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Derrida and Saussure on entrainment and contamination: Shifting the paradigm from the Course to the Nachlass

Research paper by Beata Stawarska

Indexed on: 01 Sep '15Published on: 01 Sep '15Published in: Continental Philosophy Review



Abstract

In this essay I address Derrida’s influential readings of the Course in General Linguistics attributed to Ferdinand de Saussure (but ghostwritten after his death) in Of Grammatology and Glas. I complicate Derrida’s charge of phonocentrism, that is, the charge that Saussure privileges the medium of sound and/or speech as a site of unmediated signifying presence, by re-examining the relevant sections from the Course in light of the materials related to Saussure’s linguistics from the Nachlass, some of them recently discovered. I document especially the extent of editorial involvement in the sections discussed by Derrida that deal with the purportedly ‘natural’ expressions like onomatopoeias and interjections, and with the relation between speech and writing. I make the case that ultimately Derrida’s charge that Saussure’s linguistics is burdened by an allegiance to the metaphysics of presence carries limited force, and that Derrida’s and Saussure’s understanding of signification turn out to be closer related than previously thought: they share the view that entrainment and contamination are inevitable.