Portrait of Jacques Derrida as a Young Jewish Saint / Edition 1

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Overview

Who can say "I am Jewish?" What does "Jew" mean? What especially does it mean for Jacques Derrida, founder of deconstruction, scoffer at boundaries and fixed identities, explorer of the indeterminate and undecidable? In Portrait of Jacques Derrida as a Young Jewish Saint, French feminist philosopher Hélène Cixous follows the intertwined threads of Jewishness and non-Jewishness that play through the life and works of one of the greatest living philosophers.

Cixous is a lifelong friend of Derrida. They both grew up as French Jews in Algeria and share a "belonging constituted of exclusion and nonbelonging" -- not Algerian, rejected by France, their Jewishness concealed or acculturated. In Derrida's family "one never said 'circumcision'but 'baptism,'not 'Bar Mitzvah'but 'communion.'" Judaism cloaked in Catholicism is one example of the undecidability of identity that influenced the thinker whom Cixous calls a "Jewish Saint."

An intellectual contemporary of Derrida, Cixous's ideas on writing have an affinity with his philosophy of deconstruction, which sought to overturn binary oppositions -- such as man/woman, or Jew/non-Jew -- and blur boundaries of exclusion inherent in Western thought. In portraying Derrida, Cixous uses metonymy, alliteration, rhyme, neologisms, and puns to keep the text in constant motion, freeing language from any rigidity of meaning. In this way she writes a portrait of "Derrida in flight," slipping from one appearance to the next, unable to be fixed in one spot, yet encompassing each point he passes. From the circumcision act to family relationships, through Derrida's works to those of Celan, Rousseau, and Beaumarchais, Cixous effortlessly merges biography and textual commentary in this playful portrait of the man, his works, and being (or not being) Jewish.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Jewish Quarterly
The book will have a special status within Derrida studies.... The most striking thing in Cixous's writing is the sense that something very confidential is being disclosed.

— Devorah Baum

Forward
Her commentary, helps to illuminate some of the gnarled, complex recesses of Derrida's thought and as such will go far in clarifying his often punishing difficult writing.

— Saul Austerlitz

Times Literary Supplement
Catches precisely the destabilizing effect of Derrida's practice.

— Josh Cohen

Year's Work in Critical and Cultural Theory

Portrait of Jacques Derrida is a rarity, a singular and powerful addition to Cixous' own important oeuvre.

Journal of Jewish Studies
For anyone who is looking for a way of understanding Derrida but is intimidated by his writings, this is a good place to start.

— Oliver Leaman

Jewish Quarterly - Devorah Baum

The book will have a special status within Derrida studies.... The most striking thing in Cixous's writing is the sense that something very confidential is being disclosed.

Forward - Saul Austerlitz

Her commentary, helps to illuminate some of the gnarled, complex recesses of Derrida's thought and as such will go far in clarifying his often punishing difficult writing.

Times Literary Supplement - Josh Cohen

Catches precisely the destabilizing effect of Derrida's practice.

Journal of Jewish Studies - Oliver Leaman

For anyone who is looking for a way of understanding Derrida but is intimidated by his writings, this is a good place to start.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

Meet the Author

Hélène Cixous is one of today's best-known feminist theorists and author of Coming to Writing and Other Essays, The Newly Born Woman, and Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing (Columbia), as well as fiction and plays.Beverley Bie Brahic is a translator and poet living in Paris.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

The Mark of the PrinceNamesakes-No! No's by the BucketfulOf the Kleins and the GrossesThe Dream of NaiveteRemain/The Child That I AmPoint of Honor/Point DonorCircumfictions of a Circumcision ObjectorThe Orchard and the FisherySecond Skin

Columbia University Press

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