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With respect to

December 28, 2011

To sum all this up, we would say that counterfeit money is the title of the title, the title without title of the title (without title). The title is the title of the text and of its title.

–Jacques Derrida, in Given Time: I. Counterfeit Money, writing about Charles Baudelaire’s short story “Counterfeit Money.”

Easy as it is to make fun of such repetitiveness and reflexivity, I find myself rather drawn to it. It does capture something about X to talking about “bringing X to X as X.” This one is from Martin Heidegger, where X=language. And it captures something also to talk about “X in X” and “Y against Y,” where here X=self and Y=thoughts. This one is from Gerard Manley Hopkins. There is no other way, after all, to talk about a thing’s relationship with itself; if you try to talk about how the thing’s aspects interact with each other you immediately start sounding as if you think the thing is really two things. See: mind-body dualism.

There is also a way in which the mere act of hearing a thing placed in relation with itself over and over forces one to see the thing’s strangeness. As I typed out the Derrida quote above I had to type “t-i-t-l-e” ten times and by the end, it didn’t look like a word at all. Call it alienation or ostranenie or Verfremdungseffekt or whatever you want. I’d say it’s the main thing deconstruction is good for.

The danger is that it’s hard to tell when you’re talking nonsense, and too easy to conclude that because something is strange it can’t also be familiar.

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