From Derrida’s “Of Grammatology”
“Following the appearance of the word “supplement” and of the corresponding concept or concepts, we traverse a certain path within Rousseau’s text. To be sure, this particular path will assure us the economy of a synopsis. But are other paths not possible? And as long as the totality of paths is not effectively exhausted, how shall we justify this one?” (1694)
Derrida espouses the exclusion of the author as a consideration in any deconstructionist examination of a text. In this brief passage, he claims that even Rousseau’s use of the word ‘supplement’ evokes unique concepts in each reader. And though Derrida believes that we follow a “certain path” in reading Rousseau, there exists numerous paths to interpretation. Derrida seems to be saying that we cannot justify one particular reading of a text because of the endless possibility of interpretations.
Earlier, Derrida provides us with a “what if” in regard to Rousseau; if he hypothetically applies psychoanalytic theory, for instance, that application is the result of his “collection of texts belonging to [his] history and [his] culture” (1694). So what follows is his interpretation which includes the depth of knowledge particular to his own experience, and because that experience is unique, it cannot be considered a truth, and certainly cannot be considered neutral.
So, my question is… are there ever true interpretations of a text? – according to Derrida, the answer is no, but, in academia, there seem to be collective textual interpretations of literature. There is agreement that, for example, Wordsworth believes in the sublimity of Nature as is demonstrated in his poetry, and his poetry is worthy of placement into the canon. This leads me to consider the fact that we (the discipline of English Literature) have an agreed upon idea about what works comprise the literary canon. How would Derrida deal with the fact that so many academics have given their stamp of approval to so many works as classic or worthy literature? If there are no literary truths, how can a canon exist? Hope you all can follow my train of thought…