Derrida and Joyce
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Derrida and Joyce

Texts and Contexts

Andrew Mitchell, Sam Slote, Andrew Mitchell, Sam Slote

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eBook - ePub

Derrida and Joyce

Texts and Contexts

Andrew Mitchell, Sam Slote, Andrew Mitchell, Sam Slote

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About This Book

Bringing together all of Jacques Derrida's writings on James Joyce, this volume includes the first complete translation of his book Ulysses Gramophone: Two Words for Joyce as well as the first translation of the essay "The Night Watch." In Ulysses Gramophone, Derrida provides some of his most thorough reflections on affirmation and the "yes, " the signature, and the role of technological mediation in all of these areas. In "The Night Watch, " Derrida pursues his ruminations on writing in an explicitly feminist direction, offering profound observations on the connection between writing and matricide. Accompanying these texts are nine essays by leading scholars from across the humanities addressing Derrida's treatments of Joyce throughout his work, and two remembrances of lectures devoted to Joyce that Derrida gave in 1982 and 1984. The volume concludes with photographs of Derrida from these two events.

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SUNY Press
Ulysses Gramophone: Two Words for Joyce
The Night Watch
Ulysses Gramophone: Two Words for Joyce

Yes, laughter

translated by François Raffoul
Yes, laughter.
Throughout Joyce's oeuvre, the yes and laughter are intertwined. They form one and the same condition of possibility, a kind of transcendental that for once provokes laughter while making one think. It indeed accompanies all significations, the history and languages of the encyclopedia. It thus exceeds them also, in an unfolding whose anamnestic power resembles the last challenge of literature—literature and philosophy. Joyce has more than one laughter, but how can one distinguish between them? And can one, without laughing, inquire about the yes, its origin or its essence? Yes, this is always a response. Now the responsibility of affirmation must be repeated: yes, yes. Hence the circle. For it then divides itself in order to safeguard memory or institute the promise: repetition, citation, simulacrum, comedy, parasitism, technology of communication, bank archives, telephone, typewriter or gramophone, a loan for a datum.
Confessions or short travel reports, these lectures navigate around certain privileged places: for example a gramophone or Molly's inexhaustible yes in Ulysses, the war of idioms declared by God (and he war) in Finnegans Wake.
Babel, the struggle for power of languages: who has the rights of translation, knowledge, and authority? These questions were once addressed to the improbable institution of Joycean studies at the University of Modern Times that Joyce simultaneously prescribed and prohibited.


translated by François Raffoul
How could a discourse, in two words, encircle itself without turning in circles? How could it speak about something (other) without ceasing to speak about itself, and indeed returning to itself [y revenant], two words in one?
If we followed the gaps of these ageless metaphors or this incredible typology, we would have to accept that a discourse must speak about itself in order to interrupt narcissism, in any case to bring it to view or to thought. To speak about itself, about what happens and arrives [arrive] to it or with it in order to address itself to the other and at last tell him or her something else. We would have to accept that a voice still resonates with its inscription in the circle, when it says around.
Around: to turn around, to keep oneself around. In the circumstance, Ulysses the revenant.
These two essays not only retain the mark, as one sometimes says, of their circumstance. When they still had, in the present tense, the form of a speech, they were first given with the intent of exhibiting the said circumstance. Such circumstance was not around but rather occupied the center of a journey, quite close to a kernel of reflection. What was then said seemed to concern it, to turn around it, to speak about it, whether it was a symposium or what renders possible—or completely impossible, one and the other, one like the other—such a symposium, the constitution of the Joycean critique, an institution of “Joyce studies.”
As for keeping oneself or turning around, let us note in passing, the circular motions of the conference or the circumference, of the circumnavigation or the circumcision, the turns and returns of all kinds adumbrate here the most recurrent motifs.
Is reference possible as circumference? What does it bring back? What is the scope [portée] or bearing [port] of this question in return?
It is thus, by circumstance, a situation of speech, Revue Parlée in one case, Symposium in the other, which becomes here the privileged theme, an object of analysis, the title of questions; a situation of speech along with the singular events that cannot be separated from it. I therefore neither could, nor wanted to, neutralize its effects after the fact. To suspend the reference to these singular events, to attempt to mitigate their circumstance, or even to erase what is left of it, would this not amount to destroying these texts, annihilating them a second time? But this time in order to better safeguard them, to safeguard them from what in them was destined for an immediate consumption? Would this not amount to returning them to their conditions as self-destructive artifacts, bound by their formation, or their very destination, to expend themselves on the spot, as self-destroying or self-consuming objects?1 Perhaps they are in fact that. Perhaps they have remained so. Perhaps it is appropriate only now to confirm it.
But why? Why confirm it? Under what conditions can or should these marks be repeated? What can it mean for them to remain? One never knows whether such an operation can be repeated, and whether the apparatus named gramophone or tape recorder [magnétophone] is essential to it. One never knows whether such an operation has ever been undertaken. Let us say that through this publication I have wanted, after the fact, to share this concern, to submit a hypothesis, to multiply questions.
“Two Words for Joyce” corresponds to the transcription of a short discourse, improvised on the basis of a few notes, and delivered on November 15, 1982, at a conference entitled Pour James Joyce, which was organized by the Centre Georges-Pompidou “in La Revue Parlée,” the Irish Embassy in Paris and the British Council. The conference was coordinated by Jacques Aubert and Jean-Michel Rabaté, who presided over the session, and who himself presented a lecture before mine and that of Hélène Cixous. The transcription of the taped lecture was first published in English (Post-Structuralist Joyce: Essays from the French, ed. Derek Attridge and Daniel Ferrer [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984], then in French in L'Herne 50 [1985]).
Ulysses Gramophone was given on June 12, 1984, in Frankfurt, at the opening of the James Joyce International Symposium, and first published in Genèse de Babel: Joyce et la création, ed. Claude Jacques (Paris: CNRS, 1985).


1. TN: These last two expressions in English in the original.

Two Words for Joyce

translated by Geoffrey Bennington


It is very late, it is always too late with Joyce, I shall say only two words.
I do not yet know in what language, I do not know in how many languages.
How many languages can be lodged in two words by Joyce, inserted or inscribed, kept or burned, celebrated or violated?
I shall say two words, supposing that words in Finnegans Wake can be counted. One of Joyce's great bursts of laughter resounds through this challenge: just try to count the words and the languages I consume! Put your principle of identification and numeration! What is a word?
I shall no doubt return to Joyce's laughter. As for the languages, Jean-Michel Rabaté tells me that the experts have counted at least forty.
Two words then, simply to put back into play what Hélène Cixous has just been saying: the primal scene, the complete father, the law, jouissance through the ear, by the ear, more literally, by the word ear, in the ear mode,1 in English, for example, and supposing that enjoyment [jouir] via the ear is, for the most part, feminine.
What are these two English words?
They are only half English, if you will, if you will hear them, that is, do a little more than hear them: read them.
I take them from Finnegans Wake (258.12):
I spell them out: H-E-W-A-R, and sketch a first translation: HE WARS—he wages war, he declares war, he makes war, which can also be pronounced by babelizing a bit (for it is in a particularly Babelian scene of the book that these words rise up), by Germanizing, then, in Anglo-Saxon, HE WAR: he was. He was he who was. I am he who is, who am, I am that I am, says Yahweh, supposedly. Where it was, he was, declaring war. And it was true. Pushing things a bit, taking the time to draw on the vowel and to lend an ear, it will have been true, wahr. That's what can be guarded (wahren, bewahren) in truth. God guards. He guards himself thus, by declaring war.
He, is “He,” the “him,” the one who says “I” in the masculine, “He,” war declared, he who was war declared, in declaring war he was he who was and he who was true, the truth as being a war, he who has declared war verified the truth of his truth by war declared, by the act of declaring the war that was in the beginning. Declaring is an act of war, he declared war in tongues [langues] and on language and by language, which gave languages, that's the truth of Babel when Yahweh pronounced its vocable, Babel, difficult to say if it was a name, a proper name or a common noun sowing confusion.
I'll stop here, provisionally, through lack of time. Other transformations remain possible, a very great number about which I'll say another two words later.


Coming here, I said to myself that there are basically perhaps only two great manners, or rather two greatnesses, in this madness of writing by which whoever writes effaces himself, leaving, only to abandon it, the archive of his own effacement. These last two words bespeak madness itself.
Perhaps that's an overly extreme simplification. There are certainly other greatnesses, but I take the risk of saying it so as to say something of my feeling about Joyce.
I do indeed say “my feeling”: that major affect which, beyond all our analyses, evaluations, interpretations, controls the scene of our relationship with whoever writes. One can admire the power of a work and have, as they say, a “bad relationship” with its signatory, at least the signatory as one projects his or her image, reconstructs, or dreams, or offers him or her the hospitality of a haunting. Our admiration for Joyce ought to have no limit, no more than should the debt owed to the singular event of his work. It is no doubt preferable to talk here of an event rather than a work or a subject or an author. And yet, I'm not sure I love Joyce. Or more exactly: I'm not sure he is loved. Except when he laughs—and you'll tell me that he's always laughing. That's true, I'll come back to it, but then everything is played out between the different tonalities of his laughter, in the subtle difference that separates several qualities of laughter. Knowing whether one loves Joyce, is that the right question? In any case, one can attempt to account for these affects, and I do not believe that the task is a secondary one.
I'm not sure of loving Joyce, of loving him all the time. It's to explain this possibility that I talked of two greatnesses. Two measures for that act of writing by which whoever writes pretends to efface himself, leaving us caught in his archive as though in a spider's web.
Let's simplify outrageously. There is first of all the greatness of whoever writes in order to give, in giving, and therefore in order to give to forget the gift and the given, what is given and the act of giving. Beyond any return, any circulation, any circumference. This is the only way of giving, the only possible—and impossible—way. The only possible way—as impossible. Before any restitution, symbolic or real, before any gratitude, the simple memory, in truth the mere awareness of the gift, by giver or receiver, annuls the very essence of the gift. The gift must open or break the circle, remain without return, without a sketch, even a symbolic one, of gratitude. Beyond any consciousness, of course, but also beyond any symbolic structure of the unconscious. Once the gift is received, the work having worked to the extent of changing you through and through, the scene is other and you have forgotten the gift and the giver. Then the work is “loveable,” and if the “author” is not forgotten, we have for him or her a paradoxical gratitude, which is however the only gratitude worth its name if it is possible, a simple gratitude without ambivalence. That is what's called love, I'm not saying that it happens, perhaps it never presents itself, and the gift I'm describing can doubtless never make a present. At least one can dream of this possibility, and it is the idea of a writing that gives.
As for the other greatness, I shall say, with some injustice perhaps, that for me it's like Joyce's greatness, or rather that of Joyce's writing. Here the event deploys such plot and scope that henceforth you have only one way out: being in memory of him. Not only overwhelmed by him, whether you know it or not, but obliged by him, constrained to measure yourself against this overwhelming.
Being in memory of him: not necessarily to remember him, no, but to be in his memory, to inhabit a memory henceforth greater than all your finite recall can gather up, in a single instant or a single vocable...

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