2007 Northeast Modern Language Association Panels
1-4 March, 2007
Baltimore, Maryland

Angela Hunter
University of Arkansas at Little Rock

“Derrida's Fido, or The Infidels of Deconstruction”


Do not cite without permission of the author.

In a 1976 interview, Jacques Derrida describes the affirmation in the work of deconstruction: “For me, it is always accompanied by an affirmative demand or exigency, I would even say that it doesn't ever happen without love…” (PS 92). Again, during a recorded conversation with colleagues in 1979, Derrida speaks of deconstruction and love: “I love very much everything that I deconstruct in my own manner; the texts I want to read from the deconstructive point of view are texts I love, with that impulse of identification which is indispensable for reading” (EO 87). Early reflections about deconstruction lead one to a discourse of love that is also a discourse on reading.

One of the most repeated dictums about deconstruction is that it entails reading with a serious fidelity, and yet, critics argue that it is invasive, distorting, thus ultimately unfaithful. Derrida's The Postcard: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond (which appeared in French in 1980) gives its reader the opportunity to struggle with the work of deconstruction in the form of a one-sided love correspondence in the section entitled “Envois.” One of its twisting tropes--tangling around and between philosophers, philosophies, languages, identities and machines that all inhabit and disrupt the “postal principle”--is the notion of fidelity; one of the characters (if such a name is appropriate here) of the “I” writing is Fido. Who or what is Fido? To whom or what does Fido belong? Where are fidelity and infidelity in the work of deconstruction? What is the relation of (in)fidelity to love?

This paper will explore the notion of fidelity in the work of deconstruction through a reading of “fido” in Derrida's The Postcard . I do this by linking fidelity to love and reading in Derrida's text, while still questioning what it would mean to be faithful, and to be faithful to …. Finally, I do this in order to pose (and attempt to answer) the question we find ourselves faced with today: can one be faithful to deconstruction? Why and how would one be? Is there something of the infidel already at work in deconstruction? In sum, how do we read “deconstruction” today?


Derrida, Jacques. Points de suspension . Entretiens choisis et présentés par Elisabeth Weber. Galilée: Paris , 1992.

---. The Ear of the Other: Otobiography, Transference, Translation . Texts and Discussions with Jacques Derrida. Ed., Christie McDonald. Trans., Peggy Kamuf. Lincoln , Nebraska : Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1985. French edition originally published as L'oreille de l'autre . V1b Editeur, Montreal , 1982.