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Across May ‘68 Reading Friendships in Jacques Derrida’s Dissemination and Glas

Matthews, Aaron (2020) Across May ‘68 Reading Friendships in Jacques Derrida’s Dissemination and Glas. PhD thesis, University of the Arts London.

Type of Research: Thesis
Creators: Matthews, Aaron

This thesis, titled ‘Across May ’68; Reading friendships in Jacques Derrida’s Dissemination and Glas’, challenges the claims of a ‘political turn’ occurring for only the first time in Jacques Derrida’s writings in the 1980s, with many citing his ordeal in Prague in 1981 as catalysing this turn. While his writings may be thought to become more explicit in the 1980s and 1990s—a turbulent decade that indeed encompassed polemics against and, even within, the coterie of Deconstruction, over the Paul de Man and Martin Heidegger revelations (1987/88)—Politics of Friendship (1989), and Spectres of Marx (1993) being examples, this leaves much of his earlier work unconsidered in terms of its impact on Derrida’s later political outlook.

The thesis rereads and contextualises two texts, 1972’s Dissemination and 1974’s Glas, in conjunction with a selection of contemporaneous essays, reading these retrospectively through Politics of Friendship and Spectres of Marx, and traces Derrida’s diverging relationships with Philippe Sollers and the journal Tel Quel, against the intense political period in France now known as ‘May 1968’. My thesis reads in chronological order each essay from Dissemination as representing stages of a developing written praxis Derrida will call ‘dissemination’, arguing that, in the context of his relationship with Sollers and Tel Quel, the text Dissemination marks the political hinge in his writings, constitutive of a radical supplementary political praxis that, ultimately, did not finish even with his departure from Tel Quel in early-1972 but continued some years after in his work in providing a vital impetus to the writing of Glas.

My thesis provides a socio-historical and political context to Derrida’s philosophy—from the time of his working in tandem with Sollers, through to writing as a supplementary political praxis to Tel Quel following his departure. In ‘Plato’s Pharmacy’ (1968). My thesis traces, in the Polis, a link between writing and political friendships and ‘phallogocentrism’. The thesis connects ‘Double Session’ (1969) and its discussions of Mallarmé’s ‘mimicry without referent’ to Derrida’s interrogation into then-current modes of philosophico-literary writing; especially those of Tel Quel. The thesis then reads ‘Dissemination’ (1969) and its review/rereading of Sollers’ 1968 novel Numbers—which is itself a text informed by the intellectual reactions and reflections to the politicised context of 1960s Paris. Derrida ‘opens’ Numbers, dissipating its ideological fervour for a political community that is inherently homogeneous and closed to the ‘other’, by placing key motifs in the text under chiasma, opening up its writing to the infinite ‘otherness’ of metaphysics. My thesis reads ‘Outwork’ (c.1971) as a discussion of writing that unravels demarcations and limits between inside and out. In doing so, I argue, Dissemination anticipates the multi-surfaces and margins of Glas and its discussion of stratified politics limits.

My thesis reads Glas as a culmination and perpetuation of the praxis developed in Dissemination that proposes a political encounter of the ‘other’ based upon distance as well as proximity, and dialogue through its paratextual and symbolic typography. Glas is read as antecedent of a deconstructed political community, an ethics, and a responsibility that gestures an openness to dialogue with Sollers and Tel Quel, while also disproving Derrida’s purported political silence around May 1968.

My thesis argues Glas is open to futurity, hopeful for a renewed political encounter, even if this involves a betrayal of the very notion of friendship for the sake of an-other friendship not tied by bonds of political solidarity, and ultimately reactionary aspirations for a shared communitarian project that, inevitably, represses difference. The thesis argues that this period initiates the emergence of a deconstructed politics by Derrida based upon a profound understanding of the structures underpinning the popularist riots—particularly as a re-evaluation of the Marxist and Maoist discussions that were prevalent in the intellectual reactions to the period.

Additional Information (Publicly available):

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Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > Central Saint Martins
Date: 28 February 2020
Date Deposited: 15 Mar 2022 16:21
Last Modified: 15 Mar 2022 16:21
Item ID: 17931
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/17931

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