This book—the culmination of forty years of friendship between J. Hillis Miller and Jacques Derrida, during which Miller also closely followed all Derrida’s writings and seminars—is “for Derrida” in two senses. It is “for him,” dedicated to his memory. The chapters also speak, in acts of reading, as advocates for Derrida’s work. They focus especially on Derrida’s late work, including passages from the last, as yet unpublished, seminars. The chapters are “partial to Derrida,” on his side, taking his part, gratefully submitting themselves to the demand made by Derrida’s writings to be read—slowly, carefully, faithfully, with close attention to semantic detail.
The chapters do not progress forward to tell a sequential story. They are, rather, a series of perspectives on the heterogeneity of Derrida’s work, or forays into that heterogeneity.
The chief goal has been, to borrow a phrase from Wallace Stevens, “plainly to propound” what Derrida says. The book aims, above all, to render Derrida’s writings justice. It should be remembered, however, that, according to Derrida himself, every rendering of justice is also a transformative interpretation. A book like this one is not a substitute for reading Derrida for oneself. It is to be hoped that it will encourage readers to do just that.
"Hillis Miller's For Derrida brilliantly explores the labyrinth of
Derrida's late phase and what is widely interpreted as deconstruction's
so-called 'turn' toward ethics and religion. Miller recaptures the dark
dissonance of key and late terms for the reader-destinnerance, the
resistance of 'community,' the auto-immunitary, performativity, absolute
mourning-then mobilizes them against interpretive doxa many have fallen
into after Derrida's death, as 'deconstruction' appears to have entered its
own auto-immunitary phase (as Derrida anticipated). For Derrida is, among
other things, a corrective or counter-strike 'for Derrida,' a gift and
salut, attempting to speak as if for him against various appropriations,
effacements, and recuperations. It is a volume only Miller could write,
intimately fidel yet uncompromisingly alert to the 'wager' that Derrida's
oeuvre staked itself on-a wager, or transformation of premises, which the
evolving aporia of 21st century human life bring to heightened focus. This
quietly monumental, strangely mirthful, and altogether remarkable volume
will likely be an indispensible touchstone for the readers to come, through
whom Derrida's 'wager' will likely be decided--beyond the current crop of
recuperative claimants and legacy-chasers, philosophical exegetes and
competitive mourners, that the late Derrida has left in his wake."
University at Albany, State University of New York
"Offers the reader the depth and breadth that only an eminent professor of literature and someone who has been a reader and interlocutor of Derrida for decades could offer."
University of Memphis
"A record of a forty-year friendship marked by profound hospitality on both sides, For Derrida moves, charms, instructs, distinguishes, and stakes out positions. Its discussions of the performative, religion, ‘community,’ and auto-immunity clarify Derrida’s contributions with subtlety and an almost allegorically unassuming style."
"Hillis Miller is one of the most important literary critics of the past fifty years. Always remarkably lucid, engaging, and accessible, his work has also proved an invaluable guide for students and scholars wishing to understand deconstruction. A classic example of ‘late Miller’, For Derrida effortlessly links close readings of literary with philosophical works, while also reflecting on the ways in which teletechnology and cyberspace affect and tap into the proceedings. This is a unique and brilliant book, not only for its careful and thought-provoking readings of Derrida’s extraordinary oeuvre, but also as a poignant intellectual record of the long and important friendship that Derrida and Miller shared."
University of Sussex
"A classic example of ‘late Miller’, For Derrida effortlessly links close readings of literary with philosophical works, while also reflecting on the ways in which teletechnology and cyberspace affect and tap into the proceedings. This is a unique and brilliant book, not only for its careful and thought-provoking readings of Derrida’s extraordinary oeuvre, but also as a poignant intellectual record of the long and important friendship that Derrida and Miller shared."
University of Sussex
"A profoundly moving achievement—J. Hillis Miller offers those of us who care to read a series of singular responses and testimonies to Jacques Derrida, and everything gathered in that name. Miller is the finest of readers, and the most responsible witness to the legacy of Derrida. In touching with such care on a number of important themes and motifs in the later works of Derrida, Miller touches us all, teaching us what it means to be touched by Derrida, and why Derrida remains—today and to come—of such singular significance."
"Throughout this volume, Hillis Miller seeks to respond to the call of the wholly other that Derrida’s writing so consistently endeavors to affirm, an other we might try to think via Derrida’s several reflections on justice, profession, friendship, literature, singularity, invention, death and mourning—indeed a complexly intertwined set of motifs found at the crossroads between these two important figures. In writing ‘for Derrida’ (a phrase which itself carries a complex multiple charge), Miller seeks to remake the promise that friendship always is; a promise which, as Derrida himself once observed in recalling his own friendship with de Man, can never know exactly what it is promising. As both Miller and Derrida well understand, in order to remember and mourn the other in all responsibility one must respect the resistances offered by their heterogeneity and difference, and for that matter by the irresistible process of interiorization that occurs with their absolute disappearance. Wandering across the borders of the ‘life’ and the ‘work’ in a way that few are able to do, this indispensable series of essays by Miller brilliantly illuminates not only the ideas and arguments found in a vast array of texts, but the ethics of reading Derrida today. "
—Simon Morgan Wortham
Kingston University London