This post is part of the Art as Gift project
Derrida’s concepts of “text” and “trace” (GT, 99-102)
Towards the conclusion of chapter 3 of Given Time, Derrida, after many detours, approaches the text of Counterfeit Money, asking “how is the question of the gift and the dative posed in Counterfeit Money?” Introducing the idea of the death of the donor as that which negates the return of the gift.
The text is finite, a “bit of corpus” it appears as a thing, which is a given in terms of our receptivity towards it, it was also given from the moment Baudelaire wrote and dedicated (gave) it. Yet it is a giving without return, whatever return Baudelaire might have counted on, the structure of trace and legacy of this text transcends the “phantasm of return” [the hau of the gift?] in the death of the signatory that accredits the text.
The problematic of the gift is only on the basis of the problematic of the trace and the text. This means not on the basis of the metaphysics of the present, that which is here now in the present. We do not get to the things themselves by avoiding “texts” by avoiding commentary or quotation, all writing is “on credit” subject to the authority of a commentary. It is only a problematic of the trace and dissemination [the giving of the text] that can pose a question of the gift and forgiveness, along with the “excessive forgetting or the forgetful excess that is radically implicated in the gift.” (102)
The second paragraph of page 102 focuses on Counterfeit Money as a text which tells the story of a gift. The text is envisaged as a body, a corpus, that is destined, it is a given, without known signatory and known addressee, framed by its capacity to exceed and which exceeds its frame, it is the story within the story (abyme) which destines the text.
“Experience as the experience of the present is never a simple experience of something present over and against me, right before my eyes as in an intuition; there is always another agency there. Repeatability contains what has passed away and is no longer present and what is about to come and is not yet present. The present therefore is always complicated by non-presence. Derrida calls this minimal repeatability found in every experience “the trace.” Indeed, the trace is a kind of proto-linguisticality (Derrida also calls it “arche-writing”), since language in its most minimal determination consists in repeatable forms.” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Jacques Derrida entry)