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Derrida Today




The religious thematics at play in the work of Jacques Derrida have often provided an ongoing platform from which to struggle with the entire scope of his work, thus moving the seemingly peripheral discourses on religion within his oeuvre to the center stage. Despite repeated attempts to come to terms both theologically and philosophically with the conditional nature of representations, the problematics of representation are perhaps nowhere more forcefully demonstrated than in the work of Derrida. Indeed, for Derrida, the ‘as if’, as a regulative principle directly appropriated and modified from its Kantian context, becomes the central lynchpin for understanding, not only Derrida’s philosophical system as a whole, but also his numerous seemingly enigmatic references to his ‘jewishness’, as I intend to demonstrate in what follows. Through an analysis of the function of the ‘as if’ within the history of thought, from Greek tragedy to the poetry of Wallace Stevens, I hope to show how Derrida can only appropriate his Judaic roots as an act of mourning that seeks to render the lost object as present, ‘as if’ it were incorporated by the subject for whom this act nevertheless remains an impossibility. As Derrida discerns within the poetry of Paul Celan, bringing a sense of presence/presentness to our experiences, and as a confirmation of the subject which the human being struggles to assert, is the poetic task par excellence. It is seemingly also, if Derrida is to be understood on this point, the only option left to a humanity wherein poetry comes to express what religious formulations can no longer justify.



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Edinburgh University Press


Author Posting. © Edinburgh University Press, 2011. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of Edinburgh University Press for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Derrida Today, Volume 4, Issue 1, 2011

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.