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Revisiting Style in Literary and Cultural Studies

Interdisciplinary Articulations

Edited By Jasmin Herrmann, Moritz Ingwersen, Björn Sonnenberg-Schrank and Olga Ludmila Tarapata

The collected volume brings together leading scholars from a broad range of disciplines in the humanities to interrogate the productivity of style as an element of cultural expression and a parameter of cultural analysis. Despite its ubiquity in examinations of artistic singularity or postulations of epochal patterns, style remains a notoriously elusive concept. Suspicious of monolithic definitions, the contributions assembled in this volume address style from a multiplicity of methodological and conceptual angles, drawing from fields that include literary studies, film and media studies, post-structuralist philosophy, philosophy of science, and American cultural studies.

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4 On Style, Prospectively: Derrida’s Gestures of Circumspection


Whenever we have something to contribute or perform, circumspection gives us the route for proceeding with it, the means of carrying it out, the right opportunity, the appropriate moment.

- Martin Heidegger, Being and Time

Abstract: Style in Derrida is that which is oriented towards the future, an observation of what will indeterminably be the subject’s definite. In this respect, his theory of subjectivity remains ‘yet to come.’ The motif of writing towards the unknown shapes Derrida’s style as an avoidance or detour, a circumspection to any kind of subject. In this regard, Derrida’s own investigation into the styles of Nietzsche is revealing: Nietzsche’s interplay between the protecting value of style and the violating force of its Spurs (as Derrida entitles his essay on Nietzsche) leads Derrida to doubt the unity as well as the uniqueness of style: “there never has been the style.” Derrida calls the downright challenged failure of the attempt to avoid what will happen—“one cannot avoid avoiding”—the elicitability of desistance. While French se désister and English desist have a primarily legal meaning (in the sense of ‘to cease’), Derrida sees the prefix ‘de’ as an evocative gesture: neither an insisting nor an existing, but the contingent opening of possibilities. As the essay shows with regard to Derrida’s ‘Of Grammatology,’ this opening should be seen as a nucleus for Derrida’s own theory (as well as practice) of subjectivity.

Keywords: Derrida, deconstruction, Nietzsche, style, subjectivity, future...

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