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Glossary of Literary Theory
by Greig E. Henderson and Christopher Brown


The privileging of speech over writing, the view that writing is secondary or derivative, that it is dependent or parasitic upon speech. According to Jacques Derrida, phonocentrism is at the heart of the metaphysics of presence, the logocentrism that pervades Western civilization. The view that a unitary self and a unitary meaning are present in speech is that which Derrida seeks to deconstruct. Writing, he argues, violates the assumption of presence and is therefore relegated to the margins. (See also Deconstruction.)

© Greig E. Henderson and Christopher Brown,
University of Toronto
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University of Toronto English Library
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Last modified: March 31, 1997