Nothing to Declare: J. Hillis Miller and Zero's Paradox

Derek Attridge

in Reading and Responsibility

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print May 2010 | ISBN: 9780748640089
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652112 | DOI:
Nothing to Declare: J. Hillis Miller and Zero's Paradox

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This chapter addresses one of Jacques Derrida's most faithful American followers, J. Hillis Miller, in writing admiringly about Miller's constant pursuit of clarity in his readings of Derrida, and the necessary failure of this pursuit. Miller wrote an essay entitled ‘Zero’. His drive for clarity is founded on a paradoxical acknowledgement of the impossibility of clarity, or at least of the kind of clarity which would mean that that text or that topic need not be revisited, that the work of understanding and responding is over. The chapter then considers what is thought of as one of Hillis Miller's most important books, although one of his shortest: The Ethics of Reading. The exhaustion of thematics, of semantic import, does not leave mere emptiness: as Miller so elegantly demonstrates, zero is a number after all, albeit one that challenges the foundations of number.

Keywords: J. Hillis Miller; Jacques Derrida; Zero; Ethics of Reading; thematics

Chapter.  3315 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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