Modern Languages and Literatures, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in LESARTEN: NEW METHODOLOGIES AND OLD TEXTS, ed. Alexander Schwarz (Bern: Peter Lang, 1990), pp. 79-87. Copyright 1990 Verlag Peter Lang AG.


The issue we are addressing here concerns how – or if -- we can take non-serious language seriously, or even legitimate it. Derrida wishes to consider marginal, parasitic, borderline cases, because they give him “insight into the general functioning of a textual system.” If we simply identify and banish the parasite, we will end up retracing the boundaries of convention; if we look at the parasite as part of a whole system, then our perspective goes beyond that of the insider. This has direct implications for how we interpret Till Eulenspiegel. We can retrace the banishments as they occur repeatedly throughout the chapbook, and conclude that it was the author's intention to reinforce given values by warning against behaviors that invite infection and destruction of society. TE is a conservative admonition to uphold traditional corporative values. An impressive case can be made for this interpretation, particularly since with the discovery of Herman Bote as TE's author, we have the added support of authorial intention. But following Derrida we can pursue a different interpretive strategy, looking for insights into the general functioning of the textual system in TE at the point where his parasitism occurs.