Derrida’s Formulation of Ecriture

Derrida’s formulation of “ecriture” emerges from his criticism of the most significant binaries of speech and writing. Discussing these binaries in his essay Signature Event Context (1972), in an attempt to reorient the established hierarchy of speech over wrifing, (what he called logocentrism), Derrida conceptualised ecriture as any system that is characterised by differance and absence.

By extension, ecriture denotes writing as a social institution and as a group of interrelated texts; thus intertextuality  can be understood as a marker of ecriture, where no text can be read in isolation, and every text is a part of a larger structure of culturally endorsed collection of texts, conventions, codes and meanings.

Western logocentricm dates back to Plato’s condemnation of writing in Phaedrus as a confusing mode. of communication, owing to the reason that it is separated from the spoken word / the supposed site of origin. It is this separation from the spoken / “authoritative origin” that ecriture celebrates.

Western philosophy has always viewed speech as embodying an immediate presence of meaning, and writing as a mere substitution or a secondary representation of the spoken word. In opposition, Derrida’s ecriture designates the totality of what makes inscription possible. It contains all the differences and deferments that constitute language, and it refers to the diffusion of identity, the self, the signifier and the signified, through a vast network of relations and differences. It constitutes the entire chain of signifiers itself and the endless movement of differance. Thus ecriture is anti-logocentric, in that it exists before and beyond the logos / the word/ the author / presence.

Archi-ecriture is a related term that Derrida coined to refer to writing as an ultimate principle than as a derivative of logos — thus,  speech can be seen as a form of writing; writing on air waves, writing on the memory of the listener or on the recording device. There is no fundamental dominance at work in ecriture.


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