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Derridian Deconstruction

Questions and Examples: 

  1. Do you agree that language is unstable?  How can a sign be both absent and present?  

  2. Do you agree with Derridian usages of etymology?  Julian Wolfrey's ways of approaching "Snowed Up"?  

  3. What does yellow ribbon mean?  And purple ribbon?   How can 911 terrorism be seen as an act of the Sublime?  

  4. How does Barthes define text (as opposed to work)?  What issues are engaged in Derridian differance?  

  5. example 1 -- the ending of Housekeeping; other examples  ppt.file

"Or imagine Lucille in Boston, at a table in a restaurant, waiting for a friend. . . Her water glass has left two-thirds of a ring on the table, and she works at completing the circle with her thumbnail. Sylvie and I do not flounce in through the door¡K We do not sit down at the table next to hers and empty our pockets in a small damp heap in the middle of the table, and sort out the gum wrappers and ticket stubs, and add up the coins and dollar bills, and laugh and add them up again. My mother, likewise, is not there, and my grandmother in her house slippers with her pigtail wagging, and my grandfather, with his hair combed flat against his brow, does not examine the menu with studious interest. We are nowhere in Boston. However Lucille may look, she will never find us there, or any trace or sign . . . No one watching this woman smear her initials in the steam on her water glass with her first finger, or slip cellophane packets of oyster crackers into her handbag for the sea gulls, could know how her thoughts are thronged by our absence, or know how she does not watch, does not listen, does not wait, does not hope, and always for me and Sylvie."

"Reading Robinson¡¦s closing, one cannot imagine a better example of a narrative achieving a sense of completion, of the circle of story coming closed."  (source)   --> Do you agree?

  • A. How does deconstruction reject structuralism? 

  • Major Concepts & Terms of Derridian Deconstruction:  ppt.file
    -- language as a system of differance; 1. To defer, 2. To differ 
    --> binary opposition and supplement, spacing, temporizing and temporalizing, traces and excess of meanings
    --  against presence or the transcendental signified; against logocentrism, phonocentrism, phalogocentrism



I. a letter--an example of Derrida's play on the polysemy of words.

a:  Its "graphic difference" is only graphic, for that the "a"  replacing the "e" can be written or read but never can be heard. (p. 109)  "the pyramidal silence" of the graphic difference.  

--In and through this "tomb-like" single character, tyrant is buried. p. 110

II. Definition of Differance

  1. what it is not: 

    • not a concept, not a word (108); not a presence (110); beyond philosophical-empirical opposition;  no superessentiality.(111).

    • the false questions about "what differ, who differ and what differance is."  p. 118

  2. definition 112- 

    1. to differ and defer; temporalize and temporize; 112

    2. explanation of temporization and spacing

      1. The sign  p. 113 

      2. Using de Saussure and differ from him; from system to play.    pp. 114  

    3. as the movement of signification: "the movement according to which language . .  . is constituted historically" p. 115-16

    4. the speaking subject--inscribed in language 118

    5. the enigma of differance  pp.121 

    6. Trace: Trace is the "self-effacing" of meaning in any spoken or written utterance. The play of trace has neither meaning nor depth.It points to nothing, belonging to no place.Trace could be the simulacrum of a presence and refers beyond itself; "in presenting itself it becomes effaced" pp. 125 -  

Another outline by Kevin Chen
General Intro. outline by Lily Huang


¡@Critical and cultural theory reader.  Buckingham : Open University Press , c1992.