“Might sovereignty be devouring?”: Derrida and the Fable


Few would regard Jacques Derrida as a genuine thinker of orality. But this is something of a misperception—as Derrida himself recognizes in a 1983 interview with Anne Berger. “People who are in a bit too much of a hurry have thought that I wasn’t interested in the voice, just writing,” remarks Derrida in that interview. “Obviously, this is not true. … What I like to do … is to give courses in my own manner: to let be heard in what I write a certain position of the voice, when the voice and the body can no longer be distinguished—and obviously this passes by way of the mouth” (Points… 140-1). Nowhere is Derrida’s interest in the problem of orality—in what passes by way of the mouth—more apparent than in the final course he gave at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris from the autumn of 2001 to the spring of 2003 on the beast and the sovereign. In these seminars, Derrida identifies the mouth as the place in which the opposition between the beast and the sovereign both expresses itself and collapses. “The place of devourment,” he says at one point, “is also the place of what carries the voice” (B&S I 23). The mouth is the site not just of sovereign speech but also of bestial devourment.

Read Article On Muse