Jacques Derrida was born in Algeria in 1930. His works of philosophy and linguistics form the basis of the school of criticism known as deconstruction. This theory states that language is an inadequate method to give an unambiguous definition of a work, as the meaning of text can differ depending on reader, time, and context. His De la Grammatologie (1967, published as Of Grammatology in 1976), is the most formal known statement of his theory. He further demonstrates this theory in his book Glas (1974, translated to English in 1986). Jacques Derrida lives in Paris and teaches at the Ecole Normale Superieure. His awards include honorary doctorates form Columbia (1980), the University of Louvain (1983), and the University of Essex (1987), and an honorary degree by Cambridge University (1992), which was publicly contested, adding to his already controversial reputation.
Born in Calcutta, Spivak attended the University of Calcutta and Cornell University, where she studied with Paul de Man and completed a Ph.D. in comparative literature (1967). She has since taught at a number of academic institutions worldwide, most recently at Columbia University. Her critical interests are wide-ranging: she has written on literature, film, Marxism, feminism, deconstruction, historiography, psychoanalysis, colonial discourse and postcolonialism, translation, and pedagogy East and West. She argues forcefully that these disciplinary and theoretical categories must each be articulated in ways that do not "interrupt" each other, bringing them to "crisis." Spivak's own work is resistant to any easy categorization. Her first book, Myself I Must Remake: Life and Poetry of W. B. Yeats (1974), did not have the impact of her second publication, the 1976 translation and long foreword to deconstructive philosopher Jacques Derrida's (see Vol. 4) De la grammatologie (Of Grammatology), which established her as a theorist of note. Since then Spivak has concentrated on examining deconstruction and postcolonialism, and its implications for feminist and Marxist theory. She engages not so much the specifics of colonial rule as the forms that neocolonialism currently assumes, both in the intellectual exchanges of the First World academy and in the socioeconomic traffic between the industrialized and developing nations. In the last decade, Spivak has been associated with revisionist, post-Marxist historians who have sought to challenge the elitist presuppositions of South Asian history, whether colonial or nationalist. Her contributions include theoretical essays and translations of the Bengali writer Mahasweta Devi. Most recently, Spivak has published essays on translation and more translations of Mahasweta Devi's stories. She has also given a number of important interviews on political and theoretical issues, many of which have been collected in The Post-Colonial Critic (1990).