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Jacques Derrida

July 21, 1991 | Mitchell Stephens, Mitchell Stephens is a journalism professor at New York University and the author of "A History of News" (Penguin).
THE WORLD'S MOST CONTROVERSIAL LIVING philosopher, arguably its most controversial living thinker, is sitting at a concrete picnic table at an outdoor snack bar at UC Irvine. Few of the undergraduates who stroll by in jams or jeans seem to notice Jacques Derrida, with his carefully tailored gray suit and purple tie. Few would recognize his name if they were introduced.
April 11, 1990 | JACK SMITH
Having already written three columns on the vogue theory of literary criticism known as deconstruction, perhaps I ought to drop it; but I feel obliged to make a final accounting of the responses, pro and con. I have received 114 letters, 91 applauding my skepticism and 23 upbraiding me for my ignorance.
March 6, 1990 | JACK SMITH
I continue to be chastised for questioning the validity and value of a vogue form of literary criticism known as deconstruction. I do not understand deconstruction, as I admitted; but I infer, from what I have read, that it reduces texts to ambiguity or meaninglessness. In the end, the word is master of the man. It was born in France, but now seems to be entrenched in American higher education, especially at UC Irvine and Occidental College.
August 9, 1987
I'm an amateur here, but I've been trying to figure out what's so special about deconstruction. Sara Melzer's article on Jacques Derrida (The Book Review, July 12) has helped me see why this has been so much work. Apparently deconstruction, insofar as it is comprehensible, is so unilluminating as to be trivially true. Melzer writes: ". . . (T)he words in a given system may appear to correspond to an essential and universal meaning outside the system. . . . But in fact, on (Derrida's)
July 12, 1987 | Sara E. Melzer, Melzer is associate professor of French at UCLA. She is the author of "Discourses of the Fall: A Study of Pascal's Pensees" (University of California Press).
E. D. Hirsch, in his recent best-selling book, "Cultural Literacy," codifies 5,000 items one must know to be culturally literate. Jacques Derrida, one of the most important theoretical thinkers of the last two decades, should certainly figure on this list. But neither he, nor the philosophical position "deconstruction" associated with his name, are included.
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