Derrida And Burroughs

From Brent Wood

“Derrida’s “trick,” if I may be allowed such a crude reduction, is to work through the texts of the masters with one eye peeled for a seam to slip into. Once in, his meticulous scholarship is set to work stretching and reshaping the fabric not along normal patterns of use, but along lines of tension never tested by its creator, using the seam as a fulcrum. When challenged on his having made the seam into a centre, Derrida quickly moves his work elsewhere. His philosophical practice is not unlike the musical practice of an early twentieth-century composer, endlessly modulating at the very moments that tonal centres threaten to establish themselves. Through this mobile deconstruction, Derrida seeks to turn hierarchy into anarchy. Burroughs’ approach to his source material is somewhat less intellectual, but the result, for the reader, is not dissimilar. Rather than looking for seams, Burroughs simply cuts and sews the garments randomly, keeping an eye out for the hidden patterns which begin to reveal themselves when the rationalist filters of everday perception are removed.

Perhaps the following well-known expression best relates Burroughs to Derrida: “`Nothing Is True—Everything Is Permitted—’ Last Words Hassan I Sabbah” (Nova Express 149). Burroughs here locates the notion of “truth” as a device that acts to suppress possibility. For Derrida, this is the “transcendental signified” (280); for Haraway, it is “the one code that translates all meaning perfectly” (Simians 176). Just as Haraway finds her freedom in living as a cyborg in a cybernetic system that can’t quite be closed, so did Derrida once find that, when nothing is true, the world becomes text. Conversely, everything is permitted when the “absence of the transcendental signified extends the domain and the play of signification infinitely” (Derrida 280). When everything is permitted, the result is anarchy. And anarchy is precisely what a cyberpunk aims at.”


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