March 30, 2004

The Self-Parody of Academe: Exhibit A

Is there someone with a wicked sense of humor at Columbia University Press? We had to wonder when one of their new titles, Portrait of Jacques Derrida as a Young Jewish Saint, crossed our desk. It is a work of homage, or hagiography, by the doyenne of French feminists, Hélène Cixous. It is a short book, but potent, perhaps the single most emetic exercise in academic sentimentality we have ever encountered. Consider this passage from the prefatory Author’s Note:

”But how to paint or sketch such a genius at substitution? One must, one can only catch him, portray him in flight, live, even as he slips away from us. In these sketches we shall catch glimpses of the book’s young hero rushing past from East to West, -- in appearance both familiar and mythical: here he is for a start sporting the cap of Jackie Derrida Koogan, as Kid, I translate: lamb-child, the sacrificed, the Jewish baby destined to the renowned Circumcision scene. They steal his foreskin for the wedding with God, in those days he was too young to sign, he could only bleed. This is the origin of the immense theme that runs through his work, behind the words signature, countersignature, breast [sein], seing (contract signed but not countersigned), saint --cutting, stitching -- indecisions -- Let us continue.”

Let’s not.

This is one of those books that should come with its own air-sickness bag.

-- New Criterion’s Notes & Comments March 2004 by

Posted by Vanderleun at March 30, 2004 9:38 AM | TrackBack
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