\"Ses Fantômes (The Traces of Derrida\'s Cinema),\" Discourse 37, nos. 1-2 (2015): 40-62.

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Ses Fantômes: The Traces of Derrida’s Cinema

Timothy Holland

“Le Cinéma et ses fantômes” (“Cinema and Its Ghosts”), the French title of Jacques Derrida’s interview with Cahiers du cinéma, is appropriately haunted by the play within the French possessive adjective ses and the traces that both generate it and are left in its wake. In French, ses encompasses all third-person singular possessive adjectives (her, his, or its); its usage creates a direct and familiar relationship between two nouns by supplanting the potential repetition of the first and modifying the following definite article. Les fantômes becomes ses fantômes, and two separate nouns transform into a possessive relation through substitution; ses, in this formation, retains the virtual presence of the preceding term after the conjunction et. It is this virtual presence, trace, or specter in the ses that makes the title more appropriate to the interview’s content than meets the eye. At first glance, most will read ses as a substitution for the preceding noun le cinéma, hence the English translation “Cinema and Its Ghosts.” Yet it is possible in the context of the interview to return to the possessive adjective ses and to hear it not as just a substitute for le cinéma but also for some other unknowable “thing,” a phantom it, she, or he (or her or his), or as I’d like to suggest, a nod to deconstruction (it), Derrida himself (his), and the undecidability that arises when one begins to think about ghosts.1 It is unclear and perhaps irrelevant whether the Cahiers editors had this Discourse, 37.1–2, Winter/Spring 2015, pp. 40–62. Copyright © 2015 Wayne State University Press, Detroit, Michigan 48201-1309. ISSN 1522-5321.

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structural undecidability in mind. Nevertheless, that they refrained from using the French possessive de with the definite article noun le cinéma, which would have reconfigured the title to “Les fantômes du cinema,” or “The Ghosts of Cinema” or “Cinema’s Ghosts,” is significant, for the genitive de wording would also relay cinema’s “possession” of ghosts, except in a more decisive and inflexible manner. The avoidance of de in the title “Le Cinéma et ses fantômes” causes slippage between someone’s or something’s spectral possession and consequently stresses the relations between cinema and someone’s or something’s ghosts (but belonging to whom or to what exactly? cinema? is “it” masculine or feminine? are these ghosts proper to deconstruction? Or perhaps Derrida?) rather than entirely merging them: someone or something has its ghosts in relation to cinema, and that someone or something is permanently veiled in this configuration. She, he, it (hers, his, its)—ses—cannot be identified, assembled, or rolled up into a defined who or what. Partially suspended, the title oscillates between possibilities, and one is obliged to read it in the plural. This irreducible syntactical plurality forms a parallel with Derrida’s recurrent use of the French expression plus d’un, which like a number of his neologisms and other idiomatic examples of untranslatability illustrates the differences between the written and spoken articulations of the same utterance, even if they occur in the same language. As Peggy Kamuf points out, the meaning of plus d’un in French depends on the pronunciation of the “s” in the word plus: if stressed, the expression means “more than one,” if silent, “no more one.” Clearly a challenge for translators and readers, the expression speaks about the mobility of meaning and delivery through its own type of lexical kinesis—it speaks through its silence, in other words. Derrida draws on the written form of plus d’un because when spoken, the expression loses its plurivocality, and in the absence of vocal enunciation, and with its audible form suspended, the plural grapheme plus refuses to line up with its singular phoneme. Kamuf observes that the expression “shifts registers from that of counting by ones to that of counting without number one, or of taking account of the other than one.”2 For translators such as her, this usage of plus d’un must therefore take into account both meanings and sounds concurrently and generate a conjunction that broadcasts their reckoning with a language deprived of any one voice.3 Derrida’s plus d’un necessitates a double inscription or other stylistic marker in written French: plus d’un/plus d’un, the same is double (more than one/ no more one). It thus finds an apposite venue in the opening pages of Specters of Marx (1993), Derrida’s most explicit treatise on ghosts and haunting. It is here that he calls on the plurality of the written


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plus d’un to describe Marx’s manifold specters and, more generally, to condense the dispersive logic of the spectral and haunting by, as Kamuf says, “posing at the same time the other time that is not counted by beginning with one.”4 With the words “the other time that is not counted by beginning with one,” Kamuf describes spectral temporality: overlapping, multiple, and no longer one, temporalities that cannot be accounted, calculated, or evenly spatialized along a grid or projected into the horizon of a telos. In his book on Marx, Derrida will call this effect “hauntology.” This term names a multiplicity that is not just additional or supplementary (“more than one”) but also indicates, simultaneously, a primary heteronomy that comes before the one from which defined differences and separations would be successively deduced (the “no more one”). The plurality of plus resonates within the possessive adjective ses, and together they name and perform, as developed in this essay, a type of cinematic haunting, a scene of cinema perhaps, of watching, of being watched, a fantômachie where ghosts return and battle among each other. Cinema is a séance where one discovers oneself already lost, more than one/no longer one, haunted, viewer and viewed, already ceded to the specters on the screen.5 A scene of cinema loops throughout deconstruction like a film: a scene where and when one discovers that he or she is cinematic. “Cinema and Its/His (Derrida’s) Ghosts”: while the title evoked here summons rather than exorcises the possessive adjective’s other possibilities, I’d like momentarily to suspend it, as if in a freeze-frame, because this particular plurality serves the fortunate purpose of characterizing—through both its action as interpretive gesture and what it names—Derrida’s thinking of cinematic spectrality as well as cinema’s spectral relation to and place within what is called deconstructive thought. By offering for consideration cinema’s “relation to” deconstruction, my point is not to analyze, however plausible or alluring it may be, filmmaking’s rejoinder, absorption, or resistances to Derrida’s work. “Relation to” and “place within” alternatively seek to develop an underlying concern of the interview and the impetus driving the concerns of the following essay: the general absence of Derrida’s work in contemporary film/media theory and criticism in combination with, or as a reaction to, his ostensible silence concerning cinema, meaning the lack of a rigorous deconstructive textual work on or about it.6 Both of these absences are haunted, albeit differently, by the other’s phantomlike presence, by the other being, there. “Le cinéma et ses fantômes” understood or translated for the moment as “Cinema and Its/His (Derrida’s) Ghosts” names and performs this figure of the absent presence twice: cinema (read here, by extension as

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institutionalized film and media studies and theory, a place currently marked, for the most part, by the scarcity of reference in and to Derrida’s work) haunted by deconstruction; cinema’s ghosts located in the heart of deconstructive thought. At once, the title tells the reader something about Derrida’s thinking of cinema as fantômachie and that someone/something (who? what?) has its ghosts, that certain ghosts belong to this subject/thing and only to it/her/him, and that this subject/thing is multiple. Ses cannot be conceptualized by thinking in ones. In the preface to the interview, Cahiers writers Antoine de Baecque and Thierry Jousse refer to cinema’s nonappearance in Derrida’s oeuvre and how this presumed lacuna led to the journal’s earlier avoidance of his work. They write: “It is not obvious that a journal such as Cahiers du cinéma would interview Jacques Derrida. Above all because, for a long time, Derrida seemed to be interested only in the phenomenon of writing, in its trace, in speech.”7 While the imperfect form of “seemed to be” (ne semblait) evinces a kind of concession in advance, or the implicit admission of a misguided presupposition, Cahiers’ opening statement helps illuminate the reasoning behind what can be seen as contemporary film and media studies’ general reluctance to associate Derrida’s works with cinema. This reluctance is not entirely without cause. Although his corpus is marked by a wide-ranging interdiscplinarity that challenges the traditions, limits, and reach of philosophy and has recurrently touched on cinema’s neighboring fields, such as literature, music, photography, and painting, to name a few, it is a fact that there are few references to films and cinema in Derrida’s published (and translated) works. Additionally, Derrida’s output on the topic is dwarfed when compared to the well-known cinematic forays by other French philosophers more or less of his generation and often clumped together under the loose banners of “postmodernism,” “poststructuralism,” and/or “French theory,” namely Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Ranciére, and Alain Badiou. From this perspective, it would seem that the lack of a categorical “cinema text” by Derrida feasibly initiated a passive, quasi-mutual avoidance between contemporary film and media studies and deconstruction, much to the surprise of those aware of his works’ diversity and the consistency of its interdiscplinarity. What I’m characterizing here as contemporary film and media studies’ general avoidance of Derrida’s works should not be conflated with some unyielding resistance, nonexistent reception, or strict mutual exclusivity among them. Indeed, numerous film and media scholars have taken up and continue to take up, in one way or another, the question of deconstruction and


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cinema, and Derrida’s larger influence in film and media studies, however indirect, complex, symptomatic, and spectral, should not be dismissed in proportion to the titles, themes, and keywords populating a body of scholarship. If, for example, an inquiry into deconstruction’s initial reception in film studies was pursued in the latter manner, it would likely center on Marie-Claire Ropars-Wuilleumier and her numerous French publications revolving around the theme of cinécriture that stretch back to the early 1970s.8 This inquiry would also need to take note of Peter Brunette and David Wills’s coauthored book from 1989, Screen/Play: Derrida and Film Theory, and their 1994 editorial collaboration, Deconstruction and the Visual Arts, which includes an interview with Derrida where he considers the specificity of cinema at some length (among a number of themes concerning the visual arts) as well as several essays on deconstructive thought and film. The inquiry would finally have to reckon with a cluster of more recent scholarship such as that of Akira Mizuta Lippit, especially his essay that originally appeared in Discourse, “Reflections on Spectral Life.”9 These examples are in no way exhaustive: they serve to merely highlight or sketch a few of the most visible cases of Derrida’s influence in a field that, while certainly not symbiotic with deconstruction, developed and accelerated in a parallel fashion with it (as well as the multifaceted body of work known as French theory) beginning in the mid to late 1960s. Both deconstruction and film and media studies benefited from shared, contingent circumstances stemming from a milieu of burgeoning academic interdiscplinarity and pioneering scholastic, artistic, and political work in the humanities that sought to redefine the walls and reach of the university. Both were not simply outgrowths of this milieu but rather centrally constitutive of it. In short, even though Derrida’s presence within film theory has been labeled by Robert Lapsley and Michael Westlake as a “structuring absence,” film and media studies have not completely ignored deconstruction, and it would be remiss to assume so.10 And yet, although Derrida’s influence has had a direct and lasting impact in related fields, such as comparative literature and other humanities disciplines, it seems to have waned precipitously in film and media studies, since what is often considered the heyday of film theory, particularly if one investigates the scholarship coming out of the field that is more or less concretely “about” Derrida’s work. One could credit this abatement, at least in the United States, to a multitude of interdependent factors orbiting around the field’s shifting theoretical landscape: the theory boom and wars that erupted in the 1970s and 1980s and their aftereffects; the field’s movement away from the strict semiotic and structuralist analyses (such as

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those associated with early Metz and developed from Barthes and Saussure) that were often erroneously correlated with Derrida’s work; the intensification of rigorously historical, social sciencebased, audience-based, and quantitive scholarship in the field; the explosion of professional film and media production degreegranting programs (from both for-profit and traditional nonprofit institutions) at the expense of analysis and criticism and the field’s affiliation with the humanities; and the ominous funding issues, debilitating cuts, and austerity measures currently levied against the humanities that have terminated language departments and other avenues of theory. In the face of these hurdles, or perhaps because of them, theory still remains a vital component of film and media studies, as recent work on the topic suggests.11 It is this vitality, as well as the abiding notice given to French thinkers who also never devoted what could be considered “substantial time” to cinema, such as Jacques Lacan, Louis Althusser, and Michel Foucault, that makes the infrequent mention of deconstruction in film and media scholarship perplexing and, in the end, perhaps unjustly anchored to Derrida’s perceived avoidance of cinema. For Brunette and Wills, who were the first to raise the issue and attempt to compensate for what they called film theory’s “neglect” of Derridean thought in Screen/Play, this “relative absence” was inseparable from “the supposed apolitical and ahistorical nature of deconstruction” and the dominating influence of Marxist-Lacanian interpretation prevalent during the period of their study (1989).12 As Brunette and Wills observe, the film theorists who undertook the latter mode of critique saturated the venerated and polemical publications of the era, namely the French journals La Nouvelle critique, Cahiers du cinéma, and the Tel-Quel affiliated Cinéthique and the British Screen. Together, as it is widely known, these publications ostensibly governed the field’s production and reception of film theory.13 Screen in particular functioned as “the crucial mediators between French and American film theorists” and viewed Derrida’s work, according to Brunette and Wills, as part of the conservative and politically passive “Yale School,” whose members (such as J. Hillis Miller, Geoffrey Hartman, and Paul de Man) were dedicated to formal, textual analysis rather than interrogating dominant ideology and the demands of historical materialism.14 Following Screen/ Play’s argument, Derrida’s absence in English-speaking film and media studies was therefore caused by a negative, if implicit, perception of his early work and, most glaringly, by the place, figure, and politics of “the text” by key French and English interlocutors who operated as the field’s trendsetters. Like a series of hollow echoes, the lack of Derrida’s work in French cinema journals, and


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subsequently in the pages of publications such as Screen, reverberated within the burgeoning American film studies movement and accounts for deconstruction’s silence there today.15 Whether embraced or contested, Brunette and Wills’s narrative casts a new light on Derrida’s Cahiers interview and the significance of its inaugural sentence: “It is not obvious that a journal such as Cahiers du cinéma would interview Jacques Derrida.”16 It seems “not obvious” because, as de Baecque and Jousse go on to say, Derrida has not pursued the critical and/or academic study of cinema. He is, as they explain, “neither a specialist nor a professor speaking from the height of commanding knowledge, but very simply . . . a man who thinks and who goes back to the ontology of cinema while shedding new light on it.”17 Cinema, as Derrida later admits, represents for him “a hidden, secret, avid, gluttonous joy—in other words, an infantile pleasure.”18 It is his blissful yet underdeveloped, nonspecialist, and “secret” relation to cinema and movies that seemingly prompted Cahiers to remark a silence— an implicit, mutual preclusion founded on Derrida’s preference to let his cinematic pleasures remain clandestine and possibly all the more insatiable. With Screen/Play’s hypothesis in mind, one can read de Baecque and Jousse’s passive, idiomatic negation “it is not obvious” (n’est pas chose qui va de soi can also be translated as “it is not something self-evident”) as an alibi, a self-vindication of Cahiers’ part in excluding deconstructive thought from its pages and the ripple effect of this exclusion. At the very least, Cahiers’ opening explanation glosses the journal’s influence on and fraught history within contemporary film and media studies and film theory; in the same breath, it intimates the resistances to and rejections of deconstruction that accompanied its spread and acceptance in the academy and beyond—the figurative battle lines that were drawn in unison with its impact.19 An empirical argument advocating for Derrida’s work to be included in the field, and concomitantly for cinema’s place within deconstruction, could theoretically emerge in two ways, and Cahiers alludes to both in the interview’s preface. The first would, as does the citation above, hinge on periodizing Derrida’s thought by considering its evolution or movement from a perceived exclusive focus on writing and speech to other themes, fields, or topos allied with or in close proximity to cinema, such as those named in the interview: the 1990 collaboration with the Louvre that resulted in Memoirs of the Blind: The Self-Portrait and Other Ruins, first published in French during the same year by Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux; the 1993 filmed conversation with Bernard Stiegler about the global mediascape, transcribed

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Photo by Peggy Kamuf.

in the 1996 Éditions Galilée–Institut national de l’audiovisuel release Echographies of Television: Filmed Interviews; and his performance as “subject” in Safaa Fathy’s 1999 film Derrida’s Elsewheres and the corollary book he coauthored with her, Tourner les mots: Au bord d’un film, published by Éditions Galilée/Arte Éditions in 2000. One could also include Derrida’s appearances as “himself” in Ken McMullen’s 1983 fictional film Ghost Dance and in the 2002 American documentary Derrida, directed by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman, as well as a host of texts that engage with photography, video, architecture, and painting. As the Cahiers writers assert, these events prove that Derrida is now an apt interviewee for their cinema-centric/cinephilic publication, notwithstanding the latter’s avowed, unorthodox cinephilia (or perhaps cinemania) and seemingly unbridgeable distance from the passions of his interviewers.20 To this end, they write: “That’s all we needed to go and ask some questions of a philosopher who, even though he admits he’s not a cinephile, nevertheless has truly been thinking about the cinematographic apparatus, projection, and the ghosts that every normally constituted viewer feels an irresistible urge to encounter.”21 For many, this first method of examining deconstruction’s affiliation with cinema vis-à-vis Derrida’s (close) encounters with it makes sense: Derrida, it seems, has finally come around to cinema, or at least close enough to warrant the attention of the cinephiles


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who manage one of the most esteemed film journals, whose reputation, Derrida remarks later in the interview, “signifies a cultivated, theoretical relation to cinema.”22 For others who are critical of schematizing Derrida’s work in such a progressive and evolutionary manner, this first method of approach may resemble the allegations of deconstruction’s early political disinterest by detractors wary of its attentiveness to writing and the declarations of his later ethicopolitical “turn,” which were pronounced after the publications of “Force of Law: The ‘Mystical Foundations of Authority’” (1989), the aforementioned Specters of Marx (1993), and the French edition of The Politics of Friendship (1994). There are wide and evident dissimilarities among these two assertions, particularly in their approach to deconstruction and the circumstances of their expression, which range from commentary to blatant attack. Nevertheless, both claims can be seen to judge Derrida’s work through its explicit signposting (or lack thereof) of terms, proper names, and concepts, such as “justice,” “Marx,” “politics,” and “hospitality,” for example, in addition to the unconventional and challenging ways in which these texts, especially the early published works, deliver their analyses—that is to say, what they do with and to language.23 Counterarguments against these two allegations assert that the absence of such signposting does not necessarily preclude ethicopolitical activity or positioning and that within Derrida’s indirect and elliptical references and textual performances there are indeed elaborate and radical ethicopolitical stakes, reflecting and engaging the politically charged context of French philosophy at the time.24 Additionally, these defenses claim that deconstruction’s calculated resistance to traditional ethical and political programs, activities, and theories in many ways frame its political and ethical implications. In other words, declarations that Derrida’s early work was apolitical and efforts to detect a sharp ethicopolitical “turn” in his later work—however fair or expected, given the conventions of classical philosophical argumentation as well as the chronology and causality associated with traditional historicity—both similarly miss what deconstruction is up to.25 It would be heedless to equate cinema’s role and function in Derrida’s oeuvre to that of the ethicopolitical, but the example of overlooking the latter’s place, specifically within his inaugural publications, in combination with the reasons given for Derrida’s exclusion from film theory, exemplifies two important points about the affinity between cinema and the ethicopolitical that merit elaboration. First, the absence of proper names, other explicit markers, and/or terms of delineation does not necessarily inhibit the presence or functionality of those very things that appear to be

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missing, nor does the overt presence of them guarantee their complete transmission and arrival without leakage, excess, or errancy. The logic of spectrality, a logic that characterizes the deconstructive gesture, calls on writing, reading, and thinking otherwise.26 Second, if one accepts Brunette and Wills’s proposition about film theory’s elision of Derridean thought, one would be forced to accept that this absence was truly “neglect” and not wholly predicated on Derrida’s reticence about cinema. Instead, Derrida’s absence was (and perhaps to a lesser degree still is) engendered by his politics, or rather the flawed view of his initial nonengagement with that era’s burning political issues, and likely his well-documented discomfort with and distance from the hegemonic politicized communities that arose in response to them.27 It would be Derrida’s political misalignment that kept the pioneers of film theory, and therefore contemporary film and media studies, away from deconstruction and not the other way around; the misreading of this misalignment is also precisely what contributed to speculating on the ethicopolitical (and cinematic) “turn” in Derrida’s later work. While I stated above that it would be a mistake to simply equate the ethicopolitical and cinema and to insinuate that they share the same conceptual space and time in Derrida’s oeuvre, these two points indicate that these topics are in fact intertwined and that there exists an ethicopolitical/cinematic knot in Derrida’s corpus. This entanglement loops through the political reasons behind deconstruction’s absence in contemporary film and media studies as well as the politics of the film theory boom in France, Britain, and the United States and thus the politics of politics. The knot also tugs on the cinematic features distinguishing and pursued by deconstructive ethicopolitics. The fact is that their key concept, if not the main crux, is the figure of the specter and all that comes with thinking through and with spectrality and being with ghosts, including mourning, inheritance, heteronomy before autonomy, undeliverable justice, the undeconstructible, the future/past orientation of l’avenir (to come), and so on.28 This is not to say that the deconstructive conception of the ethicopolitical is a movie, nor is it to imply that what is commonly called cinema spawns these concepts—that cinema is somehow the origin of Derrida’s treatment of spectrality and thus deconstruction. Rather, this knot implies that cinema inhabits a more privileged place within deconstructive thought than may be assumed. What is left to be debated is whether Derrida’s take on spectrality and the ethicopolitical would have been possible in the total absence of a certain idea or dream of cinema that is nonetheless informed by and inseparable from the practice of it. Can haunting, or


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“hauntology” for that matter, be imagined or conceptualized without a certain form or idea of cinema or the cinematic?29 Just where and when does cinema or the cinematic begin and end? If the first method that links together deconstruction and cinema relies on Derrida’s explicit discussion of or “turn” toward movies or filmmaking, the second would claim that cinema, though mostly unmentioned or called by name, appears to have an influential place in his corpus. To their credit, de Baecque and Jousse gesture toward this when they describe Derrida as “a philosopher who, even though he admits he’s not a cinephile, nevertheless has truly been thinking [a pourtant une véritable pensée] about the cinematographic apparatus, projection, and the ghosts that every normally constituted viewer feels an irresistible urge to encounter.”30 Despite this acknowledgment, the contours of the “has truly been” are murky, and the saying itself is a challenge to translate precisely into English.31 In order to follow this second method, to argue for deconstruction’s affinity with or even inseparability from cinema and to resist the comforts of positing another historical “turn,” it is necessary to look back into Derrida’s oeuvre and to locate empirically the traces of cinema, those shadows cast by “the cinematographic apparatus,” however marginal or fleeting they may be. What emerges in the following pursuit of the “has truly been” in Derrida’s initial works is neither a developed discourse nor simply conjecture; rather, one discovers a sort of ghostly genealogy of cinema—a small discounted yet repetitive presence of the very thing that has long been considered to be absent. A first stop in this investigation would likely be Derrida’s mention of “cinematography” in the opening pages of Of Grammatology’s “Writing before the Letter,” which was originally published in the French journal Critique in December 1965, nearly two years before the release of the book:

Now we tend to say “writing” for all that and more: to designate not only the physical gestures of literal pictographic or ideographic inscription, but also the totality of what makes it possible; and also, beyond the signifying face, the signified face itself. And thus we say “writing” for all that gives rise to inscription in general, whether it is literal or not and even if what it distributes in space is alien to the order of the voice: cinematography, choreography, of course, but also pictorial, musical, sculptural “writing.”32

Derrida uses cinematography in this passage as an example of a word and practice that contains the suffix “graphy” and thus refers

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to writing but does not straightforwardly correspond to alphabetic writing as it has been positioned within the history of Western metaphysics, that is, as a degraded supplement to the presence of “the order of the voice.”33 Along with multiple terms and practices that imply writing (with or without the “graphy” suffix) in their name, “cinematography,” Derrida contends, demonstrates the general inflation of the term “writing” in culture, or the process by which the word “writing” is increasingly supplanting the term “language” to describe the essence and activity of practices (as well as “things,” such as the face) in the Western world. This inflation of writing-as-language into domains that appear disassociated from its standard alphabetic and supplemental form—through what he calls a “slow movement whose necessity is hardly perceptible”—is not just a passing fad or trend for Derrida; “this situation,” he says, “has always already been announced.”34 In sum, this idiomatic substitution is symptomatic of something much more revealing about the concept of writing and its relation to and status within language and signification.35 Of Grammatology proposes that the inflation of writing is indicative of the performance of what has been called “language” in general: “‘signifier of the signifier’ [i.e., the conventional concept of writing] no longer defines accidental doubling and fallen secondarity [from the assumed full presence of speech] . . . [but] describes on the contrary the movement of language.”36 Writing, Derrida says, “comprehends language”; language and all of signification can be understood as forms of writing.37 Underneath language, Derrida suggests, there is nothing but forms of writing— veiled, fundamental, originary—that do not reinstitute the presence associated with speech, thought, or eidos by predating them but instead render untenable their demand for presence by haunting them. Language, Derrida proposes, as speech, thought, and/ or eidos, is “always already” mediated, which is to say engaged in editing, selection, tracing, projection, and other differential acts of writing. Cinematography thus serves as a vital and especially contemporary practice of a form of writing whose name can be seen to announce rather than efface the primary writing (or “archiwriting”) of which Of Grammatology speaks.38 In its name, cinematography calls out a practice of writing that is not a derivative or degraded supplement to something more pure or immediate such as speech but instead is an activity that, unlike Western metaphysics, reveals its condition as writing. Of course, the question or challenge ensconced within Of Grammatology’s passing mention of cinematography is precisely the latter’s nondevelopment, especially in comparison to the relative nuance that Derrida provides in the section’s remaining pages


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when discussing molecular biology, cybernetics, theoretical mathematics, and phonography. Cinematography is clearly included in a general sense as an example among a group of activities that are not beholden to the imitative speech model. Although an explicit theory of film is not to be found in Of Grammatology, these observations of writing’s inflation—of the term “writing” progressively supplanting the term “language” to label what he deems the broad “action, movement, thought, reflection, consciousness, unconsciousness, experience, affectivity, etc.”—do offer a theory of “the now,” a reconsideration of what is appearing to happen presently in the world as Derrida writes.39 Cinematography, while certainly a modern invention that, as a practice, is much newer than Western metaphysics, illustrates in its name the spectral place and function of writing as such—as it has always been. The name given to this relatively contemporary technical operation thus exposes something extremely old, even originary (although thinking the origin of the trace nullifies the clear inauguration of any one thing): the necessary phonocentrism of metaphysics and what lies underneath, unspoken—the always, already of language as a type of writing. It is only now, Derrida contends, that writing’s spectral place is coming to be recognized where it already was through names and practices such as cinematography. Its arrival has been delayed; it has developed like a photograph.40 By tracking this spectrality through modern practices (including cinematography), Derrida’s early work sets out to show that Western philosophy has been ceaselessly attempting to exorcise writing and the disruptive supplements, ghosts, and traces that accompany it and sully the “full presence” required by metaphysics. In many ways, deconstruction’s first specific aim was therefore to challenge philosophy’s writing witch hunt by revealing a new perspective that, paradoxically, was already present and operative; it is in this way that deconstructive thought and its ethicopolitics are essentially commitments to spectrality in general, to the affirmation of delay and the “time out of joint,” and the enactment of a type of “zooming effect” that snarls the operations of institutions and other formulations of power from the inside. The “zooming effect,” “extreme close-ups,” and enlargement of elided detail found within these commitments echo through both cinematic and psychoanalytic processes and help explain Derrida’s frequent references to Walter Benjamin’s take on the relationship between the two in his essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility.”41 As his comments in the Cahiers interview illustrate, what interests Derrida is Benjamin’s thinking of the “direct relation” between cinema and psychoanalysis as “contemporaries,” which not only cites the overlapping public

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announcements or arrivals of each (August and Louis Lumière’s first screening of the cinématographe in 1895 and, at the same time, Sigmund Freud’s early publications) and the similar duration of analysis and feature-length films (not to mention the French term séance that describes both), but also the investment each takes in unearthing and magnifying forms of subterranean life, desires, details, and drives. The detail of these disclosures, Derrida says, “gives access to another scene, a heterogeneous scene,” as they find something new in the world that was already there: details turn the world upside down and show it to be haunted, a world of plus d’un (more than one world, no longer any one world; the world adrift).42 Like deconstructive thought, both psychoanalysis and cinema uncovered or gave a stage to what often went unnoticed, to what was previously imperceptible, repressed, forgotten, or unconscious but was there all along. While these comparisons may lure one into lumping cinema, psychoanalysis, and deconstruction together, it is important to keep in mind that on numerous occasions Derrida unambiguously denied that his work was a variety of psychoanalysis; he also, just as unambiguously, rejects in the Cahiers interview the suggestion of the “synchronization” between film editing (montage) and “writing of the deconstructive type,” in spite of their resemblances and his declaration of their “essential link.”43 Four years before the publication Of Grammatology in France and two years before the appearance of “Writing before the Letter,” Derrida made another passing reference to cinema in the pages of Critique. The essay “Force and Signification” (1963) was Derrida’s first publication in that journal and would later serve as the opening essay in Writing and Difference (1967). “Force and Signification” examines the implications of Jean Rousset’s 1963 book Forme et signification: Essais sur les structures littéraires de Corneille à Claudel and the structuralist effort, according to Derrida, to divest a literary work’s force through the strict and determined measurements of form. Force can be understood here as the quality of language’s incessant movement and differential tension, which guarantees the ungovernability of meaning by author and critic alike. Similar to the relation of writing and speech in Of Grammatology, Derrida’s project in “Force and Signification” is not simply to privilege force over form or oppose them dialectically but instead to insist on their spectral fusion, inseparability, and the irreducible pressure both exert on each other that cannot be discarded, stabilized, or exactly defined. “Force is not darkness,” he says, “and it is not hidden under a form for which it would serve as a substance, matter, or crypt. Force cannot be conceived as an oppositional couple.”44 Unlike the binary opposition of form to content, force can be seen as that


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which constitutes the play of language and signification through and within form but also as that which cannot be contained or directly articulated, as Derrida remarks, “under a form,” or as a truth to be unveiled.45 Even while praising the rigor of Rousset’s project, Derrida’s analysis argues that on the whole, the structuralist mission risks reducing and neutralizing the literary work’s movement or life by nullifying the difference, nuance, and invention at work in the work of its language. His key observation in this early text is that structuralist interpretation such as Rousset’s relies on an inherent metaphoricity that these analyses must not recognize as such; structuralism must, in effect, efface its own structuring devices in order to function. Although this claim may seem more innocuous than incriminating, it has profound and irreparable repercussions for any project—structuralist or otherwise—attempting to account for the totality of a text, particularly if one believes that meaning and intention can be determined through formal patterns. In sum, Derrida claims that Rousset fails to take up the literary text on its own terms; the latter cannot stabilize the play of force and form, and as a result, he must supplement his analysis with crude spatializing metaphors that “stricto senso . . . [refer] only to space, geometric or morphological space, the order of forms and sites.”46 Rousset’s structural analyses in Forme et signification violently condense literary works into immediate and stable spatial metaphors without recognizing these figures as precisely figurative and in the end historically determined, deficient, and supplementary. It is in this discussion of structuralism’s reliance on and effacement of spatialization that Derrida turns to cinema or, more precisely, the term “cinematic”: Hence, for as long as the metaphorical sense of the notion of structure is not acknowledged as such, that is to say interrogated and even destroyed as concerns its figurative quality so that the nonspatiality or original spatiality designated by it may be revived, one runs the risk, through a kind of sliding as unnoticed as it is efficacious, of confusing meaning with its geometric, morphological, or, in the best of cases, cinematic model. One risks being interested in the figure itself to the detriment of the play going on within it metaphorically.47

Resembling the list-and-example structure that included “cinematography” in Of Grammatology, this fleeting cinematic allusion is not further developed in “Force and Signification”; it will represent Derrida’s only explicit mention of cinema in Writing and Difference. Although this reference may seem trivial, it is in fact pivotal in this essay’s deconstruction of structuralism (and therefore metaphysics)

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and furthermore points toward what Derrida will soon call différance with the 1965 publication of his “La parole soufflée” in the journal Tel Quel. The significance of the “cinematic model” is tied to how it tacitly opposes or surpasses the preceding terms “geometric” and “morphological.” These terms imply measurement and shape, respectively, and consequently imply a certain momentary stasis that can be exacted as and through form. As “the best of cases,” the very term “cinema” or the “cinematic model” conjures the contrary. Deriving from the Greek words κίνημα and κινηματ or kinema denoting movement and motion, cinema is typically distinguished—as it is in its etymology—by a primary resistance to stasis and what can be considered, in both practice and theory, as its complex rendering of temporality and duration. “[I]ts vernacular name makes the relation explicit,” says Akira Mizuta Lippit of the term “‘movies’—images that move, that produce and reproduce movement from life itself, animation.”48 One is led to assume that the movement or duration proper to the “cinematic model” is precisely what differentiates it from the immobile abstraction and pure spatialization proper to geometry and morphology; this distinction is presumably what makes it “the best of cases” in comparison. And as the best case, the “cinematic model” would seem to be the closest one could get (at least compared to the other two examples) to the total capture and reanimation of the literary work, the result being its moving image or movie—a film of force and form. By designating the “cinematic model” as the “the best of cases,” Derrida certainly is not saying that cinema provides an ideal, pure, or otherwise simple replication of a literary work. No doubt, such a figureless or literal metaphor entails the complete absence of any analogical relation, the disappearance of all difference and mediation, or exactly what deconstruction deems unfeasible with the often-misused statement “there is nothing outside of the text [il n’y a pas de hors-texte].”49 Derrida also does not seem to be referring to a filmed adaptation of a novel. No, despite its status as “the best of cases,” the “cinematic model” is still a risk. “[O]ne runs the risk,” Derrida says, in equating it or the sound and images that it produces—its model—with the complete (re)presentation of the recorded thing, or here, the union of force and form in the literary text. In short, one risks believing in the “cinematic model” too much and accepting this movie for the thing it captured and now projects. The risk of cinema is therefore believing it not to be cinema; one runs the risk of cinematic disbelief. As the closest one can get to the absent thing, the “cinematic model” is the riskiest of all and the best: it is the best precisely because it is the riskiest. Because viewers often skip or look past “the play going on within it” and


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because the classical narrative-based cinema depends on this form of spectator belief to succeed (aka transparency), one ventures putting too much faith in the “cinematic model”; one may accept it as such. The thought that accumulates around cinema’s risk—the risk exclusively afforded to cinema as “the best of cases”—signals an embryonic film theory in Derrida’s earliest published work, a sort of deconstruction of the apparatus that would predate and exceed those associated with Baudry or Heath (but also trace back, albeit in a completely different way, to a reading of structuralism and to Althusser). The seeds of this theory, the theory itself a seed, are awakened in Derrida’s hypothetical cinema project that he proposes to de Baecque and Jousse, almost 40 years later: “If I were to write about film, what would interest me above all is its mode and system of belief. There is an altogether singular mode of believing in cinema: a century ago, an unprecedented experience of belief was invented.”50 The singular mode of believing in cinema is the singularity and stakes of its risk. Its danger makes it the best. The “cinematic model” comes from a fantastical metaphormachine that, like a monstrous variant of cinéma pur, produces images (and metaphors) constituting an absolute formalism beyond form, mimesis, or imitation. Cinema, in this sense, does not render likeness or anything else for that matter; it creates nothing or, rather, everything. Evading abstraction by immediately reflecting “the union of form and meaning” through a virtuality exceeding the limits of spatialization, the “cinematic model” seems to exist, as Derrida positions the implicit metaphysics framing the structuralist mission, in “a theological simultaneity” together with the work, text, or object under analysis (or before the lens).51 The mention of the “cinematic model” as the “best of cases” thus implicitly alludes to a certain failure of cinema, or any other fantastical device, writing practice, or critical method, to achieve total immediacy and obliterate différance. Rousset’s attempts to do so only summon ghosts. Developing these traces of cinema in Of Grammatology and “Force and Signification” will likely do little toward repudiating the periodization of Derrida’s thought and conceptions of his previous silence and subsequent movement toward cinema. It is a fact that he mentions briefly both “cinematography” and the “cinematic method” and that cinema, in both cases, serves as a supplemental role and example. Yet to find cinema there, not just anywhere but in the heart of his arguments about the spectral place of writing and the impossibility of immediacy, within what will become two of the most fundamental tenets of deconstructive thought, seems to be enough to give one pause before accepting Derrida’s distance


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from cinema and the justifications for his works’ relative absence in film and media studies. Especially with the richness of the Cahiers interview in hand, it seems that there is now enough to warrant further investigation into the “has truly been,” to ask what thinking the ses and plus d’un reveal about both the theoretical study of cinema and (its) ethicopolitics today, and finally, not only to pursue the question “Why not Derrida in film and media studies?” but also to affirm the injunction of this specter and all that it (but who? what?) conjures.

Notes 1.

There is an important distinction to be made between this invocation of interpretative or structural undecidability and what Derrida says of the undecidable in his “Force of Law: The ‘Mystical Foundations of Authority,’” translated by Mary Quaintance, in Deconstruction and the Possibility of Justice, edited by Drucilla Cornell, Michael Rosenfeld, and David Gary Carlson, 3–67 (New York: Routledge, 1992). “The undecidable, a theme often associated with deconstruction, is not merely the oscillation between two significations or two contradictory and very determinate rules, each equally imperative. . . . [I]t is the experience of that which, though heterogeneous, foreign to the order of the calculable and the rule, is still obliged . . . to give itself up to the impossible decision, while taking account of law and rules” (24). In other words, the undecidable cannot simply be considered an ambivalent encounter with two (or more) distinct possibilities within the realm of the calculable; it is also the “experience” of a decision in the radical absence of precedence. For a more sustained reading of Derrida’s take on the undecidable, see J. Hillis Miller “Who or What Decides, for Derrida: A Catastrophic Theory of Decision,” in For Derrida (New York: Fordham University Press, 2009), 9–27. 2. Peggy Kamuf, “The Ghosts of Critique and Deconstruction,” in Book of Addresses (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004), 219. 3. For Kamuf, the English translator of Specters of Marx, plus d’un exposes translation as a type of volume control or, better, sound mixing: “I said that this phrase (plus d’un) mutes its voice as soon as one attempts to translate it. But one could have said just as well that translation is straining there to hear a voice, so it can decide which of all the possible plural translations is closest to the original, supposing always that the original is a single voice. In this way, translation is also a philology of voice” (Kamuf, “The Ghosts of Critique and Deconstruction,” 235). The translator encounters a plurality of voices and must attempt, as impossible as it may be, to “tune in” to one at the expense of others. If the double meaning of plus d’un is to be retained, a listening translator must mute any one voice that says it or, on the other hand, hear and transcribe plurivocality pronouncing two things at once, plus/plus. 4. 5.

Ibid., 219.

The neologism fantômachie comes from Derrida’s well-known improvisation about cinema and ghosts in Ken McMullen’s 1983 film Ghost Dance. Derrida appears in the film as himself, or what he calls during his improvisation playing his “proper role.” “Cinema is an art of fantômachie,” he says in the film; “it’s an art in which ghosts are allowed to return.” Fusing the French terms fantôme (ghost) and the suffix -machie


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(-machy or -machia), coming from the ancient Greek suffix -μαχία, meaning “battle, contest, or labor,” Derrida’s cinema is therefore a battle of phantoms, a contest or clash between them; it stages and provides a stage for their return, a place for their work or encounter among each other in and as cinema. 6. Derrida frequently insisted on the insurmountable differences between his written works and interviews, beginning with the remark to Jean-Louis Houdebine and Guy Scarpetta published in 1971: “The improvised speech of an interview cannot substitute for the textual work.” Jacques Derrida, Positions, translated by Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 61. Throughout his published and filmed interviews, Derrida cites the technical conditions, temporal pressures, and general “scene” of the interview—of having to summarize quickly, of not being given the time and space to elaborate, especially in front of recording devices such as cameras, and the speed and acceleration induced by new media technologies. See Jacques Derrida and Bernard Stiegler, Echographies of Television: Filmed Interviews, translated by Jennifer Bajorek (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2002); Jacques Derrida, Deconstruction in a Nutshell: A Conversation with Jacques Derrida, edited with a commentary by John D. Caputo (New York: Fordham University Press, 1997); Peggy Kamuf, “‘TapeRecorded Surprise’: Derrida Interviewed,” in To Follow: The Wake of Jacques Derrida, 20–32 (Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press, 2010). During an interview for the film Derrida (2002, directed by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman), he associates the command to summarize quickly and explain his work or his “take” on themes with a quasi-abusive “American attitude” of demanding, if unaware, students and members of the media. This attitude, says Derrida, cannot be disassociated from the global spread of American culture through cinema and American culture as a sort of cinematic production that commands performance and “ready-made” discourses. 7. Antoine de Baecque and Thierry Jousse, “Cinema and Its Ghosts: An Interview with Jacques Derrida,” translated by Peggy Kamuf, Discourse 37, nos. 1–2 (2015): 22. 8. According to the bibliography available at http://www.marie-claire-roparswuilleumier.fr, Ropars-Wuilleumier authored eleven books and sixty-eight articles/ chapters and edited or coedited a multitude of publications, including the journal Hors cadre that she cofounded at Université Paris-VIII Vincennes. Only a fraction of Ropars-Wuilleumier’s work has been translated into English. 9. Akira Mizuta Lippit, “Reflections on Spectral Life,” Discourse 30, nos. 1–2 (Winter–Spring 2008): 232–54. The article was reprinted and expanded in Lippit’s Ex-Cinema: From a Theory of Experimental Film and Video (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012). 10. Robert Lapsley and Michael Westlake, Film Theory: An Introduction, 2nd ed. (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2006), 65. “Although initially cited by the post-1968 theorists as support for the materiality of language, references to his [Derrida’s] work became subsequently less frequent,” they write. While the authors cite “a serious incompatibility” between Derrida’s work and film theory’s hard-line structuralist phase, they concede that the poststructuralist “grounds for maintaining a distance” from deconstruction “were less evident.” Like Brunette and Wills’s analysis in Screen/Play, Lapsley and Westlake suggest that this distance “may be traced to a general preference for a Lacanian perspective” (65). 11. See D. N. Rodowick, An Elegy for Theory (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014), and Philosophy’s Artful Conversation (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015).

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12. Peter Brunette and David Wills, Screen/Play: Derrida and Film Theory (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989), 20–21. 13. While other Anglophone journals of the day, such as Canada’s Cine-Tracts and the American journals October, Wide Angle, and Camera Obscura, all played significant roles in the development of the field and film theory, Brunette and Wills primarily draw on Screen’s position because it was the hub for the import and translation of French theory. 14. Brunette and Wills, Screen/Play, 21. For further reading on Screen’s history and crucial place as mediator between English and French speaking audiences, see Philip Rosen, “Screen and 1970s Film Theory,” in Inventing Film Studies, edited by Lee Grieveson and Haidee Wasson, 264–97 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008). For an account of Derrida’s absence from Screen, see Antony Easthope, “Derrida and British Film Theory,” in Applying: To Derrida, edited by John Brannigan, Ruth Robbins, and Julian Wolfreys, 184–94 (London: Macmillan, 1996). 15. Obviously, this account relies on Brunette and Wills’ (and to a lesser extent Lapsley and Westlake’s as well as Easthope’s) observations, and since they were made over twenty-five years ago, a more thorough investigation into archives of Screen and the French journals mentioned, such as Cahiers du cinéma, should be conducted to confirm or dispute them. The present study does not respond in depth to this demand. Instead, it accepts (and repeats) the general understanding in film and media studies of film theory’s development and the attachments of particular journals to certain theoretical frameworks. This “consensus” is not only reaffirmed by the content of some of the renowned essays from those venues, which continue to be republished in anthologies and included in film theory syllabi, but also from the scholarship about the histories of these publications, namely Rosen, “Screen and 1970’s Film Theory”; Philip Rosen, “Screen and the Marxist Project in Film Criticism,” Quarterly Review of Film Studies 2, no. 3 (1977): 273–87; Emilie Bickerton, A Short History of Cahiers du cinéma (London: Verso, 2010); Antoine de Baecque, Les Cahiers du cinéma: Historie d’un revue, Vol. 1, A l’assaut du cinema, 1951–1959, and Vol. 2, Cinéma tours detours, 1959–1981 (Paris: Cahiers du cinéma, 1991). 16.

De Baecque and Jousse, “Cinema and Its Ghosts,” 22.


Ibid., 23.


Ibid., 25.


For Derrida’s thoughts on this simultaneity within the American academy, see “Deconstruction in America: An Interview with Jacques Derrida,” with James Creech, Peggy Kamuf, and Jane Todd, in Critical Exchange 17 (Winter 1985): 1–33 (available online at http://societyforcriticalexchange.org); see also Michael Naas’s development of this topic in “Derrida’s America,” in Derrida from Now On, 96–111 (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008). 20.

“I’m not at all a cinephile in the classical sense of the term.” Instead, says Derrida in the interview, “I’m a pathological case” (de Baecque and Jousse, “Cinema and Its Ghosts,” 23). The use of the term “pathological” here describes his occasioned or conditional cinephilia, or perhaps a type of “cinemania,” in opposition to “the classical sense of the term,” which relates to a more chronic compulsion or obsession. Indeed, Derrida’s relation to cinema is not cinephilic in what can be considered the “Cahiers tradition,” as popularized by the early editorial board and contributors, such as André Bazin, Jacques Rivette, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, and François Truffaut. Derrida’s movie ingestion also appears to differ significantly from


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the previous list of contemporary French philosophers who have written extensively about cinema and particular films (i.e., Deleuze, Ranciére, and Badiou). However, one cannot deny Derrida’s (mad) love for cinema after reading the Cahiers interview; one also must take into account the place(s) and influence of cinema in Parisian culture (which spawned and exacerbated the Cahiers cinephilia), especially in the student-saturated Latin Quarter where Derrida and his Lycée Louis-le-Grand and, later, École Normale Supérieure classmates regularly went to the movies, as articulated in the Cahiers interview and Benoît Peeters, Derrida: A Biography, translated by Andrew Brown (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2012). 21.

De Baecque and Jousse, “Cinema and Its Ghosts,” 22–23 (my emphasis).


Ibid., 25.


As Geoffrey Bennington observes, even Derrida’s texts that contain this signposting, or more direct elaborations on political and/or ethical issues vis-à-vis accepted and anticipated proper names and terms, have been likewise assailed by critics for not being political and/or ethical “enough.” See Geoffrey Bennngton, “Derrida and Politics” and “Deconstruction and Ethics,” in Interrupting Derrida, 18–33 and 34–46 (London: Routledge, 2000). 24.

For a detailed historical account of Derrida’s place within this context, particularly during his student and early teaching years in Paris, see Edward Baring, The Young Derrida and French Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011). 25. Derrida himself denies this turn: “I recall . . . that there never was in the 1980s or 1990s, as has sometimes been claimed, a political turn or ethical turn in ‘deconstruction,’ at least not as I experience it. The thinking of the political has always been a thinking of différance and the thinking of différance always a thinking of the political, of the contour and limits of the political, especially around the enigma or the autoimmune double bind of the democratic.” Derrida goes on to say that his resistance to claims of the ethicopolitical “turn” in his work does not signal deconstruction’s absolute immobility or the absence of new events. His issue is with what he calls the “figure of a ‘turn’” as a radical departure or veering away from not only what has come before but, perhaps more important, what is to come. That is to say, deconstruction has been always been and continues to be committed to and directed toward the ethicopolitics of an undeliverable justice and democracy to come. See Rogues: Two Essays on Reason, translated by Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Nass (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005), 39. See also: Bennington, “Derrida and Politics” and “Deconstruction and Ethics.” 26. For a rigorous account of Derrida’s treatments of spectrality and its relation to the image, mimesis, and writing, see Kas Saghafi, “The Ghosts of Jacques Derrida” in Apparitions—Of Derrida’s Other (New York: Fordham University Press, 2010). 27. For Derrida’s “positions” in these political battles, see Derrida, Positions; Baring, The Young Derrida and French Philosophy; Peeters, Derrida: A Biography; Jacques Derrida and Elizabeth Rudinesco, For What Tomorrow . . . , translated by Jeff Fort (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004). 28. See, for example, Derrida, “The Force of Law”; Derrida, Specters of Marx; Jacques Derrida, The Politics of Friendship (London: Verso, 1997). 29. In the interview Peggy Kamuf, “Double Features: An Interview with Samuel Weber,” Discourse 37, nos. 1–2 (2015): 153, Samuel Weber draws attention to what he sees as an essential theatrical quality of spectrality. Weber points to a scene in Hamlet that exposes “the material opacity of the stage” and suggests “a certain complicity

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between the materiality and corporeality of the theater and the ambiguous localizability of the ghost” (153). The theater stage is therefore an integral site of ghostly apparitions, fluctuating between the visible and the unseen, the on and off (or below) stage, which predates and conditions the cinema. 30.

De Baecque and Jousse, “Cinema and Its Ghosts,” 22–23.


The phrase “a pourtant une véritable pensée” has been translated in the present perfect continuous form, which works best given the context of the preceding sentences and both French and English idioms. A more literal and awkward translation could be “nevertheless has a true thinking of.” 32. Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997) 9 (my emphasis). 33.



Ibid., 6, 9.


Ibid., 6.


Ibid., 9.


Ibid., 7.


According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first documented use of the English word “cinematography” was 1897, while the use of “choreography” is attributed to 1782. Le Grand Robert indicates that the French term cinématographie was derived from the term cinématographe in 1895, the date frequently referred to as cinema’s birth year. 39.

Derrida, Of Grammatology, 9.


For more on Derrida’s thinking of delay as it relates to photography, see Michael Naas, “When It All Suddenly Clicked: Deconstruction after Psychoanalysis after Photography,” Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdiscplinary Study of Literature 44, no. 3 (September 2011): 91–98; Michael Nass, “‘Now Smile’: Recent Developments in Jacques Derrida’s Work on Photography,” South Atlantic Quarterly 110, no. 1 (Winter 2011): 205–22. 41.

Derrida develops the claims of Benjamin’s essay in multiple works, such as “+ R (Into the Bargain),” in The Truth in Painting, translated by Geoffrey Bennington and Ian McLeod, 149–82 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987); The Right of Inspection, translated by David Wills (New York: Monacelli, 1998); “The Deaths of Roland Barthes,” in The Work of Mourning, translated and edited by Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas, 31–67 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001). 42. 43.

De Baecque and Jousse, “Cinema and Its Ghosts,” 26.

Ibid., 33. In his introduction to “Freud and the Scene of Writing,” written for the 1967 publication of the essay in Writing and Difference, Derrida sought to establish the distance between his project and Freud’s with the unequivocal line “Despite appearances, the deconstruction of logocentrism is not a psychoanalysis of philosophy.” Jacques Derrida, Writing and Difference, translated by Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978), 196. For Derrida’s complex relation to Freud’s work and the numerous places Derrida rejected deconstruction’s “synchronization” with psychoanalysis, see Geoffrey Bennington, “Circanalysis (The Thing Itself),” in Interrupting Derrida, 93–109 (London: Routledge, 2000); Peggy Kamuf, “The Deconstitution of Psychoanalysis,” in To Follow: The Wake of Jacques Derrida, 178–86 (Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press, 2010).


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Jacques Derrida, “Force and Signification,” in Writing and Difference, 28.


Ibid. (my emphasis).


Ibid., 15.


Ibid., 16, (my emphasis on “cinematic”).


Akira Mizuta Lippit, “Digesture: Gesture without Bodies,” in Ex-Cinema: From a Theory of Experimental Film and Video (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012), 119. 49.

Derrida, Of Grammatology, 158.


De Baecque and Jousse, "Cinema and Its Ghosts," 27.


Derrida, “Force and Signification” 20, 24.

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