- B. Johnson the second-generation American Deconstructionist. (The
first generation in Yale U: Paul de Man, Geoffrey Hartman, Joseph Hillis
Miller, Harold Bloom.)
"The Frame of Reference"
Main Argument: (250) In his critique of Lacan, Derrida "repeats"
what Lacan did (by adding new ideas to the text) and ignore Lacan's style
(as Lacan ignores Poe's frame of reference. "The frame is thus framed
again by part of its content; the sender again receives his own message
backward from the receiver."
Main Issues and Questions: 1. What does "purloined" letter
mean for you after we learn from so many interpretations?
2. What are the differences between Lacan's (or psychoanalysis') triangular
model and Derrida's double reading? How does Barbara Johnson combine the
3. What is 'frame of reference'? What does it mean traditionally and for
deconstructionist? What does the fold-in of frame mean? Can it happen
in our own reading of a text?
The Purloined Prerace:
How to present a text too extensive to quote in its entirety: "paraphrase
Round Robbin (a
letter sent among members of a group, often with comments added by each
person in turn.)
-- The story quotes extensively the two accounts of searching for (and
getting) the letter, but not only "paraphrase" the letter. (216)
-- The letter as a signifier and Lacan's allegory of the signifier (pp.
1. What Lacan puts into
While asserting that
the letter's meaning is lacking, Lacan, according to Derrida, makes this
lack into the meaning of the letter. . . .Derrida asserts
that what Lacan means by that lack is the truth of lack-as-castration-as-truth.
2. What Lacan leaves out of
Lacan ignores the story's
position in "Dupin Trilogy."
Barbara Johnson's Criticism
of Derrida -- p. 218
Odd Couples --pre-textual
-- What Derrida does to Lacan is similar to what Dupin does to Minister
D: revenge against a pre-textual crime. (pp. 219-20)
-- Derrida against the Oedipal triangle for two reasons:
1) The structure cannot be reduced to a triangle; to do so is to eliminate
the role of the narrator.
2) The story is "traversed by an uncanny capacity for doubling and
3) Triangularity presupposes the possibility of a successful dialectical
mediation and harmonious normalization, or Aufhebung, of desire.
1) The narrator and Dupin -- a pair, not mediated by a third term; -->
BJ: their potential rivalry over the same object.
2) Lacan's model for (inter-)subjectivity is quadrangular. .
3) [p. 223] What is the relation between a divided unity and a duality;
4) If the doubles are forever redividing or multiplying, the number 2
does not apply.
5) Lacan never used the word "phallus" in the Seminar, but
he later does use the word "castrated." So the difference lies
in how the word gets interpreted by the two.--> BJ Derrida derives
the equation from the following factors:
a. The letter belongs to the Queen as a subjstitute for the phallus she
does not have;
b. the position of the letter in the Minister's apartment;
c. the letter is singular;
d. "a letter always arrives at its destination." (225)
1) Lacan is ambiguous. (With his use of a series of reversals) -->
Derrida argues, in effect, not against Lacan's text but against
The Frame of Reference
1. Lacan ignores the frame
--the two stories preceding the story.
2. Derrida's explanation of frame (230) -- a. certain definite borders;
b. "a scene of writing whose boundaries crumble off into an abyss."
BJ's critique: -->
1. Lacan's comprehension -- "invent[s] a 'new geometry' by means
of the logic of knots"
2. Derrida cannot avoid turning a signifier to the signified of the text.
(232) 1. The textual signifier's resistance to being totally
transformed into a signified; 2. The actual writings.
-- "If Dupin's signing with a quotation. . . is for Derrida a
sign that "this remnant is still literature," does this not
indicate that "literature" has become not the signifier but
the signified in the story?"(233) --> The paradox of the parergonal
logic: "the frame is always being framed by part of its contents."
e.g. the slippage between the signifier and the signified.
reading: (pp. 235- ) --> the allusion to Atreus' son -->
the fold-in of the frame of reference.
3. Derrida uses the same logic
of rectification and correction against Lacan he sees in Lacan.
4. Between recognition and interpretation-- Derrida, too, is recognizing
rather than reading. "The frame of reference allows the analyst to
frame the author of the text he is reading for practices whose locus is
simultaneously beyong the letter of the text and behind the vision of
its reader." (240).
A Pli for Unconscious
1. The letter is undivided because it is empty of contents.
2. lack as a hole--"instead of a whodunit we get a whodonut, a story
with a hole in it."
3. phallus re-interpreted--love, the gift of what one does not have. The
phallus is "the privileged signifier that mark where logos is joined
together with the advent of desire."
4. Derrida's remarks .. "a profound insight into [psychoanalysis']
very essense": that is, it repeatedly visits the primal scnee which
leads to the strauma of interpretation. (245)