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I poststructuralism deconstruction

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Authors: Barthes, Derrida

Authors: Barthes, Derrida

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I poststructuralism deconstruction I poststructuralism deconstruction Presentation Transcript

  • & Deconstruction
    • Poststructuralist theory crucially problematizes the reliability or stability of meaning, placing language in a place where it slides between the signifier (word), signified (concept) and referent (thing).
    • Saussure was responsible for putting into circulation the terms signifier and signified in order to account for the –arbitrary- relationship between words and concepts.
    View slide
    • In Poststructuralism, language becomes text or textuality.
    • The insistence on the fundamentally unreliable, shifting nature of meaning produces a theory of literature which profoundly questions, the relation of language to empirical reality.
    • This radical view of language is perhaps most readily associated with deconstruction
    View slide
    • Roland Barthes proclaimed ‘the death of the author’ in a 1968 essay in which he questioned the traditional assumption that a text is directly and solely traceable to a single author for meaning and production, in short, for authority.
    • Poststructuralist critical practice contests the category of the ‘author’ as omniscient or the single source of power in relation to a text.
    • Meaning is not fixed by or located in the author’s ‘intention’, whatever that may be.
    • What poststructuralist critics question is a text’s reliance on “a single self-determining author, in control of his meanings, who fulfils his intentions and only his intentions” For Eagleton, textual meaning cannot be ascribed to authorial intention because it is “the product [] of language, which always has something slippery about it”.
    • More recent poststructuralist debates, have modified this view of language and literature by proposing that language be considered as one system in relation to other systems, and always as one articulated by a ‘speaking subject’ located in society, with language more accurately conceived as ‘language-in-use’ rather than a fixed structure or system.
    • The preferred term has become discourse , associated with Michel Foucault.
    • a view of language as being linked to subjective, social processes as opposed to closed or immutable states .
    • means an instance of language or utterance involving the speaker/writer-subject and reader/listener-object.
    • Discourse is this located in and inflected by its social and ideological environment: “the term [discourse] denotes language in actual use within its social and ideological context and in institutionalized representations of the world called discursive practices”
    • Theoretically, discourse may include any form of utterance. 20 th theory, notably through Michel Foucaults’s work, has stressed the collusion (confabulación ) of discourse with power: “discourse (the articulated categories of thought) orders a knowledge along lines that produce subjects open to power’s control”.
    • Some consequences have been,:
    • 1. poststructuralism’s greater attention to specific stories, to the details and local contextualizations of concrete instances;
    • 2. a greater emphasis on the body, the actual insertion of the human into the texture of time and history;
    • 3. a greater attention to the specifics of cultural working, to the arenas of discourse and cultural practice;
    • 4. a greater attention to the role of language and textuality in our construction of reality and identity.”
    • The relationship of literature –any discourse- to reality is problematic and complex. “Literature re-presents and refracts reality” and “language itself constitutes reality”
    • Language precedes the speaking/writing subject who produces discourse (spoken language, a short story, a poem, etc.) by drawing on and arranging the discourses or codes always-already available to him or her.
    • The author is a modern figure, a product of capitalist society which has attached great importance to the person of the author.
    • Literature is tyrannically centred on the author, his life, person, tastes and passions.
    • The explanation of a text is sought in the person who produced it. In ethnographic societies, the responsibility for a narrative is never assumed by a person but by a mediator, a relator.
    • Barthes questioned the importance of the author. The effective reading of a text depends on the suspension of preconceived ideas about the character of the particular author or about human psychology in general.
    • It is language that speaks and not the author who no longer determines meaning. Consequences: We no longer talk about works but texts.
    • The author, the reader and the text are each composed of a universe of quotations . The moment the author detaches himself from an immediate context, the reader is born and it is language which speaks.
    • The author is previous to his work; he exists before it and creates it.
    • The modern scriptor is born simultaneously with the text. To give a text an author is to impose a limit, to give it a final signified, to close the writing.
    • The text cannot be contained in a hierarchy, not even in a division of genres. It contains a subversive force in respect to old classifications.
    • The text is plural, a tissue of woven fabric woven with citations, references, echoes, cultural languages, that make it anonymous, untraceable.
    • The text reads without its author. He is present just as one of its characters, no longer privileged, paternal.
    • The text asks from the reader a practical collaboration, readerly aspect o a text
    • The most influential approach to textual analysis in the poststructuralist era, deconstruction, is associated with Derrida.
    • Deconstruction adopts an uncompromisingly (inflexiblemente) skeptical stance on language and meaning through a radical questioning of the sign , or the system of signs known as language.
    • According to Derrida, the sign lies at the core of Western philosophy and has traditionally engaged humans in the quest to arrive at that centre in search of being and presence. In his Of the Grammatologie (1967)
    • Derrida terms this drive logocentrism , (from Greek logos: ‘word’ but in philosophy also: ultimate truth or logic) and traces its weight and significance in Western metaphysics to the fact that the New Testament invokes the term as the origin of all things: ‘ In the beginning was the Word ’.
    • [and] underwrites the full presence of the world; everything is the effect of this one cause”.
    • The Word is compared with God, since the entire world is generated through divine utterance: ‘ and the Word was God ’ (John 1.1).
    • The fact that God ‘speaks’ the word into being has traditionally conferred on speech a privileged status over writing, something Derrida calls phonocentrism , and it is closely associated with logocentrism .
    • Manifesting an intellectual debt to Saussure, Derrida denies the sign’s ability to achieve full presence by arguing that the sign is itself not unitary but split.
    • which lies at the heart of his analytical method and inquiry, and points to the dual way in which language prevents full access to meaning.
    • Différance combines the two French homophones contained in the verb différer , meaning both ‘to differ’ and ‘to defer’ (the pun also works in Spanish: diferir ). D ifférance is pronounced the same as différence , moreover, the ambiguity is silent in speech and visible only in writing.
    • At the same time, the sign also endlessly postpones fully present meaning since meaning is always being deferred from one sign to another.
    • ‘ If you look up a word in a dictionary, all it can give you is another words to explain it; so –in theory, at least- you will then have to look these up, and so on without end’
    • nature/civilization, male/female, good/evil, philosophy/literature, etc.
    • The most scrutinized of these by Derrida is the speech/writing hierarchy, where speech, according to the traditional Western thought, occupies the privileged first place in the binary and where the latter term –writing- is held to be a polluted version or to threaten contamination of the former with its materiality, or simply to be lacking in ‘presence’.
    • proceeds to unsettle this hierarchical arrangement by noting that speech itself shares characteristics with writing.
    • Both are signifying processes that cannot escape the difference/deferral sequence in pursuit of meaning.
    • Since full meaning –full ‘presence’- is unattainable in speech or in writing, it makes no sense to accord a privileged status to either term or, writing is just entitled to occupy the first slot in the hierarchy. In other words, writing precedes speech.
    • Identify a binary or ‘violent hierarchy’, destabilize it, reverse it and, ultimately, resist the temptation to hierarchize the (original) second term.
    • that the either/or paradigm promoted by binary oppositions in reality masks both/and relationships, it upholds the undecidability of the text.
    • A text never achieves closure, remaining instead an open field of possibilities.
    • Deconstruction’s critiques. It has been accused of being wilfully obscure, nihilistic, self-contradictory and, in its attention to formal aspects of language and textuality, apolitical or ahistorical.
    • Nevertheless, in its pursuit of difference rather than identity, deconstruction has proven immensely suggestive and influential with regard to more explicitly engaged readings of texts.
    • father of deconstructionism, a system of analysis which challenges the basis of traditional western thought.
    • The deconstructive approach argues that all writing has multiple layers of meaning which even its author might not understand and which leave it open to an endless process of reinterpretation
    • Derrida was the embodiment of the philosopher-rebel, admired for his explosive critique of the authoritarian values latent in orthodox approaches to literature and philosophy.
    • Using the term "deconstruction", he challenged the notion that language can express ideas without changing them and questioned the "ruling illusion of western metaphysics"
    • his way of reading texts was to highlight blind-spots ( aporias , from the Greek meaning "the impassable" ), equivocations and contradictions within it.
    • Typically, he sought to show how certain elements within the work - often marginal elements like prefaces and footnotes - subverted the conceptual distinctions and hierarchies that its author set out to defend.
    • Derrida's deconstructionism probably exercised its greatest influence upon North American academics, especially literary critics.
    • He once admitted that deconstruction was "a certain experience of the impossible". Deconstruction is related to post-structuralism and postmodernism.
    • deconstruction is an attempt to open a text (literary, philosophical, or otherwise) to a range of meanings and interpretations.
    • Its method is usually to take binary oppositions within a text -rigidly defined pairs of opposites like good/evil or male/female-
    • and show that they are not as clear-cut or as stable as it first seems, that the two opposed concepts are in fact fluid, then to use this newfound ambiguity to show that the text's meaning is similarly fluid.
    • This fluidity stands as a legacy of traditional (that is, Platonist) metaphysics founded on oppositions that seek to establish a stability of meaning through conceptual absolutes where one term, for example 'good', is elevated to a status that designates its opposite, in this case 'evil', to its perversion, lack, or inferior.
    • However, these "violent hierarchies", are eventually silently challenged by the texts themselves, where the meaning of a text depends on this contradiction or antinomy.
    • No 'meaning' is ever stable: rather, the only thing that keeps the sense of unity within a text is what Derrida called the 'metaphysics of presence', where presence was granted the privilege of truth.
    • A “method” of “analysis”
    • An “act” of “reading”
    • A “type” of “critic”
    • A “way” of “writing”
    • What has been seen as revolutionary about his work for both philosophy and literary studies is the particular way he attends to language .
  •