The Monolingualism of the Human


In The Beast and The Sovereign Volume 2, a collection of ten lectures focused on the “odd couple” of Heidegger and Robinson Crusoe, Jacques Derrida devotes a substantial portion of his second lecture to one of the most well-known scenes in Defoe’s novel: Robinson’s discovery of “the print of a man’s naked foot on the shore” (Derrida 31, Defoe 162). Having lived alone on his island for fifteen years, Robinson is “thunder-struck,” as if having “seen an apparition” (162). After running up and down the shore in a failed effort to find additional prints, Robinson flees in terror to his “castle,” observing that “never frighted hare fled to cover, or fox to earth, with more terror of mine than I to this retreat” (162). To whom does this print belong? Is it proof that his greatest fear is soon to materialize—namely, that he will be savagely devoured by a group of cannibals whose habitation of the island he has long suspected? Or does the trace belong rather to another castaway like himself?

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