Post-Structuralism: Deconstruction Theory and Practice

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  • Post-Structuralism: Deconstruction Theory and Practice
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  • 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
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  • 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?
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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?
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  • Language/Literature as an enclosed system with two Axes Syntagmatic/Combination (narrative structure: roles + actions); metonymy Paradigmatic/Selection : Thematic structure: Motifs, mythemes, metaphors, etc.
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  • 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.
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  • 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)
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  • http://203.198.70.29/subject/chlt/tangci.htm http://203.198.70.29/subject/chlt/tangci.htm Male poet and Waiting woman.
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  • random samples from Internet . 03:59 , NAPSTER , . (source)source Traces of other usages
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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)
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  • 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.
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  • 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)
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  • 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
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  • 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.
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  • Chain of Signification 3: floating Signifier signs; both present and absent, empty and variously defined.
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  • Question Do you agree that meaning is always uncertain and slippery? What does Derridas views of language shed light on our communication?
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  • 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
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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
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  • 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)
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  • 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.
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  • 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?
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  • The original hierarchy subverted by the last line River- Childhood- personified River- Mapped; unchanged I? My growth; IHuman error; Urban development Childhoods memory? wrong
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  • 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
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  • 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.
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  • 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 )
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  • 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?
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  • 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,

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