Subject to Drift

how do we discuss anything
if meaning is mobile?
how do we find ourselves within the texts
if the texts are fluid?

Or perhaps that is wrong.  Maybe the text is static and the meaning within it keeps changing form as the reader takes their own meaning.   I am listening to this lecturer – his name is Alfred Drake, just in case I forget – talking about Derrida, and though I find him rambling and annoying, he seems to be triggering my neurons, and I guess that makes him a good lecturer.  It takes an irritant to make a pearl.  My thoughts are very limited and full of questions, mistakes and misconceptions.  If I had any answers, I wouldn’t need to write at all.  However…

In terms of deconstruction it might be said “as the reader moves within the landscape of the text.”  I read Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire over twenty years ago and am now only beginning to see that work as an example of Derrida’s approach.  The text as a set structure would make more sense but then you look at Pale Fire, which defies the traditional structure of text.  I was playing a a lot of computer games at the time, and still am and saw similarities.  What happens with a computer game is that a set story and environment, a text, is presented to the gamer, the reader, and the person moves through the story, changing it as they go.  Well in Nabakov’s Pale Fire the original poem is set, but the endnotes he gives, which actually contain the story, are fluid in that the reader can actually move through them in many different ways.  But, as for Alfred Drake, it takes a while to understand what Derrida means, especially when you are trying to do it through second hand lectures.

There is no way to get at the intention of the author unless the author is there and you can enter in direct discourse with the author himself/herself.  However, because of the nature of speech and language, there is no fully comprehensive dialogue between people.  There is little to no connection through understanding because each personal set of symbols through which we understand language is unique to each of us.

Within Derrida’s way of looking at the text, he says there is no place for “the critic”.  Depending on what is meant by “the critic”, the teacher becomes the critic.  The idea that the communication should be between text and reader and that there should be no intermediary is a valid one, but if there is no place for the teacher or the critic then how does one find the text to begin with, and why does Derrida even exist?  Why do you exist?  Why am I writing to you at all?

The need for “teacher” presupposes there is a person who “needs to be taught”.  Simply put, there are people who need to be “spoon fed” and then there are people who go seeking knowledge for themselves.  But the latter do not need universities.  So, if we discount the former – Should we discount them by considering them as just a means to fund such institutions? – what is the purpose of Universities?  Derrida exists, you exist, Universities exist, and I exist and – even though I am forcing the dialogue by writing this text whether or not it is welcome – the dialogue continues.

This brings up the argument of Plato’s that there is a set of perfect symbols existing externally.  And that brings in the question of a transcendent existence.  This argument must be ignored if we are to ride Derrida’s train of thought.

There is a wall, even if you can say to the author “I don’t understand. Please explain.” there is no chance of understanding. Or maybe it took me half an hour to understand. I keep trying to yell at Alfred through the recording to get to the point.  But I suppose that’s part of the point.  The lecturer is the text and I am the audience and me screaming pointlessly at the recording is the dialogue between us.


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