(An illustration of) Jacques Derrida at the limits of the historicist chronotype

This article’s chief contention is that the decisive context of Jacques Derrida’s 1988 Critical Inquiry essay on Paul de Man’s past was the oscillation between the collapse of the historicist chronotype (deconstruction) and the emergence of the chronotype of simultaneities (presence). To demonstrate this thesis, this essay (1) examines the ways Derrida’s highlighting of the deconstruction of Western metaphysics, by continually producing world-interpretations, was the definitive instantiation – and subversion – of the historicist chronotype; and (2) establishes that Derrida’s inquiry into and engagement with de Man’s past marked the limits of the historicist chronotype and what Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht identifies as the rise of the chronotype of simultaneities. Evidence of the oscillation between chronotypes includes the several amalgamations of presence and language that shaped Derrida’s readings of de Man’s collaborationist articles as well as his postwar silence. Signs of these interpenetrations between language and presence suggest that Derrida momentarily halted his willingness to unfold endless, conflicting narratives about de Man, and this fleeting arrest in Derrida’s commitment to perspectivism ultimately caused his arguments to lose their persuasiveness; Derrida’s interpretations gave way to presence. This presence rendered in Derrida’s readings not only generated controversy but also offers historians the chance, today, to consider the interpretive space opened by the chronotype of simultaneities.