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After Derrida: The Archive and Reparative Reading

Date & Time:
October 13, 2015 | 3:00 pm
Biological Sciences Building 587
Eric Savoy

After Derrida: The Archive and Reparative Reading

Twenty years ago, Jacques Derrida’s Mal d’archive: une impression freudienne reconfigured the deconstructive project in relation to identity politics.  Derrida approached the archive not, or not primarily, as the institutional collection of historical documents and artifacts, but rather as the dispositif that constructs totalizing fictions of national identity on the basis of mythical origins, or unlocatable primal scenes.  At once a deconstruction of the temporality of historical origins and an exploration of the malaise that interlines all questions of belonging, Derrida’s model of the archive offers a certain analytical purchase upon the incendiary debates over citizenship in Québec:  the proposed ‘secular charter’ of 2014, and the polarizing instrumentality of the niqab in the current federal election campaign.  In particular, it exposes the indeterminacies that subtend Québec’ national symbolic:  how, then, might the referents of je me souviens be mapped as archive – as necessary as they are problematic?  More recently, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick articulated the dangers of what she terms ‘strong theory,’ which she understands as essentially paranoid:  Derrida’s archive and Sedgwick’s concerns intersect, uncomfortably, in the temporal matrix of futurity, which cannot be other than anxious, suspended in grammatical time between the conditional and the subjunctive.   Is Sedgwick justified in proposing a countervailing recourse to ‘reparative reading?’  What might the reparative look like?

Eric Savoy is associate professor of Comparative Literature at Université de Montréal, where he teaches theoretical discourses in relation to la pensée littéraire.  He has published on the archive most recently in boundary 2 and The Canadian Review of American Studies; he has essays published or forthcoming on Flannery O’Connor and figural prophecy, on Shirley Jackson and the domestic uncanny, on Twin Peaks and the Lacanian letter; and on Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick.  His book, Conjugating the Subject: Henry James and the Hypothetical, is forthcoming from Ohio State University Press.  In Winter 2016, he will be professeur invité at Université de Paris 3  (La Sorbonne Nouvelle) where he will teach seminars on Lacan’s fictions and on bad behaviour.


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