Labyrinths of Exemplarity

At the Limits of Deconstruction

By Irene E. Harvey

Subjects: Postmodernism
Series: SUNY series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791454640, 291 pages, August 2002
Hardcover : 9780791454633, 291 pages, August 2002

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Table of contents

Preface: Dimensions of Exemplarity

Introduction: Exemplarity As the Elixir of Thinking

PART 1. Threads of Exemplarity

1. For Emile


Emile's "Own" Experience
Emile's Experience of "The Others"


2. For Sophie


Self-Image As Self-Misunderstanding
Sophie's Relations to Others


3. For Us


Reading Emile
Reading Sophie/Women
Reading Male/Female Relations


PART 2. Theories of Exemplarity

4. Thematized: Exemplarity in Pedagogy


For the Tutor
Rousseau’s Method: For Us


5. The Unthematized Theories of Exemplarity


Within the Thematized: Rousseau’s "Theory" and Theories


PART 3. Exemplarity and Deconstructibility

6. Derrida's Rousseau


Derrida's Rousseau
Example, Exemplar, Exemplarity
Between Use and Usage: The "Lens of Differance"
Excesses and Exemplarity


PART 4. The Rhetorics of Exemplarity

7. Theories of Rhetorics and the Places of Example


Theories of Rhetorics and the Places of Example
Aristotle's Rhetorical Discourse
Articulations of Exemplarity: Thematics
The Rhetorical Discourse of Exemplarity




A fascinating account of exemplarity in the context of deconstruction.


Labyrinths of Exemplarity presents the first comprehensive, in-depth study of the problem of exemplarity—or how we move between the general and the particular in order to try to understand our world. The author's focus ranges from the most basic and fundamental issues of what examples are and where they come from to the complex key issues of how examples function in the discourses they inhabit and what this functioning tells us about the nature of examples or exemplarity itself. The problem is treated especially in connection to Rousseau and Aristotle, with reference to deconstruction (especially Derrida) and the range of Western metaphysics. Ultimately, a new theory of examples is offered, one not drawn from the assumptions made by earlier philosophers but rather from the usage and functioning of examples in philosophical discourse.

Irene E. Harvey is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Penn State at University Park and author of Derrida and the Economy of Différance.


"Few recent works in continental thought exhibit the depth of analysis and attention to detail displayed here. The argument is thoughtfully articulated and quite persuasive. I particularly enjoyed the discussions with respect to exemplarity and différance, theology, and patriarchy, inasmuch as the author contends, correctly I think, that the motif of part/whole significantly informs these issues, and hence the structures of exemplarity dominate in the tradition." — Douglas L. Donkel, editor of The Theory of Difference: Readings in Contemporary Continental Thought

"The author offers rich and provocative readings of Rousseau." — Rebecca Comay, coeditor of Endings: Questions of Memory in Hegel and Heidegger