Derrida on the Campaign Trail

A headline from today’s Washington Post:

 The Other Clinton Is an Absent Presence

That headline was about 40 years in the making. Derrida developed his ideas about absence/presence in the mid-1960s. It takes about 5-10 years for a major work of continental philosophy to get translated into English. Another 10 years for North American professors and graduate students to assimilate new ideas; another 10 years for the ideas to percolate through the undergraduate classrooms; another 10 years for students of English and philosophy to get jobs at newspapers and start writing articles and headlines. Voilà: from concept to cliché in four decades.

The death of the author can be seen in this headline. It was probably coined by one person but it wasn’t written by that person. The true author of the headline is an entire change in language and mentalité, a change that had many fathers and many mothers. We’re never alone when we write, but always using words others have given us. Every writer contains a multitude; the greatest writers are the ones who have the most voices speaking through them.

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