The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond

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The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond
The Post Card, French edition.jpg
Cover of the first edition
Author Jacques Derrida
Original title La carte postale: De Socrate à Freud et au-delà
Translator Alan Bass
Country France
Language French
Subject Epistolary literature
  • 1980 (Flammarion, in French)
  • 1987 (University of Chicago Press, in English)
Media type Print
Pages 521 (University of Chicago Press edition)
ISBN 0-226-14322-8 (University of Chicago Press edition)

The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond (French: La carte postale: De Socrate à Freud et au-delà) is a 1980 book by French philosopher Jacques Derrida. It is a "satire of epistolary literature."[1] After Glas (1974), it is sometimes considered Derrida's most "literary" book, and continues the critical engagement with psychoanalysis first signaled in "Freud and the Scene of Writing" from Derrida's Writing and Difference (1967).


The first half of the book, titled Envois (sendings), contains a series of love letters addressed by Derrida to an unnamed loved one. In one of the letters, dated 6 June 1977, Derrida tells about his time spent in London with Jonathan Culler and Cynthia Chase, who had recently married. They showed Derrida an exposition of hundreds of card reproductions, among which was the medieval depiction of Socrates taking dictation from Plato, which seized Derrida's attention by its reversal of the historical relationship between the two figures (since Socrates himself left behind no written texts). After describing Plato's posture in the picture, and speculating about what he may have been doing behind Socrates's back (riding a skateboard, conducting a tram), Derrida says[2]

...The card immediately seemed to me, how to put it, obscene. [...] For the moment, myself, I tell you that I see Plato getting an erection in Socrates' back and see the insane hubris of his prick, an interminable, disproportionate erection ... slowly sliding, still warm, under Socrates' right leg [...] Imagine the day, when we will be able to send sperm by post card. [... and finally, Plato] wants to emit ... to sow the entire earth, to send the same fertile card to everyone.

Envois is followed by:

  • To Speculate - On Freud, an extended commentary on Beyond the Pleasure Principle
  • Le Facteur de la Verité (the maker of truth), a critique of Lacanian psychoanalysis focusing on an analysis of Lacan's Edgar Allan Poe commentary, the "Seminar on 'The Purloined Letter'"
  • and Du Tout (on the whole), a response to questions posed by the psychoanalyst René Major concerning Glas and Derrida's general relation to psychoanalytic theory.

In 2014 a feature film based on the book was released. Love in the Post is directed by Joanna Callaghan and co-written by Martin McQuillan and produced by Heraclitus Pictures. The film features an unseen interview with Derrida and contributions from Geoffrey Bennington, J. Hillis Miller, Sam Weber, Ellen Burt and Catherine Malabou.


  1. ^ Derrida, back cover of the English edition.
  2. ^ pp. 17–28

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