Friday, August 22, 2008

Writing After Derrida After McLuhan After Joyce

Leverette, Marc. “Writing (After Derrdia [After McLuhan] After Joyce).” Communication and Critical / Cultural Studies.” 4.4 (2007): 343-62.

Leverette’s article is the most sustained comparison of McLuhan and Derrida that I have read, and he quite reasonably sees Joyce as the lynch-pin for the two. Leverette does a nice job of framing them both as medium theorists, although working from Joyce in very different directions.

As has been shown, while seemingly structural opposites of one another, in McLuhan and Derrida (and medium theory and deconstruction in general), we find formal, material, and philosophical similarities, thus questioning how two seemingly disparate approaches to mediation can be said to “supplement” one another without being swallowed by the other in aporetic, systemic, and logical negations. McLuhan’s “medium theory,” being materially open to historical interpretation from a phenomenological non-technologically deterministic and formally closed in its interpretation of communication form, and Derrida’s deconstruction, formally open and embracing undecidability and materially closed in its ontological underpinnings of media privileging, each to the other, embrace and deny the grave contradictions and similarities between them in the same breath. (356-57)

I generally agree with Leverette’s analysis, but I was surprised that he did not approach a comparison through “the medium is the massage” and “enframement.” Maybe that is the next step in his work, or maybe I can finally get around to exploring that topic in more detail. I do need to puzzle through some of Leverette’s analysis more to understand the nuances of his comparison.

His conclusion is enticing, and comes back to the question of what is “writing.”

It is an act of experiment, introspection, and invention. It is not simply about mimetic objectivity, linearity, rationality. It is about producing, desiring, images, flows, lines, tangles, “thithaways” and “hithaways,” effects, and affects. It is becoming. It is of course a kind of production of the I. But it is always a production of the Other. As Derrida writes, “. . . the image that is reflecting in me in the water is deformed, deforming: I am an other.”
And (in this case at least) the Other is always already a proximal and specific someone. (357-58)


Jayson Sargent said...

Nice blog! Can't believe more people don't talk about this connection. Now I'm gonna go search for the Leverette essay.

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