Mindel Scott

Law of Genre Derrida Summary

“The Law of Gender” was originally given as a lecture at an international symposium on gender held in Strasbourg in July 1979. Gender has always been able to play the role of principle of order in all genres: similarity, analogy, identity and difference, taxonomic classification, genealogical organization and pedigree, order of reason, order of reasons, sense of meaning, truth of truth, natural light and sense of history. Madness spawned the genre in the most dazzling and dazzling sense of the word. Paradoxically, and just as impossible, the law of gender is also binding on what gender puts forward, generations, genealogy and degeneration. Maurice Blanchot often had the opportunity to change the name of the genre from one version of his work to another or from one edition to another. They conclude their call for papers with Martin Heidegger`s question: “Why is there something and not nothing?” 1 The organizers of the 1979 International Gender Colloquium in Strasbourg wrote that this question “could be rephrased as follows: Why is there a genre and not a generalized literature?” [Chartin et al. 237]. Derrida`s response, the lecture entitled “The Law of Gender,” suggested that the answer to both questions required careful attention to the other meaning of the term gender in French, gender. He inflected the question “Why are there literary types?” with the question “Why are there genres?” In his work of the 1970s,2 Derrida had already brought gender to the forefront, using metaphors of female sexuality as alternatives to Hegel`s dependence on the trope of opposition – “law of the day (light) against the law of night, human law against divine law, law of man against woman`s law” [Glass 146a] – and announced in Spurs, that his work had entered a “new phase” that would be “affirmative” [37]. If the mechanism of truth for Hegel were dialectical opposition, the negation of a negation, a no, no, Derrida would look for a philosophy that says yes, yes, a philosophy that he reconciles with the feminine.

He continues here: “As for the class itself, the principle of gender is not classifiable, it rings the knees, in other words of the classicum, of what makes it possible to call orders and to order the variety within a nomenclature” (208). So when the death knell dies, who will sound the death knell? If gender classifies the members of a set, who ranks the set? As a principle of classification, the genus itself cannot be classified, so it transcends itself and the parts are larger than the whole. Part of the law of species is therefore “the law of abundance, excess, the law of participation without adhesion, pollution, etc., which I have already mentioned” (210). Gender participates in ensembles by placing members in sets, but it is not itself a member of a sentence, so its principle is excessive. At this point, Derrida realizes that he is circumventing the boundary of gender theory and has no real intention of entering into gender theory (interestingly, this word in gender treats gender as the container that Derrida characterizes it – he means what the container contains). “As soon as the genre is announced, you have to respect a standard. You cannot risk contamination. A defensive speech or newspaper editorial may, by means of a trademark, even if not expressly marked as such, state: “Viola! I belong, as everyone can notice, to the kind of text called a defence speech or article in the editorial of the newspaper.

(211) The first half of “The Law of Gender” presents two ways of conceptualizing gender and articulates how the two seem to be related in the many assumptions of gender theory. Although Derrida leaves both tendencies of gender theory unnamed, they are the classical view of gender, combined with structuralism and narratology, which I will call formal bias, and the contemporary view of gender, combined with speech act theory and rhetorical gender theory, which I will call gender bias.3 Gender theorists clandestinely introduce one or the other form [end of page 45] of this fundamental bias in their work when they represent gender. Theorists who invoke scientific, mathematical, or logical schemes to naturalize their reasoning work with a formal bias. Theorists who refer to cultural, functional or historical mechanisms operate with a gender bias. Although contemporary gender theorists tend to shift from understanding gender as a taxonomic system to understanding gender as cultural conditions that make text production possible, the remnants of both biases persist.