chapter  7
26 Pages

Barbara Johnson

Barbara Johnson was born in Boston in 1947. She was educated at Oberlin College, in Ohio, and at Yale, where she studied with Paul de Man. She now teaches French and Comparative Literature at Harvard, where this interview was recorded at the end of February, 1986. Although not yet 40, Johnson has already established herself as one of the best-known of the second-generation deconstructors, and has been a lucid yet uncompromising mediator of deconstruction for the North American critical audience. She is the translator of Derrida’s Dissemination, but, more importantly, has in her own work applied the insights of deconstruction in ways that have made it more difficult for Anglo-American critics to ignore. This is because, in the first place, she is a resourceful reader, and her close readings have been undeniably productive in the traditional sense of generating convincing new meanings for old texts. Second, while de Man and Derrida very often deal with texts which are as difficult and foreign as the mode of analysis brought to them, Johnson has tended to take up examples which are familiar, accessible and, above all, recognizably literary. And as well as being a reliable mediator of the ideas of de Man and Derrida, she has made major contributions to deconstructive theory itself by foregrounding the question of sexual difference within the general terrain of differance.