Cover image for Derrida : deconstruction from phenomenology to ethics
Derrida : deconstruction from phenomenology to ethics
Howells, Christina.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, UK : Polity Press ; Malden, MA : Blackwell, 1998.

Physical Description:
175 pages ; 23 cm.
Subject Term:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
B2430.D484 H69 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



This book is an unusually readable and lucid account of thedevelopment of Derrida's work, from his early writings onphenomenology and structuralism to his most recent interventions indebates on psychoanalysis, ethics and politics.

Christina Howells gives a clear explanation of many of the keyterms of deconstruction - including differance, trace, supplementand logocentrism - and shows how they function in Derrida'swriting. She explores his critique of the notion of self-presencethrough his engagement with Husserl, and his critique of humanistconceptions of the subject through an account of his ambivalent andevolving relationship to the philosophy of Sartre. The question ofthe relationship between philosophy and literature is examinedthrough an analysis of the texts of the 1970s, and in particularGlas, where Derrida confronts Hegel's totalizing dialectics withthe fragmentary and iconoclastic writings of Jean Genet.

The author addresses directly the vexed questions of the extremedifficulty of Derrida's own writing and of the passionate hostilityit arouses in philosophers as diverse as Searle and Habermas. Sheargues that deconstruction is a vital stimulus to vigilance in boththe ethical and political spheres, contributing significantly todebate on issues such as democracy, the legacy of Marxism,responsibility, and the relationship between law and justice.

Comprehensive, cogently argued and up to date, this book will be aninvaluable text for students and scholars alike.

Author Notes

Christina Howells is Reader in French and Fellow of Wadham College, Oxford.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This work is a critical exposition of the philosophy of Derrida, a leading contemporary French philosopher. Derrida is most well known for his concept of deconstruction and its applications to the critique of texts from various disciplines including literature, philosophy, psychoanalysis, and politics. Derrida's writings are notorious for their denseness, opacity, and even obscurantism; and Howells (Oxford) deserves to be congratulated for her earnest and heroic attempt to systematically present and clarify the methods, concepts, theses, and goals of Derrida's philosophizing. The book consists of an apologia and six chapters. The first chapter deals with Derrida's critique of Husserl's phenomenology, the second with structuralism, the third with language, speech, and writing, the fourth with deconstructing texts and the relation between literature and philosophy, the fifth with deconstruction and psychoanalysis, and the sixth and final one with the ethics and politics of deconstruction and the deconstruction of ethics and politics. Despite Howell's best efforts, the book is not easy reading, and her blind reverence and admiration for Derrida stand in the way of clarity and critical insight. Only Derrida scholars, at the graduate or researcher level, will find it beneficial. Copious notes and extensive bibliography. R. Puligandla University of Toledo

Table of Contents

1 Phenomenology
2 Structuralism
3 Language: Speech and Writing
4 Deconstructing the Text: Literature and Philosophy
5 Deconstruction and Psychoanalysis
6 The Ethics and Politics of Deconstruction and the Deconstruction of Ethics and Politics