chapter
The rhetoric of remembrance. Derrida on de Man
Pages 15

Mémoires is the text of a series of lectures that Derrida delivered just a few months after Paul de Man’s death in December 1983.1 In fact they were the Wellek Library Lectures at Irvine, California, a circumstance whose irony Derrida records when he numbers René Wellek among those who see fit to denounce deconstruction-and de Man’s work in particular-without much sign of having read or pondered the primary texts in the case. The causes of this ‘resistance to theory’ were a topic that increasingly occupied de Man in his late essays on Kant, Hegel and aesthetic ideology. They are likewise Derrida’s concern here in his reflections on the way that ‘American deconstruction’ has both captured the high ground of literary theory and encountered such massive institutional resistance from the self-appointed guardians of civilized debate in the humanistic disciplines. What chiefly marks this adversary discourse is a shying away from close engagement of any kind, or (in Derrida’s words) a ‘refusal or inability in respect of a first task, the most elementary of tasks: that of reading’ (p. 41).