02 February, 2006

Derrida on the gift

An excellent example of how academics take a simple and obvious idea, even a cliché, and trick it up in the crude semblance of profundity. In this case I don't even have the source text in front of me, but a potted summary, no doubt less tortuous than the original: Jeff Massey's '"The Double Bind of Troilus to Tellen": the Time of the Gift in Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde', from a recent issue of the Chaucer Review:
For the literary scholar, however, no single gift critic may be more influential than Jacques Derrida, whose interpretation of Mauss's Essai sur le don extended the idea of inherent reciprocity to its logical limit: if the gift requires reciprocity, then the gift is impossible, for once the obligation of repayment becomes evident to the gift recipient, the gift ceases to be gift and becomes instead commodity.
In other words, 'There's no such thing as a free lunch'.

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