Macquarie University
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Adventure, schema, supplement: Jacques Derrida and the philosophy of history

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posted on 2022-03-28, 20:13 authored by Andrew Dunstall
This thesis studies 'history' in Derrida's Of Grammatology, uncovering a new and productive level of history that impacts historical disciplines (historiography). This is a complex task for two reasons; first on account of the proliferating connotations of 'history'; second, because contemporary historiography and philosophy have largely talked past each other. Historians sometimes create confusion, by ignoring a crucial delineation of levels which deconstruction highlights; alternately, history has frequently been abandoned by philosophers as uninteresting. The first part reconstructs the conceptual network surrounding 'history' in Of Grammatology. Following phenomenological emphasis, Derrida does not address the constituted historical disciplines, but the very historicity that every historical task must presuppose. Derrida seeks to liberate history from concepts that would freeze its very happening. In his reading of Rousseau in particular, Derrida illustrates the metaphysical enchaining of 'history', yet loosening it in that very redescription. I show how this issues in a productive if complex 'diagram', which is implicitly related to multiple concerns of contemporary historiography, as well as occupying a central role within Derrida's own work. In the second part, then, I reconsider some recent historiographical debates from the perspective of this 'diagram'. This perspective forces historiography to confront its own historicity as much as that of its objects - something historians in recent years have been keen to try and do. The 'diagram' is explicated with questions of narrative, meaning, and gender. Through this dialogue, Derrida's emphasis on history is recovered, and historiography is reinvigorated by a renewed philosophical acuity. In the course of this explication and dialogue, Derrida's work appears far different from many of the received representations of a thinker concerned with signs and texts. Derrida is revealed as a thinker of concrete historical situations. His philosophy appears very classical, while at the same time always seeking out dialogue between philosophy and other disciplines.


Table of Contents

1. Introduction -- 2. Approaching 'history' in Derrida via Heidegger and Lévi-Strauss -- 3. The impossible diagram -- 4. Time and narrative -- 5. The history of ideas -- 6. 'In the shadow of shadows': gender -- Conclusion.


This thesis is presented by Andrew Dunstall in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the subject of philosophy, at Macquarie University, Sydney May 2012 Includes bibliographical references

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Philosophy

Department, Centre or School

Department of Philosophy

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Jean-Philippe Deranty


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Andrew Dunstall 2012.




1 online resource (282 pages)

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