ABSTRACT

In Of Grammatology, Derrida asserts the absolute generality of the trace, arguing that it pertains to life and its material basis. However, it has been difficult for Derrida's interpreters to identify the warrant for this generality claim. Recently, Martin Hägglund has offered an influential defense of the generality of the trace by grounding it in the form of finite life (survival). However, as Catherine Malabou's critique of the grammatological project suggests, any such attempt is programmed to fail. On her view, writing never was and never could be general; by linking the trace to the model of writing or inscription, Derrida limited the generality of the trace and its pertinence for any philosophical materialism. Materiality, Malabou argues, is what will always necessarily escape every model of inscription. To think the generality of the trace requires thinking a nongraphic trace. Insofar as Malabou's notion of “plasticity” does this, it should be understood as heir to Derrida's notion of writing. However, I argue, Derrida's notion of “writing” was always already nongraphic, or plastic in a way that Malabou and other interpreters have failed to factor.

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