Gut Monolingualism of the Other; or, the Prosthesis of Origin. Jul 03, Nupur rated it really liked it. Among his books translated into English is Resistances of Psychoanalysis Stanford, Our speech with others, as a result can only be metaphor, since there can be no true transference of our knowledge of being through such utterances. I will definitely give it another try sometime. Stanford University Press Amazon.

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Didier Maleuvre Derrida, Jacques. Monolingualism of the Other; or, the Prosthesis of Origin. Patrick Mensah. Stanford: Stanford University Press, This pollster mentality is what, in literature studies, has led to the sort of analysis that imagines the value of a literary artifact is evident once its author and characters are kindly shown the way to their respective cultural, social, colonial, sexual and economical "subjectivities.

How, in other words, does it make sense to say that I have or own a native language? That I belong to a linguistic group or that such a group grants me an identity?

And if so, then just how identical will I be to my tribe and to myself? Will I have found myself then, having cleared the philosophical hurdles to selfhood, and placing my self securely before me? These are the well-worn questions to which Derrida asks us to return. Like Wittgenstein, Heidegger or Austin, Derrida sees in language the lens where these questions best come into focus. And, to start with, the cultural mantra of mother tongue.

Derrida is inclined to take seriously the observation that a person does not create her original language but learns or obtains it from others; that language therefore emerges under the sign of what does not belong to me, nor to other people, who also merely share in it by using it. Indeed, the fact that I do not own the language I speak does not mean anyone else does. So any language is a "language of the other," a transaction that cannot logically be mine unless I inhabit a solipsistic bubble or yours either: as Wittgenstein reminds us, there can be no such thing as a private language.

Any speaker speaks in a language that bursts open the confines of the single person: to Derrida, this fact heralds the otherness breaking through language, or the shattering of identity at work in language.

Gone is the idea that there is a canonic, authoritative or even native connection to language on which parasitic alien forms cluster and feed. In the land of language we are all interlopers and this is what allows us to talk.

Here, however, the picture becomes philosophically shaky. For if there is not nor has ever been any "natural property in language" 23 , then one can only wonder why Derrida goes on talking about exile from language. What one has never lost, one cannot meaningfully be said to miss or pine for. Yet he cannot entirely expunge from his prose the romanticism of exile, portraying the self as adrift outside the ambit of true language.

Debunking the notion that language is organically isomorphic to the self, Derrida harks back to an idealistic or extra-linguistic notion of the self as somehow preceding and standing outside language; a self that would be able to articulate necessarily speechlessly his relationship to language from beyond the circle of language.

This is particularly strange in light of the fact that Derrida admits, at least in two places, that a human self is de facto a speaking self, that it is impossible to imagine oneself, or to have any idea of the self, outside of the language that lets us picture selfhood. Derrida [End Page ] states that nothing, no self, precedes language 25 and therefore that "it is not independent of language in general" And yet this does not stop him from insisting that, although linguistic through and through, the self does not inhabit language, that he is somehow in exile from it, that he does not have it.

The logical thing would be to point out that, insofar as no notion of human selfhood exists without language, it makes no sense to say that language is either ours or not ours. Only of things that we can imagine ourselves being without is it meaningful to say that they are ours.

But if language is, like the body, something the self is not known to exist without, then property or loss of property is not a valid way of viewing this connection. One would like to hear Derrida state more clearly that language as "property" is an idealistic fallacy—not because no one can ever gather its essence or totality—but because no one is ever in a position of being distinct from language—distinct enough so that one could be said to either have or not have it.

Though Derrida knows how perfectly the circle of language meets point for point the circle of consciousness, he cannot entirely give up the Romantic transcendental notion of a Hegelian-type self-consciousness which, although bound to language, enjoys some type of external relationship with it. Derrida is both an immanentist and a transcendentalist: for him the self is somehow simultaneously inside language no self is conceivable without it and outside language the self has the luxury of keeping up a relationship to it, say, of being able to talk to language—though in precisely what language this supralinguistic consultation might take place Derrida does not say.

This straddling of two mutually preclusive visions, immanent and transcendent, brings Derrida to one of the most arcane propositions in Monolingualism of the Other: the idea that language is basically alienation the self is never quite at home in it but that it alienates nothing since Derrida also maintains nothing human exists outside of it : "This abiding alienation appears, like lack, to be constitutive.

But it is neither a lack nor an alienation: it lacks nothing that precedes or follows it, it alienates no ipseity, no property and no self […]" This paradox of alienation alienating nothing is what Derrida means to encapsulate in the core concept of "Monolingualism of the Other:" how one is solipsistically or monolingualistically wrapped in the boundaries of language while language is also "the coming of the other" 68 , inherently conversational and relational, an externalizing device.

This being inside and outside at the same time, "this structure of alienation without alienation" 25 , is no doubt important enough, for Derrida makes it the very soul of language: "it structures the essence and property of language" Sadly, however, Derrida doles out this judgment divinatorily, rather than through philosophical demonstration, making it hard for the reader to discuss it either way. A glimpse of its possible banality, however, flashes in the next statement about how the paradoxical crux of language is in fact "the phenomenon of hearing-oneself-speak in [End Page ] order to mean-to-say" 25 ; here, one can only say that Derrida has tripped into an old Platonic pothole.

His idea is that any given speaker must have at least a foot outside the circle of her language in order to produce meaningful, i.

Our objection might be to say this: if human language is the supra-linguistic ability to overhear oneself, then it follows that true human language is transcendentally silent: indeed, unless one overhears oneself from a standpoint outside language, one would still be within language, not separate from it enough. Hence this overhearing necessarily takes place in a non-language, in some mysterious humming backstage of consciousness—where, disappointingly, Derrida does not venture.

Nor does he indicate how we should not misunderstand this "hearing-oneself-speak" for a latter-day Cartesian ego—that shy observer peering at himself from an infinitely receding point outside himself.

In any case, it is hard to see what extra-linguistic thought or overhearing there might be in the sentence "this apple is red," except in saying precisely that the apple is red, i. Outside of plainly saying "the apple is red," it seems one cannot overhear the thought "the apple is red. One can only presume that by intimating that this is not so, Derrida is riding an old idealistic war-horse.

His point that language is essentially conversation that it is necessarily spoken by at least two persons, and therefore always makes an appeal to the other, includes the other is well-taken; its virtue is to ground ethics, our responsiveness to other people, in the fact of speaking. But that this give-and-take extends to a cryptic latitude between the self and language a gap whereby the self could watch and understand language para-linguistically means that Deconstruction is no longer dispelling Platonic myths but hitching its cart to them.

More puzzling still is the next contention that the unalienating alienation of language provides the "nonlocatable locale" from which the self emerges: "the I would have formed itself, then, at the site of situation that cannot be found, a site always referring elsewhere, to something other, to another language, to the other in general. It would have located itself in a nonlocatable experience of language in the broadest sense of the word" However, without a fleshed-out demonstration to buttress this claim, the reader is unsure whether Derrida wishes us to take the idea for a philosophical argument or for poetic intuition.

Of course Derrida concedes that any language imposes its set of cultural and ideological assumptions on its speaker; what he argues is that the self cannot correspond to those assumptions even if it wanted to, that the alienating pulse of language prevents identification of the speaker to his language, hence identification of the self to its own worldview. One is asked here not to think, but to gaze at the solemnity of a vision. Clearly, Derrida is bravely turning away from decades of structuralist thinking that made even the slightest hint of transcendence into an intellectual taboo.

On the other hand, however, Monolingualism of the Other leaves unclear whether this thirst for transcendence can translate into something we can successfully talk about. What lies beyond language we must pass over in silence, Wittgenstein famously stated. In the meantime, it appears Derrida himself has begun to sound religious. And it becomes increasingly difficult to decide whether the mood of his work aims at elucidating problems or simply deriving awe from their impressive persistence.


Monolingualism of the Other: or, The Prosthesis of Origin








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