In the 1983 article “My Chances/Mes chances: A Rendezvous with Some Epicurean Stereophonies,” Jacques Derrida gives philological questions massive philosophical significance by reading the long âgon between idealist and materialist philosophy through a philological crux in the text of Lucretius’s De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things). Tracing philological debates that have surrounded Lucretius from the Renaissance onward, this article argues that Lucretius’s poetic theory of interlinked atomic and textual swerves and the philological history that has mediated them were important touchstones for both Derrida and the other major twentieth-century philosopher of difference, Gilles Deleuze. Additionally, the article argues that for both Derrida and Deleuze, the clinamen offers a theory not only of how atoms or alphabetical letters swerve or even split, but also of how a philosophical tradition such as materialism refuses to run in a straight, unitary line. This is a question of how to understand reception history: either as an unbroken tradition of faithful imitation and replication (a family genealogy, grouped under the name of the father, “Lucretius” for example), or else as something less patriarchal, less heteronormative, less faithful. Read this way, the swerve offers a rethinking of the methods of reception history itself.

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