Presentation Abstract

Writing and Distance: Derrida and "Spectral" Writing

Popular rhetoric characterizes computers as a technology to bridge distances, a way of "bringing people closer together." Marketers, pundits, and politicians address everything from on-line boutiques to distance education on the basis of how much time and space can be elided for the least amount of money. The field of writing is no exception. Although most of us within the discipline would consider the notion of writing from an unmediated "here and now" with more than a little skepticism, metaphors of "better, faster, cheaper" communication through technology loom large enough in the public imagination to shape academic policy. If we are not to abandon the field of writing to post-Fordist paradigms of efficiency, we must develop methods of composition that recognize explicitly the role of distance as a condition of writing itself.

This paper proposes a new method of researching and writing with computers that views distance as an integral function of expression rather than as an obstacle to be overcome. This method emerges from Jacques Derrida's work in _Specters of Marx_ and particularly on the philosopher's investigation of spectrality as a paradoxical state between presence and absence. _Specters of Marx_ represents Derrida's first sustained gesture toward political philosophy and is certainly an important contribution to thought on deconstruction and the Left in the wake of the collapse of Soviet communism. Scholarly articles abound on the political and academic implications of this text. My interest, however, lies in examining this popularly discussed work, not as an object of study, but as a guidebook to inventing a new method of writing with hypermedia. Derrida's neologism _hauntology_, in French a pun on _ontology_, offers rich possibilities for engaging narratives in ways that displace, without completely replacing, the troubled dominant model of objectivity. _Hauntology_ refers to the paradoxical state of the specter, which is neither being nor non-being. This spectrality does not signal a remove from the world, however; a being in-between is not an absence. In fact, Derrida's most "spectral" work arguably is his most politically concrete. Hence, "spectral writing" points toward an electronic writing that attempts to organize artifacts of our language--text, image, and sound--without sacrificing the particularity of those artifacts to any overarching narrative. It will be the goal of this paper to summarize the development and theoretical implications of "spectral writing" as well as to test this method in producing my own hypertext essay. The presentation offers both a formal discussion of spectral writing and a demonstration of the hypertext essay produced by this method.

Author: Stephanie L. Tripp


Target Audience: Not Applicable

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