p. 365 “If I dare approach this subject…it is because of this very discouragement…” Classic Derrida. Weird apologetic preamble. Capable of the most pompous forms of modesty.
p. 366 ‘…too confident in the now canonical distinction between mention and use’ I think one of Derrida’s best qualities is the way that he seems to take seriously certain idea without allowing them to pin down his own or become too ingrained. There is something to be said–particularly when it comes to something as slippery as language–of a practiced skepticism toward overly ‘cannonball’ explanations.
p. 367 Such skepticism is warranted because “the independence of the word remains a mysterious thing, precarious, not quite natural…”
p. 369 Hypothesizes about the perfectly knowledgeable translator with infinite time, but reaches the conclusion that this would amount to more of what today we would call a ‘reading’ of a text rather than a translation that accounts for the primacy of the word.
p. 370 Puts translation at the level of the word but not in a word for word or word to word, but word by word: this is interesting and at times Derrida meanders toward clarity on the point but it is hard to really and clearly see it.
p. 371 “…unintelligible economy…” Well, definitely unintelligible.
p. 372 introduces the idea of translation that enables mediation between other languages. This is interesting but also seems dangerous. It seems likely to result in the over-fitting of certain concepts or the generalization of said concepts in order to facilitate this equivalence.
p. 377 Reference to bund-in addition to being the German word for bond is this an illusion to Jewish Bundism? Or even the German-American bund? seems like just the multiple meanings that Derrida loves.
This long analysis of The Merchant of Venice seems like a whole lot of lead up for what doesn’t seem to me to be the greatest of punchlines. It’s so meandering and repetitive and yet the repetition never clarifies (as I’ve come to expect with Derrida). At the end of it all, I am hard pressed to honestly say much about the essay. There are flashes here and there of ideas that seem interesting but they don’t really hold together. I’m sure there is some generous interpretation that says this is part of the intended effect of Derrida’s speech (btw, it is incredible that this is was given as a lecture/speech; I can’t possibly imagine following this as a listener), but all in all I have mixed feelings about the piece, as I do with almost all of Derrida’s work. There is something there, but it often seems to solipsistic–entirely incapable of getting out of its own way and actually leading the reader toward a more productive understanding of translation.