophical quest, Bill Nericcio (memo@sdsu.edu).  This seminar is for students with an open mind to intellectual history and philosophy, especially with regard to the way these fields intersect with literature and her sister arts. If you are curious and love to read, this class will be a pleasure—chasing Derrida may become a lifelong avocation. Slackers, however, will experience all the joy of a root canal as the readings will come fast and furious and this is NOT the kind of class where you can only do SOME of the readings.

Required Texts

Working LIST of required TEXTS
1. Memoirs of the Blind
2. Derrida for Beginners
3. Archive Fever
4. Taste for the Secret
5. Rights of Inspection
6. Jacques Derrida (Religion and Postmodernism Series) with Geoffrey Bennington 
7. Paper Machine

Links above are just for reference--i get NO amazon kickbacks; use the campus bookstore or multi-site search engines like this one or this one for the best deals.

Seminar Expectations
This is a graduate seminar--and you, Derridean seminarians! My expectation is that you enter our room each monday READY to teach the material; that is, prepare each week as if I have developed chronic laryngitis and YOU have been tapped to lead discussion.  Absences in graduate seminars is not tolerated--so do please notify me in advance if you intend to miss our Jacques-focused gatherings.

Paper Expectations
This being a graduate seminar, it is, as you might anticipate, EXPECTED that you will produce a scintillating piece of rhetorical excellence in the course of the semester; far be it for me to dash your hopes of this situation.  To that end, you will submit to me Monday, December 5, 2005 in our seminar, a well-researched, nicely crafted, exquisitely honed critical essay anywhere from 15 to 20 pages. 

What will this beautiful essay be about?

That's the fun part! Consider the obvious: you are a graduate student. 

What does that mean? 

It means that you are a scholarly apprentice of sorts. You are one in a long line of individuals who aspire to scholarship, and, in the case of this class, a Derrida-traced exegesis of the first order.

Like it or not one of the things which will determine whether or not you have what it takes to get past the gates at the ivory tower is your scholarly writing. 

It used to be that writing for literary journals was an extended exercise in pain and self-abuse. But the field is changing and so are its journals. 

When you arrive December 5 at 3:30pm, your fatigued palms will be holding a 15 to 20 page essay (please don’t write past 20 pages, quantity is never an attractive proxy for quality). The essay should be typed, double-spaced and carefully proofread. It should not have any special cover page or plastic cover--a staple or paper clip in the upper left hand corner is fine.

That is the easy part. How will you go about imagining this essay? 

Please have your essay derive or be based in large part on a text, author, director, theme, genre which is part of the required material for our class. Derrida being our focus, I imagine our Algerian guru will make MORE than a cameo appearance in your essay; that having been said, however, I am also open to you conceiving of your submission to me as a draft chapter from your Master's thesis, or a possible submission to critical journal.

 Footnote vs. endnote? MLA style vs. Chicago Style? 

These controversies have been solved for you in advance. As part of your assignment, I want you to immerse yourself in the variety of journals now publishing essays in literature, philosophy, film studies, cultural studies, comparative literature and contemporary studies in comparative cultures. You may complete this immersion here in Love Library, at USD or (better/prettier) or UCSD. Some pretty good journals include: BOUNDARY 2, DIACRITICS, CRITICAL INQUIRY, SOCIAL TEXT, PMLA, SOUTH ATLANTIC QUARTERLY, CAMERA OBSCURA and CINEMA JOURNAL.

Think of your DERRIDA essay, then, as an exercise in role playing--any question you might have about format, tone, styles, footnoting tactics and the like will be answered by the editorial policy of the journal you select as your guide.

Do please submit WITH your DERRIDA essay, a copy of one essay from the journal you have selected. Do note that our library has great, full-text, online journal archives like PROJECT MUSE and JSTOR.

If you have any question as to the appropriateness of a journal just give me a call or pull me aside and ask me.

What can you write on? Well just about anything. I imagine the best exercise will be to throw all your books and notes on a table, think about what are some of the provocative Derridean issues which have stayed with you and then head off to the library and those endless stacks of scholarly journals. By the time you’ve paged through all those journals and get back to your books and notes, you’ll have a firmer grasp on the goals of your Derrida-filled analytical adventure. You’ll also probably have a headache--welcome to Academe. 


Schedule & 
September 12

enter our first seminar having carefully read DERRIDA's LETTER TO A JAPANESE TRANSLATOR; also, in preparation for screening the DERRIDA film later in the semester, print out and read these as well: http://www.hydra.umn.edu/derrida/narc.html and http://www.hydra.umn.edu/derrida/laweekly.html
September 19

This week we move into Derridean biography/analysis and, simultaneously, Derridean autobiography; read the first 212 pages of Geoffrey Bennington and Jacques Derrida's JACQUES DERRIDA duet. If you have the time or inclination, you might want to sneak a peek at a "conversation" Bennington and Derrida had at a conference in 1997.  Bring a one-page close analysis (250 words, no more, no less) of what you perceive to be the MOST IMPORTANT sentence(s) from the reading for today.
September 26

Walk into our seminar room having FINISHED the Derrida/Bennington duet--while we will spend some time in discussion of this striking text, the bulk of class will be taken up with our screening of the DERRIDA movie by Amy Ziering Kofman and Kirby Dick.

October 3
Reading JOURNALS day; seminar is cancelled to allow seminarians to catch up on their reading and writing assignments; read the first few sections of MEMOIRS OF THE BLIND. More details on your assignment is here or click the image on your right.
October 10 
A cool day as DERRIDEAN seminarians hold forth with readings from their RANTS--a brief writing assigmnent wherein derridean acolytes were asked to apply JACQUES writings/teachings to some aspect of what they view to be their FIELD!  Also, we closely read the first few pages of MEMOIRS of the BLIND.
October 17
You walk into our seminar having finished your reading of MEMOIRS OF THE BLIND--be sure to read the whole book ONCE, and 'screen' the WHOLE BOOK once as well. Class is in AH 2128.
October 24

What a rought week! You walk in today having read ALL of ARCHIVE FEVER--it would be preferable if you read it in a cool library; I highly recommend the READING ROOM at USD.  Enter the main library and take an immediate RIGHT.  Walk straight through the big doors and into a beautiful archive for the arts! Class is in AH 2128.

October 31
movietime with charlie kaufman's amazing ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF A SPOTLESS mind, which, alongside ARCHIVE FEVER, its MNEME-envying magic, should be amazing.  remember! we are going to have a soiree before class ON THE PATIO by my office; if the weather is bad, we will just have to use AH 4157.  want to do some "reading" even though we will be watching a movie--then WATCH derrida WATCH or read his translation of WATCHING by reading RIGHT OF INSPECTION, his book with Marie-Françoise Plissart.
november 7 
read A TASTE FOR THE SECRET--class in 2128. 
november 14 
read PAPER MACHINE. As you read, attend to your own current relationship with "paper machines"--the fact that you will soon be translating your own experiences in seminar and with Derrida's writings into dispatches issued via your own collection of paper machines is not without some intrigue of its own.

november 21 
discuss/read/screen RIGHTS OF INSPECTION 
november 28 
no seminar--work on your papers 
december 5 
derrida colloquium for ALL derrida seminarians.

you will read 10 minute versions of your works in progress... think of this as rough draft day--a way of testing your material against the minds of your peers and your professor.



Mark Young | BA, English, San Diego State University, 2004
MA program, American Literature, SDSU 2005-Present
"Wrestling with Proteus: An intertexual face-off between Kurt Vonnegut's Player Piano and the philosophies of Jacques Derrida"
An intertextual spectacle examining Derrida's philosophical body slam of Vonnegut's identity masqueraders.

Kimball Taylor | BA, Journalism, SDSU, 1997
MFA program, creative writing, 2003-2005

"Instead of voyeurism, exegesis: the influence of Jacques Derrida's Thinking"
A presentation of the short story cycle "The Observers" and an examination of the Derridian influence in regards to Archive Fever, Memoirs of the Blind and Right of Inspection.

Anna Marin | BA, DePaul University, 2002
MA program, Comparative Literature, SDSU 2004-2007

"Navigating the Labyrinth: Chasing and Tracing Jacques Derrida & Jorge Luis Borges"
 A peer into the archive of space/time comtemplation through complementary (or not) genres of philosphy and (vs.) literature.

Jim Ricker | BA, English, SDSU 2002
MA program, American Literature SDSU 2002-2006; Butcher, Cook, EcoAgitator

W.J. McGee's "Desert Thirst as a Disease": The Landscape Archive in Literature of the Sonoran Desert
An examination of an exhumed medical report and how it treats Archive Fever.

Veronica Andrew | BA, Art, San Francisco State University, 1999
MFA program, Creative Writing (Poetry), SDSU 2005-2008

"Jacques Derrida, Woody Allen, and the Trembling Intellectual"
An examination of the "intellectual" identity in the films of Woody Allen via the perspective set forth in Jacques Derrida's essay "But...No, but...Never....,and Yet..., as to the Media"

Andy O'Clancy | BA, English, San Diego State University, 2005
MA program, American Literature, SDSU 2006

"Legend: Derrida, Thesis, and Theseus"
A theoretical examination of Thesis, Myth, and the Question-with intellectual indebtedness to Jacques Derrida for providing the hunter's moon

Danielle Berkley | Franklin and Marshall College, BA English and Theater 1998
San Diego State University, MA 2004-

Mirrored Reflection: Jacques Derrida's Philosophy in Jean Cocteau's, Orphee.
The focus of this paper will be the obscure correlation between philosopher and artist. and others...

Gregory Morales | BA SDSU
MA program, MALAS

Parallax Error Correction: Reality, Perception, and Reception in the
Derridian View

Pete Turner | BA, English SDSU
MA program American Literature

"Copyright and Digital Archiving"
The origins of the modern copyright come from The Statue of Anne in 1709.  The natural right of ownership of the author and the copyright were not one and the same, and it was intended that the copyright was to provide limited rights and for a limited time, the right to copy.  Digital databases insure that works (music, film and texts) will not deteriorate over time and that a greater amount of people will have access to information, but this access means that publishers may not be compensated.

Kellie Sharp | B.A., Brigham Young University, 2003
M.A. Program, Rhetoric and Writing Studies, SDSU 2004-2005

"Authority, Authorization, and Marginalization: Confronting a (Non)Power from the Wrong Side of the Lectern"
A critique of student "authorization" in a Derridean classroom.

cinderdecember 12, monday!

final class; screening of flirt; turn in your papers & cocktail party.  bring a handwritten copy of your favorite paragraph from all of your readings of derrida this semester; at the end of class we will read our paragraphs and burn them in honor of our fallen metaphrastic hersiarch.


flirt bed gun

View the log for this page