Niall Lucy was an Australian writer and scholar best known for his work in deconstruction.
Niall Lucy served as a professor in the School of Media, Culture & Creative Arts at Curtin University, and a former Head of the School of Arts (1998–2003) at Murdoch University. In 1997 he was a visiting scholar in the School of English, Communication and Philosophy at the University of Wales, Cardiff. He worked mainly in the fields of deconstruction, literary theory and cultural criticism. His recent work (much of it collaborative) brings a deconstructive approach to contemporary Australian events and figures.
In Postmodern Literary Theory: An Introduction (1997), Lucy identifies postmodernism as a continuation (albeit not by conscious or deliberate means) of romanticism, especially in the form of ideas associated with the Jena romantics in Germany in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. His discussion is influenced by the work of French philosophers Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy. Lucy argues that postmodernism should be distinguished from poststructuralism, and especially from deconstruction as associated with the work of Jacques Derrida.
Lucy’s work is notable for its sense of humour, and for taking popular culture no less seriously than philosophy. The increasing tendency in his later work towards a philosophical engagement with contemporary events is strongly informed by Derrida’s Specters of Marx and the idea of democracy-to-come, which is the linchpin of Lucy’s account of the importance of deconstruction in A Derrida Dictionary (2004).
Much of Lucy’s recent work has been collaborative, and directly concerned with contemporary Australian cultural events and figures. His book with Steve Mickler, The War on Democracy: Conservative Opinion in the Australian Press (2006), pits a Derridean concept of democracy against what the authors argue are the undemocratic interests represented in the work of several prominent Australian media commentators (whom they refer to collectively as “Team Australia”), including Miranda Devine, Gerard Henderson, Janet Albrechtsen and Andrew Bolt. The book was shortlisted for the Gleebooks Prize in Literary and Cultural Criticism at the 2008 New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards.
Among other recent works, Lucy’s co-edited collection (with Chris Coughran), Vagabond Holes (2009), is a tribute to his late friend, David McComb, lead singer and songwriter for Australian rock band The Triffids, which defies the conventions of a rock biography in its deconstruction of the notion of an autonomous self or identity. Contributors include Nick Cave, Mick Harvey, John Kinsella, DBC Pierre, and Lucy’s sister, Judith Lucy.
His latest book, Pomo Oz: Fear and Loathing Downunder (2010), engages with (among other issues) debates surrounding secondary-school English teaching in Australia, while taking a deconstructive slant on the Bill Henson scandal, the children overboard affair and The Chaser’s prank motorcade at the 2007 APEC Australia summit in Sydney. A significant section of the book is devoted to a discussion of John Kinsella’s poetry in relation to deconstruction, with reference to Kinsella’s friendship with Derrida. Ranging across diverse topics, and working in multiple styles, the book offers a further elaboration of Lucy’s work on democracy-to-come.
Lucy has been lauded internationally for his work in deconstruction. His Debating Derrida is described by Peggy Kamuf as “an excellent guide” and by Juliana De Nooy as “lucid and pedagogical”. Writing for The Times Literary Supplement, Anthony Elliot says of A Derrida Dictionary that it “ranges with considerable flair from Hegel to Geri Halliwell, fascism to Francis Fukuyama, the philosophy of consciousness to celebrity”. “It [A Derrida Dictionary] is the kind of book whose wit makes one want to read excerpts to colleagues, and it is precisely this lightness of tone that makes Lucy’s book so pedagogically useful”, a reviewer writes in Choice. Claire Colebrook commends Postmodern Literary Theory: An Introduction as “a critical account of the difference between postmodernism and poststructuralism”.
Lucy’s work is widely cited across many disciplines and in several languages. Among those who refer to his work are John D. Caputo John Hartley, Peggy Kamuf, Keith Jenkins, and McKenzie Wark.
The critical reception in Australia to his book with Steve Mickler, The War on Democracy, has been divided. Kitty van Vuuren, writing in Media International Australia, says she was “unable to put the book down” and found it to be “lively, sardonic and entertaining”. In 'Overland, Georgina Murray claims the book was “crying out to be written”. By contrast, one of the figures whose work is critiqued in The War on Democracy, education journalist Luke Slattery, describes the book as “blood sport” and decries Lucy as “a parish priest in the much-diminished postmodern church”. Another figure of critique in the book, columnist Christopher Pearson, condemns what he calls the book’s “unusually vicious polemic”.
Lucy wrote freelance music journalism in the 1980s for On the Street (Sydney), 5 O’Clock News (Perth) and other publications. He was a regular music broadcaster on 6UVS-FM (now RTR-FM) in Perth and 2SER-FM in Sydney. He wrote occasionally for The West Australian and On Line Opinion, and hosted the weekly music show The Comfort Zone on 720 ABC Perth.
He was a member of the Curriculum Council of Western Australia’s Literature Reference Panel.
He was the brother of comedian Judith Lucy.
- Pomo Oz: Fear and Loathing Downunder (Fremantle Press, 2010).
- Activist Poetics: Anarchy in the Avon Valley, by John Kinsella (Liverpool University Press (2010), editor.
- Vagabond Holes: David McComb and The Triffids (Fremantle Press, 2009), co-edited with Chris Coughran.
- Beautiful Waste: Poems by David McComb (Fremantle Press, 2009), co-edited with Chris Coughran.
- Plagiarism! (From Work to Détournement), special issue of Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities (Routledge, 2009), co-edited with John Kinsella.
- The War on Democracy: Conservative Opinion in the Australian Press (University of Western Australia Press, 2006), with Steve Mickler.
- A Derrida Dictionary (Wiley-Blackwell, 2004).
- Beyond Semiotics: Text, Culture and Technology (Continuum, 2001).
- Postmodern Literary Theory: An Anthology (Wiley-Blackwell, 2000), editor.
- Philosophy and Cultural Studies, special issue of Continuum: Journal of Media and Culture (1998), editor.
- Postmodern Literary Theory: An Introduction (Wiley-Blackwell, 1997).
- Debating Derrida (Melbourne University Press, 1995).
- Niall Lucy, Postmodern Literary Theory: An Introduction (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997).
- Niall Lucy, A Derrida Dictionary (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004).
- Niall Lucy and Steve Mickler, The War on Democracy: Conservative Opinion in the Australian Press (Nedlands: University of Western Australia Press, 2006).
- Niall Lucy and Chris Coughran, eds, Vagabond Holes: David McComb and The Triffids (Fremantle: Fremantle Press, 2010).
- Niall Lucy, Pomo Oz: Fear and Loathing Downunder (Fremantle: Fremantle Press, 2010).
- Peggy Kamuf, Book of Addresses (California: Stanford University Press, 2004), p. 333.
- Juliana De Nooy, Derrida, Kristeva and the Dividing Line: An Articulation of Two Theories of Difference (New York: Routledge, 1998), p. 172.
- Anthony Elliot, “Circles and Celebs”. The Times Literary Supplement, 9 July 2004, p. 25.
- S. Barnett, “[Review of] A Derrida Dictionary”. Choice 42,1 (Sept. 2004): 62.
- Claire Colebrook, “Questioning Representation”. SubStance 29, 2 (2000): 66.
- John D. Caputo, Deconstruction in a Nutshell: A Conversation with Jacques Derrida (New York: Fordham University Press, 1996).
- John Hartley, A Short History of Cultural Studies (London: Sage, 2003).
- Peggy Kamuf, “The University in the World it is Attempting to Think”. Culture Machine 6 (2004).
- Keith Jenkins, Why History? Ethics and Postmodernity (London: Routledge, 1999).
- McKenzie Wark, Gamer Theory (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2007).
- Kitty Van Vuuren, “[Review of] The War on Democracy”. Media International Australia 126 (February 2008).
- Georgina Murray, “Warriors Against Democracy”. Overland" 188 (September 2007).
- Luke Slattery, “A Travesty of Logic”. On Line Opinion, 9 March 2007; Luke Slattery, “Supposed Defenders of Democracy Err in Choice of Foes”. The Australian, 15 March 2007.
- Christopher Pearson, “Villains Made to Order”. The Australian, 11 November 2006.
- The Triffids, Calenture (Domino Records, 2007).
- Chad’s Tree, Crossing Off the Miles (Memorandum/Fuse Music, 2010).
- Vale free-flowing Niall, John Kinsella, The West Australian, 11 June 2014, https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/entertainment/arts/a/24210356/vale-free-flowing-niall/
- Profile at Curtin University's website
- Niall Lucy Homepage
- Niall Lucy and Chris Coughran interviewed by Kiri Falls
- Niall Lucy and Chris Coughran interviewed by Patrick Pittman on RTR-FM
- Niall Lucy and Chris Coughran interviewed on Foxtel