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Ashes without reserve
O'Connor, Maria Thérèse
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This thesis is centrally concerned with the texts of Jacques Derrida that have addressed directly the theme of sexual difference. Yet to say the thesis is centrally concerned with a philosophy that positions itself clearly as one that deconstructs centrality and its trajectory of return, is to face the crisis or chiasmus of my concern. The thesis is not returned to Derrida. If the question of feminism for Derrida is a question from the margins, from interruptions, of the trace and of la cendre, ashes, the question of sexual difference is primordially and originarily that of the undecidability of the name, signatory, and textual border. She would not have appeared here. Therefore she cannot return. There are two frames to this research that can be recognized in the chapter sequence of the thesis. Initially I develop a preparatory engagement to a questioning of the ontology of sexual difference, with Chapters 2 and 3, with a questioning that broaches the metaphysics of the feminine with respect to the texts of Derrida, Heidegger and Cixous in particular and further engages with Écriture Féminine, Levinas and feminist responses to Heidegger and Levinas. However, this broader questioning is undertaken in order to develop a sharper focus on the writings of Derrida that address Heidegger’s ontological difference, Levinas’s ethics before being, and a more originary questioning of sexual difference. The second frame and predominant focus of the thesis is on Derrida’s approach to the metaphysics of the feminine with four pivotal texts by Derrida from the late 1970s and early 1980s examined in Chapters 4 to 7. Each addresses a questioning of difference and the metaphysical tradition, under difference’s many names: ontological difference, sexual difference, différance, and engages deconstruction’s encounters with Nietzsche & Heidegger (Spurs); the psychoanalysts Abraham & Torok (“Fors”); Levinas (“At This Very Moment in This Work Here I Am”) and Hegel (Glas). In bringing together these four texts, my aim is to emphasize the significance of a double deconstructive movement of transgression and restoration, as this research’s politico-ethical acts of writing and reading for an otherwise discourse on sexual difference. This otherwise discourse has always already been produced with phallogocentrism and remains critical for the inventing of thresholds across philosophy, literature and their others. The ashen Preface enkindles a paradigmatic figure as deconstructive trace of sexual difference in writing and reading practices. A Postscript questions the binding to institutional laws constitutive of disciplinary practice while the fiery trace in Derrida’s writing on Kafka’s law concludes on the ash-laden edges of Blanchot’s unavowable work.