To the Editors:
Lest the uninitiated be led astray, someone should correct Tom Paulin’s misrepresentation of a central tenet of Jacques Derrida’s linguistic doctrine. Paulin’s review of Hugh Kenner’s A Colder Eye (November, 1983) opens by deploring the current academic exaltation of oral utterance over writing, pointing fairly enough to Rousseau’s Essai sur l’origin des langues as its ultimate source. Yet exactly contrary to Paulin’s assertion, in Of Grammatology, the very work his review cites, Derrida goes to his usual verbose lengths to refute and indeed reverse Rousseau’s view. Writing, he would have it, is in fact conceptually if not chronologically prior to speech and even inclusive of it. Orality, the myth of a pristine “presence” in the spoken word, figures as an aspect of that more encompassing metaphysical “logocentricism” which in several works Derrida labors...


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