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A Moment of Madness: Derrida's Kierkegaard


Journal Title:

Oxford Literary Review


Volume 33, Number 1


, Pages 103-127

Type of Work:

Article | Final Publisher PDF


Beginning with his famous 1963 lecture on Foucault, Derrida repeatedly invokes a line from Kierkegaard, often translated from his French as ‘the instant of decision is madness,’ without ever giving a precise reference or subjecting that sentence to anything like a reading in the Derridean sense. This paper tracks some of the unsuspected complexities that emerge when that sentence is located in Kierkegaard and the Pauline tradition to which Kierkegaard is appealing. It is suggested that the singular functioning of this sentence in Derrida nonetheless, in its very failure to read, shows up something of the madness, folly or stupidity at play in Kierkegaard’s thinking, and thus performs in its repetitions something of the unreadability that opens the possibility of reading itself.

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© The Oxford Literary Review

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