The Lisa Anderson files (The Goodbyes series II)




“Some red wine, Miss Anderson?”

“… its image and its honor …
in practice …”

In what follows you find some excerpts of a dossier, that was only later known as “The Hair Brush Case”, or sometimes, more specifically, as “The Lisa Anderson files”, and in some more french-affine areas remembered as an episode named “Les gommes de Jackie”.

It all starts out with some few details Avital “the pet” Ronell felt free to convey to The Higher Ed on her writing of “The Massage Book. The last days of Jacques Derrida, or how I brushed the world’s superphilosopher”:

“He called me the minute he got out of the doctor’s office,” she says. “And I freaked out, of course.”

“He didn’t want a stranger to touch him”

She became something of a surrogate daughter to Derrida, or, in her words, “a pet.”

“I thought people were being selfish,” she says.

“… kinds of behavior …”

Now, unfortunately, we have to introduce the name of poor Dragan Kujundzic, whose life didnt stay quite the same in the course of the events in question.

Whatever the case, Mr. Kujundzic found himself accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a graduate student, a dilemma that looked as if it might short-circuit his promising career. He needed help. So he came to Derrida. In so doing, he set in motion a series of events that would permanently damage Derrida’s relationship with Irvine.

At one point Mr. Kujundzic commented on her short hair [sc: “May I brush your hair?”]. Ms. Anderson, who is epileptic [yeah, sure; ed.], told him she had brain surgery earlier that year to remove a tumor. She later argued in her lawsuit that her medical condition made her more vulnerable to the professor’s advances.

She asked if he was married. No, he said. A lie.

“… the presumed “innocence” of a 27- or 28-year-old woman …”

A putative lie’s aftermath: schmos, luncheons, and innocence interrupted. More from the pet.

[J. D.] attempts to elicit sympathy by revealing that the professor experienced “dramatic weight loss, depression, and so forth” as a result of the accusations
The letter ends with a threat. If the case against his friend is not “interrupted or canceled,” then Derrida will end “all my relations” with the university.

“Derrida wouldn’t have written that letter for some schmo,” Mr. Keenan says.

“This guy had nothing better to do than to ask Jacques for help,” [Ronell] says.

Mr. Kujundzic’s salary was reduced, and he was banned from the campus for two quarters without pay. He was not fired, as some thought he might be.

Derrida saw that outcome as unacceptable.

J. Hillis Miller, a longtime friend and fellow deconstructionist (at Irvine, they had lunch together once a week) whose own stature in the world of literary theory is considerable, spoke to Derrida a month before his death. As Mr. Miller describes it later, Derrida was outraged by the punishment.


“Yeah, Jackie, it’s a shifter––”

Jackie wears an, as always, discreetly striped jacket.
Dragan, on the other hand, sports a blood-tanned serbian leather vest.
(Cheap car, thou’).

“… what is called in French intime conviction …”

More letters, no papers – the plot’s a thickening:

More letters were exchanged between the university and Ms. Derrida. She held firm. No papers. No books. Nothing.

Then, in November of last year, Ms. Derrida, a psychoanalyst, returned from a session with a patient to find a uniformed official standing at her door. (That is how legal papers are served in France.) [ah, the French . . .; ed.]

The lawsuit also named a third son, whom Derrida had fathered with another woman. The inclusion of this third son [Professor Spivak declined to speak to The Chronicle at this time; ed.] seemed, to those who were close to Derrida, to be either a callous legal maneuver or a deliberate low blow.

Derrida’s fame had not translated into wealth for his family. He did not often insist on speaking fees, or even travel reimbursements. He didn’t like to talk about money. And he did not make much of it.

“… never take back what I have given …”

Finally, the erasers—, and Florida is a sunshine state.

Mr. Oram calls Derrida’s papers the cornerstone of Irvine’s critical-theory archive.

The settlement stipulated that no more papers would be transferred to Irvine. The remainder of the archive would go to the Institute of Contemporary Publishing Archives, located near the city of Caen in northwestern France. In addition, the university agreed to pay more than $16,000 to the Derrida family to cover their legal expenses.

“Do they want his personal library? Do they want his pencils and erasers? His computer? His clothes?” says Ms. Ronell, echoing Ms. Derrida’s anxiety.

What had Derrida intended to give?

Mr. Kujundzic, whose own troubles set the case in motion, he left Irvine to become chairman of the German- and Slavic-studies department at the University of Florida. He was removed as chairman less than a year later because the department “was not functioning optimally under his leadership,” according to a university spokesman. He remains a tenured professor there. Florida officials have said they were unaware at the time he was hired of the sexual-harassment charges made against him at Irvine.

Lisa Anderson, the graduate student who made the allegation against Mr. Kujundzic, has since left the University of California at Irvine.

The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Archive Fever (July 20, 2007)
The UCI Affair
Letter from Jacques Derrida to Ralph J. Cicerone, then Chancellor of UCI
Prof. Krapp’s first post
UC Irvine Critical Theory Archive Jacques Derrida
more, more, more, more, more, more, more (the 100k settlement)

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