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Morris, H. (1987). Taking Chances: Derrida, Psychoanalysis, and Literature. Psychiatry and the Humanities, Vol. 7: Edited by Joseph H. Smith, M.D. and William Kerrigan, Ph.D. Baltimore/London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984. 191 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 56:372-377.

(1987). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 56:372-377

Taking Chances: Derrida, Psychoanalysis, and Literature. Psychiatry and the Humanities, Vol. 7: Edited by Joseph H. Smith, M.D. and William Kerrigan, Ph.D. Baltimore/London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984. 191 pp.

Review by:
Humphrey Morris

Jacques Derrida is difficult to introduce. He is a writer who puts into question the various terms one might use to introduce him, terms like "writing" and "philosophy" and "meaning." He is in his mid-fifties; he is one of the most celebrated French intellectuals of the day; his voluminous writings include several hundred pages of close textual analysis of Freud; and he is essentially unknown in the American psychoanalytic community. While a number of his books have appeared in translation in the past several years, his largest work on Freud, La carte postale, a 1980 publication, has not yet been published in English; those parts of it that have been translated have been disseminated—a Derridean key word—among various journals of literary criticism and theory. All this is to say that Kerrigan and Smith face a tough assignment. They must introduce Derrida to a new readership, translate him, and arrange for well-annotated essays about him which are engaging, informative, and assume no prior acquaintance.

By these criteria, Taking Chances poses a problem. It is not an uninteresting or unreadable book, but it does assume too much. To become accessible to the interested non-specialist reader, it would need a clearer and more basic introductory chapter by the editors, an annotated bibliography showing which of Derrida's texts have been translated and where they are available, and editorial introductions to the separately authored seven chapters. Since it does, however, contain a masterful if inadequately translated essay on Freud by Derrida, and several chapters on Derrida himself which are informative as they stand, I will try here to introduce him, in hopes of increasing the chances that readers will take their chances with the book.

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