Everything is a text (1)

By: Joshua Glenn
October 27, 2009

Lipton ad from November 09 issue of <em>Real Simple</em>
Lipton ad from November 09 issue of Real Simple

And now, everybody knows it.

“I often describe deconstruction as something which happens. It’s not purely linguistic, involving text or books. You can deconstruct gestures, choreography. That’s why I enlarged the concept of text.” Mr. Derrida did not seem angry at having to define his philosophy at all; he was even smiling. “Everything is a text; this is a text,” he said, waving his arm at the diners around him in the bland suburbanlike restaurant, blithely picking at their lunches, completely unaware that they were being “deconstructed.”

— from Dinitia Smith, “Philosopher Gamely in Defense of His Ideas,” New York Times, May 30, 1998.


First in an occasional series.



What do you think?

  1. Agree everything admits of analysis. And certainly there is a lot one can do with the metaphor of “text.” And I understand of course why, historically, philosophers jumped on that metaphor when they “enlarged the concept.” It’s all good, except I wonder if it goes far enough. The idea of “text,” although liberating when it’s free of letterforms, is ultimately reductive: what are we leaving out by continuing to use it? I don’t know what I’d suggest in its place, yet(!), but it’s time for Metaphor 2.0.

  2. Also time to move onto the next thing because, as suggested by this post, the concept of “everything is a text” has been literalized and vulgarized. (I should add: tenure-track academics literalized and vulgarized the concept long before Lipton Tea’s marketing dept. did)

  3. Perhaps soul singer Donny Hathaway’s useful reminder that ‘Everything is Everything’ predates and surpasses the issue of metaphor entirely?

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