10 July, 2008
Jacques Derrida was an Algerian-born French philosopher, known as the founder of deconstruction. His voluminous work has had a profound impact upon literary theory and continental philosophy. His best known work is Of Grammatology.
From 1960 to 1964, Derrida taught philosophy at the Sorbonne and from 1964 to 1984 at the École Normale Superieure. His wife Marguerite gave birth to their first child, Pierre, in 1963. Beginning with his 1966 lecture at Johns Hopkins University, "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences", his work assumed international prominence. A second son, Jean, was born in 1967. In the same year, Derrida published his first three books—Writing and Difference, Speech and Phenomena, and Of Grammatology—which would make his name.
He completed his Thèse d'État in 1980; the work was subsequently published in English translation as "The Time of a Thesis: Punctuations." In 1983 Derrida collaborated with Ken McMullen on the film Ghost Dance. Derrida appears in the film as himself and also contributed to the script.
Derrida traveled widely and held a series of visiting and permanent positions. Derrida was director of studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. With François Châtelet and others he in 1983 co-founded the Collège international de philosophie, an institution intended to provide a location for philosophical research which could not be carried out elsewhere in the academy. He was elected as its first president.
In 1986 Derrida became Professor of the Humanities at the University of California, Irvine. UCI and the Derrida family are currently involved in a legal dispute regarding exactly what materials constitute his archive, part of which was informally bequeathed to the university. He was a regular visiting professor at several other major American universities, including Johns Hopkins University, Yale University, New York University, and The New School for Social Research.
Derrida was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and received the 2001 Adorno-Preis from the University of Frankfurt. He was awarded honorary doctorates by Cambridge University, Columbia University, and The New School for Social Research, the University of Essex, University of Leuven, and Williams College.
In 2002, Derrida appeared in a documentary about himself and his work, entitled Derrida.
In 2003, Derrida was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which reduced his speaking and traveling engagements. He died in a Parisian hospital on the evening of October 8, 2004.