Derrida – On the Demise of Language Through Writing

Birkerts, Sven. 1994. “Into the Electronic Millennium.” & “Hypertext of Mouse and Man.” The Gutenberg Elegies. New York: Ballentine Books. URL:

Derrida, Jacques. 1976. “The End of the Book and the Beginning of Writing.” Of Grammatology. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins UP.

While the Derrida peice was mighty dense, it was manageable; and both works provided some decent insight on how some scholars look at where writing has taken us (even from pre-/non-literate cultures) to where we are now, and on to where we are going, particularly in regard to electronic and hypertext writing. In the 1976 Derrida work, he presents (among other topics) a sort of diatribe on the degradation of language that has occurred through the course of writing over the last 20+ centuries. His purpose is complex (that is multifarious), but one common theme throughout the piece is the effect that writing has had on us: sort of a where we are now.

He also expounds on the fact that writing is not the same as language ala voice. This is one aspect of the larger discussion on signifiers that I did take away. Writing, originally a supplement to spoken word, is no longer just that. Now, it is its own communication form that leaves meaning more open to the reader (and the context) than up to the orator.

While I have not here delved deeply into commenting on these readings, I intend to do so. Both Berkerts and Derrida reference various theorists and philosophers al the way back to the ancient Greeks in their discussions of language, writing, and communication. Certain passages in these two works deal directly with points that I’ve been considering in my own research. So, I will definitely return to these works and apply them to the dissertation research.

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