ROLAND Barthes thought that words, in use, are never innocent. He said ‘I am interested in language because it wounds or seduces me,’ and ‘each of us has his own rhythm of suffering.’
Yet it’s his fellow thinker Jacques Derrida whose thoughts have become popular currency in France!
His ‘Il n’y a pas de hors–texte’ – there is nothing outside the text, encouraging us to view things in context, whether current or from history – helps us make sense of new media, emerging talent and bizarre bloggers!
I’ve heard the ‘hors-texte’ is a popularly held belief among millions of French speakers; students, journalist, teachers. It’s as prevalent in France as Machiavelli’s ‘the ends justifies the means’ is, in Italy. This 16th century dogma still informs all Italian politics.
Now Derrida’s motto, the useful Media doctrine, is ‘de riguer’ on the streets of Paris, Marseilles, Montpelier, Lille, Lyon, Vichy. Will it rival the ‘cogito’ ever?
The French always do ‘have a word for it.’ But now I wonder are they the keenest of all the Europeans to take on useful ‘bon mots’ from their great poets and philosophers?
If the Germans behave like the French would they be able to visit cities without thinking of Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project? And would they be relying on his adage, ‘the work of memory collapses time?’
Would we Brits be stopped in our tracks by Eliot’s, ‘I have measured out my life with coffee spoons?’ Would we be repeating it to our children, becoming more Existential, by the minute?
Am I getting nearer to the philosophical French by buying the ‘coffee spoons’ tee shirt and planning to wear it in Copenhagen? Can we view any of this in context?