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What if Derrida was wrong about Saussure?

Russell Daylight

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Between 1907 and 1911, Ferdinand de Saussure gave three series of lectures on the topic of general linguistics. After his death, these lecture notes were gathered together by his students and published as the Course in General Linguistics. And in the past one hundred years, there has been no more influential and divisive reading of Saussure than that of Jacques Derrida.

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Acknowledgments, Abbreviations and Textual Notes, Introduction, 1. Classical Semiology, 2. The Originality of Saussure, 3. The Concept of the Sign, 4. Writing, Speech, and the Voice, 5. The Sign as Representation, 6. Linguistic Identity, 7. The Sign and Time, 8. The Horizon of Language, Conclusion, List of Works by Derrida and Saussure, References, Index

About the Author

Russell Daylight lectures in English at the Charles Sturt University. He has published papers on Derrida and Saussure, as well as on the philosophy of language, democracy, and modernity.


Daylight patiently combs through the fine silk weave on which Derrida has painted his broad brushstrokes. He leads us step by step through each of Derrida's readings of Saussure, then sometimes back again through some of the same texts as we proceed to the next set of Derridean claims... Daylight's microscopic analysis is matched with a telescopic gaze over what stands or falls on whether Derrida was right about Saussure across a broad range of intellectual fields. His study contributes at least as much to our understanding of the philosopher-historian as of the philologist-grammarian, and marks a sea change in the reception of both. That is no mean feat. To have achieved it with such clarity of exposition, elegance of expression and depth of insight makes this book a rare and indispensable tour de force.
- John Joseph, University of Edinburgh, Times Higher Education
Daylight's fine book on Derrida and Saussure is the first critique to seek to understand Derrida's philosophical project while testing his reading of Saussure and exploring how the argument of the Course may, despite Derrida's influential critique, contain resources for resisting his project and thinking differently about language and meaning.
- Jonathan Culler, Cornell University