Influential enough to have affected the entire French critical scene, Jacques Derrida has been hailed as the most important philosopher in France today. His ideas of reading and writing, his notion of deconstruction, his reinterpretations of phenomenology, psychoanalysis, and structuralism have profoundly influenced the vanguard of European and American criticism and have occasioned lively controversy.
"Without a knowledge of Grammatology the American scholar has a simply inaccurate view of the French critical advance-guard," Spivak writes. "For, in the final analysis, Derrida, even as he questions the notion of 'correction', corrects the common assumption of the two mutually opposed French critical tendencies-phenomenology and structuralism. He argues that both springs from the view of time fostered by the necessarily unscientific metaphysics of presence. This role of exposing the common assumption shared by combatants in a controversy raises Derrida's importance above merely the French scene. Derrida finds his place in the most clear-sighted European intellectual a tradition of the 'critique' in the Kantian sense." As his work progresses, Derrida elaborates the risk that even his own work would be questioned by the most radical elements of his thought.
Derrida's philosophical background baffles some literary critics. The translator's long critical preface places him within the lineage of Hegel, Nietzsche, Husserl, Freud, and Heidegger and illuminates his relationship with illustrious contemporaries like Jacques Lacan and Michel Foucault. It also explicates some terms that have passed into the common currency of Derridean criticism.