French philosopher, father of deconstructionist thought and distinguished UCI professor Jacques Derrida passed away on Oct. 8 at the age of 74 from pancreatic cancer.
Derrida made headlines in 1986 when he transferred from a professorship at Yale University to one at UCI. Since then he has brought the campus to national recognition for its critical theory program. He last taught a course here in spring 2003.
Derrida’s method of deconstruction involved analysis of literature, linguistics, philosophy, law and architecture to uncover their deeper meanings that that the authors themselves could not have intended. Derrida argued, sometimes against harsh criticism, that the traditional ways of reading texts led to false assumptions and needed to be adjusted to allow for multiple, complex interpretations.
In addition to being a lecturer, Derrida was a prolific writer. The Langson Library now houses almost 20,000 pages of his published French works. Derrida split his time between France and Laguna Beach teaching twice a week for five weeks each spring at UCI.
Explaining his decision to move to Irvine to an American reporter in 1993, Derrida expressed a strong hope for the burgeoning campus, saying, ‘In some disciplines, new universities do at least as well as the old famous universities.’