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Presentation on theme: "University of Alberta."— Presentation transcript:

1 University of Alberta

2 Meaning “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be Master—that’s all.” Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

3 The Sign Λ λ όγος Logocentrism

4 Signifiers Words Traffic lights Handshakes Yawns Gestures Paintings
René Magritte

5 An incident from All in the Family
Paul de Man ( ) An incident from All in the Family

6 “'What’s the difference
“'What’s the difference?’ did not ask for difference but meant instead ‘I don’t give damn what the difference is.’ The same grammatical pattern engenders two different meanings that are mutually exclusive: the literal meaning asks for the concept difference whose existence is denied by the figurative meaning [G]rammar allows us to ask the question, but the sentence by means of which we ask it may deny the very possibility of asking. For what is the use of asking, I ask, when we cannot even authoritatively decide whether a question asks or doesn’t ask? The point is as follows. A perfectly clear syntactical paradigm (the question) engenders a sentence that has at least two meanings, one which asserts and the other which denies its own illocutionary mode. It is not so that there are simply two meanings, one literal and the other figural, and that we have to decide which one of these meanings is the right one in this particular situation. The confusion can only be cleared up by the intervention of an extra-textual intervention, such as Archie Bunker putting his wife straight; but the very anger he displays is indicative of more than impatience; it reveals his despair when confronted with a structure of linguistic meaning that he cannot control and that holds the discouraging prospect of an infinity of similar future confusions.” Paul de Man “Semiology and Rhetoric” (1973)

7 ‘The Death of the Author’
Roland Barthes ( )

8 Why the Author Cannot Explain a Work
Questions about who actually wrote a work: Shakespeare’s plays, for example Intentions: Did an author want to make a point or merely sell a text? Does the author lie? Has the author gone insane? Has the author changed his or her mind?

9 Derridean Hierarchies
parole / écriture intérieur / extérieur nature / culture

10 Jacques Derrida ( )

11 “il n’y a pas de hors-texte”
De la Grammatologie (1967) hors-texte: outside of the text hors-texte: Ur text, an original version to which all successive versions refer

12 “I think, therefore I am.”
René Descartes ( ) “I think, therefore I am.”

13 Subject & Object In the Cartesian statement, the subject—I—declares itself in existence on the basis of its own thinking. As an antithesis of the subject, the object is seen and evaluated by the thinking subject.

14 A Deconstructive Position
The subject originates nothing, not even itself. Although one can bring together separate views to create a new view, the subject learns its views from someone or something else. Since knowledge belongs to the subject, it cannot be objective.

15 Deconstruction is Not a Critique
Typically a critique finds the weakness in an opponent’s argument, and then seeks to replace the opposing views with new views. Deconstruction points out the places where discourse, such as a speech or a text, fails to sustain a point it has taken for granted.

16 Aporia Rather than tear down prevailing views in order to replace them with new and improved versions, deconstruction expands observation into interstitial places. These methods replace simple binary oppositions with complex discussion of issues. For example, people can consider problems of a capitalist economy without having to decide that communism must be better. Obviously, the reverse holds true, as well.

17 Connection to Other Theories all of which in themselves mix theories
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, translator of Derrida’s Of Grammatology and practically a school of criticism all by herself Hélène Cixous, Feminism Julia Kristeva, Psychoanalytic Michel Foucault, Queer Theory Edward Said, Post-Colonial Homi Bhabha, Cultural Studies Stephen Greenblatt, New Historicism

18 An Example in New Historicism
“In addition to breaking down barriers that separate literature and history, history and the social sciences, new historians have reminded us that it is treacherously difficult to reconstruct the past as it really was, rather than as we have been conditioned by our own place and time to believe that it was. And they know the job is utterly impossible for those who are unaware of that difficulty and insensitive to the bent or bias of their own historical vantage point.” Ross C. Murfin, “The New Historicism” (224)


20 Time for your deconstruction.

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