Text of Post-Structuralism: Deconstruction Theory and Practice
Post-Structuralism: Deconstruction Theory and Practice
Outline -- Q & AQ & A -- Jacque Derrida: 1. Prologue: Instability of MeaningInstability of Meaning 2. Writing as DiffranceWriting as Diffrance 3. Transcendental Signified and BinarismTranscendental Signified and Binarism 4. Deconstruction: Literary PracticeLiterary Practice 5. Derrida in Context: structuralism, Foucault, etc.Derrida in Context Assignments
Q & A 1.What is Diffrance? What is Transcendental Signified? 2.How is Western Metaphysics challenged? 3.How do we do deconstruction in literary criticism? Is deconstruction similar to destruction?
Q & A Is deconstruction similar to destruction? Literary Deconstruction: --show the hidden gaps in a texts meaning. Textual unity -- Reverse the hierarchical binaries, and allow the latter to supplement the formers. -- de-stabilize, de-center, but not destroy.
Which of the following statements are not ambiguous? I am 40 years old. The Republic of China was born on Oct. 10, 1911. I love you till the end of the world. The experience of the earthquake yesterday was quite uncanny.
Which of the following statements are not ambiguous? I am 40 years old. Who is this I? The Republic of China was born on Oct. 10, 1911. born? I love you till the end of the world (Apocalypse Now ) love? insecticide? Vegi with blue cheese?
Language/Literature as an enclosed system with two Axes Syntagmatic/Combination (narrative structure: roles + actions); metonymy Paradigmatic/Selection : Thematic structure: Motifs, mythemes, metaphors, etc.
Language/Literature as an enclosed system with two Axes Syntagmatic/Combination Paradigmatic/Selection : Chinaman + more stereotypical descriptions, or a fathers advice to his son, etc.
Why is language ambiguous? Why are meanings undecidable & slippery? 1. Polysemy: Traces of other signs, other meanings. (e.g. national birthday; ; the uncanny) the uncanny 2. Multiple Context; Reference Undecidable. (e.g. The end of the world ) 3. Meaning is not present in language; it happens in between signifiers. (e.g. ) 4. (intention and the unconscious)
http://184.108.40.206/subject/chlt/tangci.htm http://220.127.116.11/subject/chlt/tangci.htm Male poet and Waiting woman.
random samples from Internet . 03:59 , NAPSTER , . (source)source Traces of other usages
Freuds the Uncanny = unheimlich, both homely and unhomely; or both familiar and strange. According to Freud's description, the uncanny "derives its terror not from something externally alien or unknown but--on the contrary--from something strangely familiar which defeats our efforts to separate ourselves from it" (Morris; source).source e.g. the Gothic tradition, nightmare, castration fear.
Spacing-- Movement from one Signifier to another by -- polysemy: cultural connotations of , etc. -- spacing: Meaning changed when the context is further revealed. Comic effects: old traces vs. newly defined meanings. The traces of the old meanings are both present and absent.
Writing and Diffrance Language a system of difference of Diffrance. * While structualists had treated binary oppositions as stable terms in a formal structure, Derrida sees them as organized in unstable disequilibrium. because of the presence/absence of traces * Derrida sees the signifieds also in a relation of difference, and they are turned into signifiers floating signifiers. (Textbook: p. 123; 28)
Writing and Diffrance (2) Diffrance: To differ; A sign is defined by its binary opposition to another sign. 2. To defer. The signifier (black) that is distinguished from the other one (white) is not completely erased; it is only deferred, bracketed or merely put under erasure. It can subvert the fixed meaning of the sign.
Writing and Diffrance The chain of signification: (1) symbolization or mythologizing Signifier 1 (rose) Signified 1 (flower) Signified 2 (love) Signified2 (rose=love) Signified 3 (rose= woman in love) Signified 4 (rose = weak, vain & dependent woman in love)
The other Americans Other Skin colors Other Racial Features What they did Writing and Diffrance: chain of signification (1) 1. Signifier Signified 2 Signified 3 Asian PeopleYellow Exotic (Evil or Weak) White Americans White Innocent, Strong and Civilized White Mans Burden Manifest Destiny God
Writing and Diffrance: Chain of Signification (2) Re-contextualization; traces kept. e.g. 1. Pharmakon: 1). poison, 2). Pharmacy 2. ; 3. Creole; Madame Butterfly in M. Butterfly and in the characters of Song first and then Gallimard; the other parodies.
Chain of Signification 3: floating Signifier signs; both present and absent, empty and variously defined.
Question Do you agree that meaning is always uncertain and slippery? What does Derridas views of language shed light on our communication?
The Transcendental Signified and Binaries 1.The unmoved mover e.g. God (transcendental signified) The Bible (transcendental signifier) 1.(Textbook: p. 124) source/closure of meaning and center of existence. e.g. being, unity, truth, the good, reason, progress, identity, continuity, meaning, subjectivity, authenticity, etc. = foundations
The Transcendental Signified and Binaries They are the upper terms in hierarchical binaries: e.g. ManLightReasonCultureThe Public; West, etc. WomanDark- ness EmotionNatureThe Private; East, etc.
Critique of Metaphysics: logocentrism, & phallogocentrism Traditional binaries are hierarchical. Should be reversed or questioned. Logocentrism: Logo as center, source, or founding presence of knowledge and human beings. Phallogocentrism: Man/Woman= sun/moon, reason/emotion, Subject/Object, etc.
Ways of Questioning the Hierarchical Binaries 1.The two terms are actually mutually determinant. e.g. The West has to define itself by having/rejecting an Other which is different. 2. The weak term is not really weak. 3. Mutually implicated: One term implies its opposite term. examples examples
Deconstruction: practices 1. Open texts A text that deconstructs its own unity or author. (examples; also M. Butterfly, its ending)examples 2. Reverse the texts binaries or expose its undecidability or multiple meanings (example M. Butterfly Madame Butterfly; another); another 3. Study the process of signification of a sign or a text and find out what it tries to erase. (e.g. Scarlet Letter; Barthesian studies of commercials) (textbook p. 131)
Deconstruction: practices (2) 4. Find where the text differs from itself. (critical difference) ambiguity and undecidability (example) 5. Radical contextualization to find out its intertextual references and thus undecidability of meanings.
Reasons for the Disappearance of the river: -- My departure; growth -- The cartographer; urban development -- The river itself; Nature is betrayed and then changes itself; -- Nobodys fault. -- / -- Why?
The original hierarchy subverted by the last line River- Childhood- personified River- Mapped; unchanged I? My growth; IHuman error; Urban development Childhoods memory? wrong
Deconstruction of Binary Opposition: Example The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Society vs. Nature, with Huck in between Nature (River) JimH:Then Ill go to hell. "light out for the Territory" Society (towns) H: doubt and practical jokes "born again" as Tom ; use Ts intricate plan to rescue Jim
Undecidability: example 1 A.Billy Budd innocent) vs. Claggart (evil) B. Claggart accuses B of planning mutiny. Bs blow B killer vs. C victim Billy Budd: Billy Budd (a young sailor), Claggart (master-at-arms), Vere (the captain). Vere responsible and just Allows an innocent man to be hanged.
Undecidability: example 2 A slumber did my spirit seal; I had no human fears: She seemed a thing that could not feel The touch of earthly years. No motion has she now, no force; She neither hears nor sees; Rolled round in earth's diurnal course, With rocks, and stones, and trees. (William Wordsworth )
Undecidability: example 2 past life the human fear present death the cosmic peacefulness and regularity A slumber did my spirit seal -- Contradictions between Gap: What happened in between the present and the past? Whose peacefulness is it? Whose death and when?
Derridian Deconstruction in Context 1. Anti-Foundationalist & de-centering; 2. Like New Critics, deconstructionists read closely to find out the contradictions and gaps in a text, but without reconstructing them back to a unity. 3. Like Foucault, D thinks that we are in language and are conditioned by its structure,