Post-Structuralism: Deconstruction. Theory and Practice. Outline . -- Q & A -- Jacque Derrida: 1. Prologue: Instability of Meaning 2. Writing as Différance 3. Transcendental Signified and Binarism 4. Deconstruction: Literary Practice
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Theory and Practice
-- Q & A
-- Jacque Derrida:
1. Prologue: Instability of Meaning
2. Writing as Différance
3. Transcendental Signified and Binarism
4. Deconstruction: Literary Practice
5. Derrida in Context: structuralism, Foucault, etc.
Is deconstruction similar to destruction?
--show the hidden gaps in a text’s meaning. Textual unity
-- Reverse the “hierarchical” binaries, and allow the latter to supplement the formers.
-- de-stabilize, de-center, but not destroy.
Thematic structure: Motifs, mythemes, metaphors, etc.
+ more stereotypical descriptions, or a father’s advice to his son, etc.
1. Polysemy:Traces of other signs, other meanings. (e.g. national “birthday”; 干卿底事; 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. 十八層公寓)
4. (intention and the unconscious)
Male poet and
Traces of other usages
十八層公寓— by 相聲瓦社
-- polysemy: cultural connotations of 十八層地獄, 很持久﹐etc.
-- spacing: Meaning changed when the context is further revealed.
Language a system of difference of Différance.
* 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 signified’s also in a relation of difference, and they are turned into signifiers floating signifiers.
(Textbook: p. 123; 28)
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.
The chain of signification:
(1) symbolization or mythologizing
White Man’s Burden
GodWriting and Différance: chain of signification (1)
Exotic (Evil or Weak)
Other Racial Features
What they did
Other Skin colors
The other Americans
Re-contextualization; traces kept. e.g.
1. Pharmakon: 1). poison, 2). Pharmacy
3. Creole; “Madame Butterfly” in M. Butterfly and in the characters of Song first and then Gallimard; the other parodies.
夏宇︰象 – signs; both present and absent, empty and variously defined.
God (transcendental signified)
The Bible (transcendental signifier)
They are the upper terms in hierarchical binaries: e.g.
2. The weak term is not really weak.
3. Mutually implicated: One term implies its opposite term. examples
(textbook p. 131)
1. Open texts A text that deconstructs its own unity or “author.” (examples; also M. Butterfly, its ending)
2. Reverse the text’s binaries or expose its undecidability or multiple meanings (example M. Butterfly Madame Butterfly; 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)
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;
-- “Nobody’s fault.”
-- “是童年/把我記錯”-- Why?
The original hierarchy subverted by the last line
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Society vs. Nature, with Huck in between
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 )
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, polysemy and fluidity.
4. Other usages of “différance”: desired object in unattainable, constantly deferred and replaced; colonial mimicry disseminate/de-center colonial authority.
5. “différance” and temporary closure.
2. Review “The Purloined Letter”
3. Review the whole unit and bring with you at least one question.