Asphodel and the Spectral Places

Derrida Today 5 (2):146-164 (2012)
Nothing survives deconstruction unless we accept that survival in some sense attaches to the ghostly or etiolated figures (the marks and traces) of things, by which deconstruction proceeds. If the ghostly figure survives then it may be because it is undeconstructible. Yet the spectral figure would no doubt remain insignificant if it was not for the force it brings to bear on more central and familiar categories of philosophical and literary discourse. These categories, like style, friendship, justice and hospitality, tend to occupy those spectral spaces that mark the structural difference between philosophy (conceptual, abstract, universal) and literature (figurative, concrete, singular). Yet nothing defines such spaces so well as the trace and its paradoxical structure. And nothing describes the structure of the trace so well as that of the signature. This paper identifies the movement of the trace as occupying and to a great extent defining the difference between philosophy and literature. The example, in this case, is the appearance of asphodels in Homer's Odyssey, according to which the fields where ghosts live are thick with the so-called grave-flower. But the asphodel on closer examination breaks down into mere traces of itself in a series of insoluble philological problems. The larger implications have to do with death, the signature of the writer, the relation between philosophy and literature and their respective modes of survival. There is no philosophy (no truth, no good, no chance) without its attachment to the etiolated figure, the trace of itself. The paper proposes readings of Blanchot, Derrida, Hegel and Plato, in addition to a focus on the main philological problem in Homer and its implications for a tradition of literary allusion, as a way of establishing the consistency of the paradoxical structure of the signature
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DOI 10.3366/drt.2012.0037
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