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Violence and Historicity: Derrida’s Early Readings of Heidegger

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With the recent publication of Jacques Derrida’s seminar of 1964–65, Heidegger: The Question of Being and History, it has become abundantly clear that when the full history of Derrida’s half-century-long engagement with Heidegger is finally written a special place will have to be reserved for the question of history itself, and especially the question of history or historicity in its irreducible relationship to language and to violence. In this essay, I look at just a few key passages from “Violence and Metaphysics,” first published in 1964, and Derrida’s seminar on Heidegger from that same year in order to try to isolate what appears to be an important transitional moment in Derrida’s rethinking of the questions of language, violence, and history, in large part, it seems, thanks to, or accompanied by, Heidegger. Indeed, while Derrida’s engagement with Heidegger over the next four decades will go on to include questions of technology, the animal, species difference, sexual difference, and so on, the relationship between language, history, and violence that came to draw his attention in the early 1960s and that would be crucial to what Derrida will go on to call deconstruction will continue to haunt him, as I will suggest in conclusion, right up to his very last seminar, The Beast and the Sovereign, in 2002–2003.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Philosophy, DePaul University Chicago, IL 60614USA


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