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  1. Poststructuralism 2: Derrida’s Revenge or, “why don’t I understand deconstruction?”

  2. Poststructuralism II: Derrida’s Revenge • De(con)structive Critics: Responses to Deconstruction • Common Misconceptions of Deconstruction • “Truths” about Deconstruction • Architecture & Literary Theory • “Supplements” • Reading: “I will put Chaos into fourteen lines” • Deconstructive Conclusions • A (Supplemental) Bibliography

  3. De(con)structive Critics:Responses to Deconstruction (1) • No self, no author, no coherent work, no relation to reality, no correct interpretation, no distinction between art and nonart, fictional and expository writing, no value judgment, and finally no truth, but only nothingness—these are negations that destroy literary studies. (René Wellek, “New Nihilism in Literary Studies” 80). • A vertical and lateral reverberation from sign to sign of ghostly nonpresence emanating from no voice, intended by no one, referring to nothing, bombinating in a void (Meyer Abrams, “Deconstructive Angel,” 431). • “Translation”: • By looking at the gaps of a text [its “aporiae”],deconstruction destroys everything unique about a piece of art, reducing it to nothingness.

  4. De(con)structive Critics:Responses to Deconstruction (2) • a chromatic plenitude, a playing of all possible notes in all possible registers, a saturation of space (Jonathan Culler, “Prolegomena to a Theory of Reading,” 47) • “Translation”: • Contrary to what those critics opposed to deconstruction say, deconstruction shows how “full of possibility” a text is – it is so full, in fact, that we cannot say anything about it.

  5. De(con)structive Critics:Why They Say What They Say Paradigmatic (“Difference”) The armadillo ate the ants. The dog slept in the basket. The jaguar laid on the branch. The cat sat on the mat. The tiger rested behind the tree. The hippopotamus lounged in the pool. The space station orbited the earth. Syntagmatic (“Deferral”)

  6. Common Misconceptions of Deconstruction • Deconstruction is a method of reading a literary text • Deconstruction makes all texts the same • Deconstruction is “understandable” • What deconstruction is not? Everything of course! • What is deconstruction? Nothing of course! • – Derrida, “Letter to a Japanese Friend”

  7. “Truths” about Deconstruction • Deconstruction argues that there is no such thing as essence, or what we might call “embodied meaning.” • Deconstruction argues that there is no such thing as “absolute truth” – there is only the “play of the signifier,” the “slippage of language.” • Deconstruction is a “thing” (or a “no-thing”). • What deconstruction is not? Everything of course! • What is deconstruction? Nothing of course! • – Derrida, “Letter to a Japanese Friend”

  8. Architecture & Literary Theory • Deconstruction is [ . . . ] understood as an affirmative appropriation of structures that identifies structural flaws, cracks in the construction that have been systematically disguised, not in order to collapse those structures but, on the contrary, to demonstrate the extent to which the structures depend on both these flaws and the way in which they are disguised. (Mark Wigley, “Domestication of the House,” 207) • Deconstruction is not a dismantling of the structure of the text, but a demonstration that it has already dismantled itself. Its apparently solid ground is not rock but thin air. (Linda H. Peterson)

  9. Architecture & Literary Theory:“Text-as-House” Taken from http://www.architecturaldesigns.com/victorian-house-plan-6522rf.asp#f1

  10. Architecture & Literary Theory:Theoretical “Positions” • Structuralism: What rules/structures did the architect utilise to build the house? How comparable is it to other houses? Why are the rooms where they are? • Marxism: Why on two levels? Who has the “master bedroom”? • Psychoanalysis: Why did the architect design it this way? What does it tell us about him/her? • Feminism: What is the “woman’s place” in in the house? Which rooms do they use? • Postcolonialism: Are non-white, non-Westerners allowed in the house? Which rooms do they use? • Ecocriticism: What piece of land was the house built on? What environments/ecosystems did it harm?

  11. Architecture & Literary Theory:Deconstructive “Positions” Taken from http://www.architecturaldesigns.com/victorian-house-plan-6522rf.asp#f1

  12. “Supplements”:Translation • Supplement (n.): (1) A part added to complete a literary work or any written account or document. (2) The action of supplying what is wanting; the making good of a deficiency or shortcoming. (OED) • Footnotes, “glosses,” but also critical explanations, summaries, and translations. • The question of deconstruction is also through and through the question of translation. (Derrida, “Letter to a Japanese Friend”) • Problems with “supplements”: they do not “explain” the text, but move us away from it.

  13. “Supplements”:Iterability A = A • Iterability – the capability for or act of repetition • A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose. • – Gertrude Stein, “Sacred Emily”) • A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose. • A rose is a “rose” is a “rose” is a “rose.”

  14. Reading:“I will put Chaos into fourteen lines” • [I will put Chaos into fourteen lines] • Edna St. Vincent Millay, from Mine the Harvest (1954) • I will put Chaos into fourteen lines • And keep him there; and let him thence escape • If he be lucky; let him twist and ape • Flood, fire, and demon—his adroit designs • Will strain to nothing in the strict confines • Of this sweet Order, where, in pious rape, • I hold his essence and amorphous shape, • Till he with Order mingles and combines. • Past are the hours, the years, of our duress, • His arrogance, our awful servitude: • I have him. He is nothing more nor less • Than something simple not yet understood; • I shall not even force him to confess; • Or answer. I will only make him good. Leads towards “nothing” (which we cannot understand)

  15. Reading:“I will put Chaos into fourteen lines” • [I will put Chaos into fourteen lines] • Edna St. Vincent Millay, from Mine the Harvest (1954) • I will put Chaos into fourteen lines • And keep him there; and let him thence escape • If he be lucky; let him twist and ape • Flood, fire, and demon—his adroit designs • Will strain to nothing in the strict confines • Of this sweet Order, where, in pious rape, • I hold his essence and amorphous shape, • Till he with Order mingles and combines. • Past are the hours, the years, of our duress, • His arrogance, our awful servitude: • I have him. He is nothing more nor less • Than something simple not yet understood; • I shall not even force him to confess; • Or answer. I will only make him good. Slant rhyme destabilises poem

  16. Reading:“I will put Chaos into fourteen lines” • [I will put Chaos into fourteen lines] • Edna St. Vincent Millay, from Mine the Harvest (1954) • I will put Chaos into fourteen lines • And keep him there; and let him thence escape • If he be lucky; let him twist and ape • Flood, fire, and demon—his adroit designs • Will strain to nothing in the strict confines • Of this sweet Order, where, in pious rape, • I hold his essence and amorphous shape, • Till he with Order mingles and combines. • Past are the hours, the years, of our duress, • His arrogance, our awful servitude: • I have him. He is nothing more nor less • Than something simple not yet understood; • I shall not even force him to confess; • Or answer. I will only make him good. “Shape-less shape”

  17. Reading:“I will put Chaos into fourteen lines” • [I will put Chaos into fourteen lines] • Edna St. Vincent Millay, from Mine the Harvest (1954) • I will put Chaos into fourteen lines • And keep him there; and let him thence escape • If he be lucky; let him twist and ape • Flood, fire, and demon—his adroit designs • Will strain to nothing in the strict confines • Of this sweet Order, where, in pious rape, • I hold his essence and amorphous shape, • Till he with Order mingles and combines. • Past are the hours, the years, of our duress, • His arrogance, our awful servitude: • I have him. He is nothing more nor less • Than something simple not yet understood; • I shall not even force him to confess; • Or answer. I will only make him good. Chaos cannot have “designs” or an “essence”

  18. Reading:“I will put Chaos into fourteen lines” • [I will put Chaos into fourteen lines] • Edna St. Vincent Millay, from Mine the Harvest (1954) • I will put Chaos into fourteen lines • And keep him there; and let him thence escape • If he be lucky; let him twist and ape • Flood, fire, and demon—his adroit designs • Will strain to nothing in the strict confines • Of this sweet Order, where, in pious rape, • I hold his essence and amorphous shape, • Till he with Order mingles and combines. • Past are the hours, the years, of our duress, • His arrogance, our awful servitude: • I have him. He is nothing more nor less • Than something simple not yet understood; • I shall not even force him to confess; • Or answer. I will only make him good. Chaos mingled with Order is “chaotic”

  19. Reading:“I will put Chaos into fourteen lines” Order (Rationality) / Chaos (Irrationality) 0 Order (Rationality) Chaos (Irrationality) Chaos (Irrationality) Order (Rationality) = + Order (Rationality) Chaos (Irrationality) “Chaotic” poem = + What does the poem tell us about the assumptions of reason and order (logocentricism) so prevalent in Western society and philosophy?

  20. Deconstructive Conclusions (1) • Deconstruction is… • A haunting of a “structure” • A “translation” • A “supplement” • Deconstruction • Deconstruction is “Deconstruction” • Deconstruction is… • Deconstruction

  21. Deconstructive Conclusions (2) • Deconstruction is… • A in the structure of literature

  22. Deconstructive Conclusions (3):“why don’t I understand deconstruction?” • Demonstrates a logocentric assumption that there is something to “understand” about deconstruction. • This question also leads to further questions: • “How don’t I understand deconstruction?” • “What about deconstruction do I not understand?” • Who is the “I” here? The lecturer (me) or the student (you)? Does it change how we interpret the question? • What does it mean, to “understand” deconstruction? If anyone says that they “understand” deconstruction and can tell you what it “is”, they are probably lying…

  23. Deconstructive Conclusions (4): A “Supplement” • Ask the person sat next to you a question about something from the lecture. If they can’t answer it, write it down on a piece of paper and hand it in to me – I will answer the question on the Blackboard presentation slides.

  24. Select (Supplemental) Bibliography Bloom, Harold, et al. Deconstruction and Criticism. Continuum, 2004. Belsey, Catherine. Poststructuralism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2002. Brannigan, John, Ruth Robbins, and Julian Wolfreys, eds. Applying: To Derrida. Macmillan, 1996. Norris, Christopher. Deconstruction: Theory and Practice. Routledge, 2002. Williams, James. Understanding Poststructuralism. Acumen, 2005. Wolfreys, Julian, ed. Deconstruction●Derrida. Macmillan, 1998.