March 29, 2011
Gayatri Chakravorty was born in Calcutta, West Bengal, 24 February 1942 to "solidly metropolitan middle class" parents. She thus belonged to the "first generation of Indian intellectuals after independence," a more interesting perspective she claims, than that of the Midnight's Children, who were "born free by chronological accident" (Arteaga interview).
She did her undergraduate in English at the University of Calcutta (1959), graduating with first class honours. She borrowed money to go to the US in the early 1960's to do graduate work at Cornell, which she chose because she "knew the names of Harvard, Yale and Cornell, and thought half of them were too good for me. (I'm intellectually a very insecure person . . . to an extent I still feel that way)" (de Kock interview 33). She "fell into comparative literature" because it was the only department that offered her money (Ibid.).
Her translator's introduction to Derrida's Of Grammatology has been variously described as "setting a new standard for self-reflexivity in prefaces" (editor's introduction to The Spivak Reader) and "absolutely unreadable, its only virtue being that it makes Derrida that much more enjoyable."
This Signature Series lecture was videotaped.