some thoughts on derrida and non-thesis driven compositions

I wonder what order Derrida wrote the Grammatology in. I ask because one thing I’ve been thinking about lately–as I teach 1020 for the first time based in traditonal or classical stances of argumentations–is how the emphasis on non-thesis driven writing became so prominent in new media rhetorics. I’m still very much interested in this line of work, lest you think my question is critical of these rhetorics; still, the genealogy of such pedagogy is of interest to me. I’m committed to it as an ideal because of my admiration for Rice’s work–in turn, I can cite some of his familiar influences–Ulmer, Barthes, Derrida, Burroughs. Afrika Bambaata, maybe. And although I’ve read enough to understand the theory behind teaching and writing within such rhetorics, what I remain unsure of is their theoretical pedigree.

Which brings me back to Derrida. I asked the original question because I’m curious if Derrida’s text work generated the now-famous revelations of deconstructionism (although I’ve been told JD forswore that particular tag for quite some time) or if he had the insight first and then worked to prove it with the text work. I ask again because many new media pedagogies situate writing as a scene of inquiry, not statement–or questions, not answers. Which I find very attractive, obviously, and (this semester notwithstanding) hope to remain committed to in my own pedagogy. BUT . . . at times I worry whether I could provide adequate theoretical explanations for my interest in such pedagogy beyond merely parroting the Rice/Ulmer/Sirc line–which is not to diminish their work or their influence on my interests, but something that, I think, is of serious import as I look a year or two down the road to my first post-doc job placement.

Of course, the question can also be a stylistic canard. Does it matter what order Derrida wrote the book in? Well . . . beyond my curiosity, maybe not. But I find it interesting that the way Grammatology is laid out at present situates the sort of “claims/theses” of the work in the first chapter (“Writing Before the Letter”) and then explicates them further through JD’s detailed textual work in the body of the text. Which gives the appearance, at least, of working from a claim/thesis, and finding support, etc–the very pedagogy that rhetcomp folks like myself want to move away from.

The lesson, here, maybe (if there has to be one) is two fold. First, the form of a text does not provide its history. Or at least, does’t have to. Second, the pedagogical or rhetorical lessons of a text (often the same thing) are held within the text itself–not the biography of its author. Derrida’s work in the Grammatology shows us how to ask questions within a text (or, he might have argued, to find the questions the text asks of itself) rather than blithely making claims about or for a text.

Sometime soon, I will write about playlist assignments.


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