Skip to main content

Cultural Graphology

Writing after Derrida

“Cultural Graphology” could be the name of a new human science: this was Derrida’s speculation when, in the late 1960s, he imagined a discipline that combined psychoanalysis, deconstruction, and a commitment to the topic of writing. He never undertook the project himself but did leave two brief sketches of how he thought cultural graphology might proceed. In this book, Juliet Fleming picks up where Derrida left off. Using both his early and later thought, and the psychoanalytic texts to which it is addressed, to examine the print culture of early modern England, she drastically unsettles some key assumptions of book history.

Fleming shows that the single most important lesson to survive from Derrida’s early work is that we do not know what writing is. Channeling Derrida’s thought into places it has not been seen before, she examines printed errors, spaces, and ornaments (topics that have hitherto been marginal to our accounts of print culture) and excavates the long-forgotten reading practice of cutting printed books. Proposing radical deformations to the meanings of fundamental and apparently simple terms such as “error,” “letter,” “surface,” and “cut,” Fleming opens up exciting new pathways into our understanding of writing all told.

176 pages | 12 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2016

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory

Philosophy: General Philosophy, Logic and Philosophy of Language


“In putting Derrida together with book history, Fleming presents us with new versions of both… Cultural Graphology is a slim volume, but the horizons it opens up are dizzying. It not only retools the history of the book, but also reinvents it as an inquiry into something remarkable and urgent, which we have not yet understood.”

Gill Partington | Times Literary Supplement

“Fleming extends and fulfills Derrida’s vision of a quasi-totalizing science of writing.  Moving from grammatology to graphology, she shows how trace, mark, supplement, signature, and other terms figure in an open-ended project embracing poetry, cultural theory, book design, psychoanalysis, and media studies. On every page Cultural Graphology brings forward the ferocious wit and brilliance of Derrida’s ways of thinking through writing.”

Tom Conley, Harvard University

“An impressively original and absorbing study. Fleming has a very good understanding of the way Derrida engages with issues such as writing, the trace, the mark, and the surface, and is never intimidated by his more extravagant gestures. Drawing on her deep knowledge of early modern materials, she brings into the realm of Derrida’s thinking a fresh set of examples, written with elegance and flair in a prose that moves with ease and skill among different kinds of discourse and between the abstract and concrete.”

Derek Attridge, University of York

Table of Contents

Introduction: From Grammatology to Cultural Graphology
1 The Psychopathology of Writing
2 Type Ornament
3 Sign Tailoring
4 Psychoanalytic Graphology

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press