Who Was Jacques Derrida?

An Intellectual Biography

David Mikics

View Inside Price: $26.00


October 26, 2010
296 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
ISBN: 9780300168112
Paper

Also Available in:
Cloth

Who Was Jacques Derrida? is the first intellectual biography of Derrida, the first full-scale appraisal of his career, his influence, and his philosophical roots.  It is also the first attempt to define his crucial importance as the ambassador of "theory," the phenomenon that has had a profound influence on academic life in the humanities. Mikics lucidly and sensitively describes for the general reader Derrida's deep connection to his Jewish roots. He succinctly defines his vision of philosophy as a discipline that resists psychology. While pointing out the flaws of that vision and Derrida’s betrayal of his most adamantly expounded beliefs, Mikics ultimately concludes that “Derrida was neither so brilliantly right nor so badly wrong as his enthusiasts and critics, respectively, claimed." 

David Mikics is professor of english at the University of Houston. He published his last book, A New Handbook of Literary Terms, with Yale University Press.

"David Mikics is the real thing, a gifted, polymathic reader. Writing not as a polemicist but as a humane, interpretive critic, he cuts right through the raging conflicts and often pointless debates about Derrida's work."—Morris Dickstein, CUNY Graduate Center

“An absorbing and extremely useful contribution both to literary studies and to general questions of the sociology of knowledge”—John Hollander, Yale University

“David Mikics has written an excellent book, probably the best book in English on Jacques Derrida. His approach is simple, but inspired: he actually takes the time to read and analyze the texts that Derrida's best-known essays discuss. Clear and accurate, this will be a much-read, much-discussed and highly controversial book.”—Mark Edmundson, University of Virginia

"David Mikics's portrait of Jacques Derrida has a colossal value for poets and dreamers like myself. It's a lucid and sober presentation of a thinker who influenced so strongly huge parts of American literary mind."—Adam Zagajewski

‘One of the strengths of Mikics’s magnificent book is its even-handedness…Explaining Derrida’s ideas is excruciatingly difficult and Mikics is to be commended for making things palatable for the general reader...This book (daring yet nuanced) reminds me why the gadfly counts for something.’

‘Mikics’ pathfinding book is the first study to make a response…This is a serious attempt to understand Derrida.’

‘Delightfully compact and insightful book.’

"David Mikics provides a lucid, polemical intellectual biography of the French philosopher. . . . In the end, Who Was Jacques Derrida? will not close the account on Derrida. Through his clarity and commitments, Mikics has opened the books once again."—David Kaufmann, Tablet

"[A] sharp portrait."--Publishers Weekly

"A concise study that...seks a middle path between the 'intense celebration and intense scorn' that Derrida inspired when he was alive."--Benjamin Ivry, Foreward