Critical Inquiry 18 (2):161-187 (1992)

One could accuse me here of making a big deal and a whole history out of words and gestures that remain very clear. When Madame de Mainternon says that the King takes her time, it is because she is glad to give it to him and takes pleasure from it: the King takes nothing from her and gives her as much as he takes. And when she says, “I give the rest to Saint-Cyr, to whom I would like to give all,” she is confiding in her correspondent about a daily economy concerning the leisures and charities, the works and days of a “grande dame” somewhat overwhelmed by her obligations. None of the words she writes has the sense of the unthinkable and the impossible toward which my reading would have pulled them, in the direction of giving-taking, of time and the rest. She did not mean to say that, you will say.What if … yes she did [Et si].And if what she wrote meant to say that, then what would that suppose? How, where, on the basis of what and when can we read this letter fragment as I have done? How could we even hijack it as I have done, while still respecting its literality and its language? End of the epigraph. Jacques Derrida is Directeur d’Études at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, and professor of French, University of California, Irvine. In the past year, he has published Le Problème de la genèse chez Husserl , Mémoires d’aveugle, l’autoportrait et autres ruines , L’Autre Cap , and Circonfession in Jacques Derrida, with Geoffrey Bennington . Peggy Kamuf is professor of French at the University of Southern California and Directeur de Programme, Collège International de Philosophie in Paris. She is the author of Signature Pieces: On the Institution of Authorship and most recently has edited A Derrida Reader: Between the Blinds
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