Modern vs. Postmodern
· Enlightenment/Age of Reason
- Texts/Objects have objective reality
- Term coined in 1930s
- Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) – Thus Spake Zarathustra (1891) proclaims death of God
- Undermines the concept of objective reality and of metaphysics
- Map à Collage
- Lone scholar à tolerance, understanding, and collaboration
- Acceptance of emotion, differing (infinite number of) perspectives
- Individual, not meta
- Critic/Artist not necessarily separate roles
- 1966 reads “Structure, Sign and Play” at Johns Hopkins University
Jacques Derrida (1930 – 2005)
- General Concept: language is a fluid, ambiguous domain of complex experience in which ideologies program us without our being aware of them.
- Sign = Signifier + Signified . . . + Signified ad infinitum
- Chain of Signifiers
- Language is non-referential
- Meaning is produced by a never-ending deferral – play of signifiers.
- Play of signifiers leaves trace of all possible meanings and all possible opposites or differences.
- Différance (“to defer,” “to differ”)
- The play of signifiers continually defers/postpones meaning
- The meaning language seems to have is the result of the differences by which we distinguish one signifier from another.
- Despite this undecidability, we use language as our tool of meaning because it is all we have.
- But we can be aware of the pliability of language and stretch it to fit new modes of thinking – bricolage
REMEMBER – Undecidability ≠ not choosing
- Language is always already ideological– it forms our systems of beliefs and values.
- Language mediates our experience of ourselves and the world.
- We cannot escape the ideological nature of language and how it forms us.
- Binary Oppositions
- Are always hierarchies
- One term is always privileged
- We must focus on the way that oppositions are not opposites – they always overlap.
- The idea that there is a central concept (logos) that organizes and explains the world for us.
- Structuralism is the search for this underlying structure
- Dissemination – the dynamic instability of language scatters an infinite number of possible meanings for each utterance (written or spoken).
- Discourse – a certain vantage point from which one can view the world. These are multiple.
- Decenter – to realize that there are various discourses which disseminate meaning and are always in play.
- Traditionally identity consists of one single self
- Deconstruction argues that humans are constructed by language
- We, too, are texts – fragmented, in play.
Overview of Deconstruction:
- Language is dynamic, ambiguous, and unstable, continually disseminating meaning.
- Existence has no center, no stable meaning, no fixed ground.
- Human beings are fields of play for competing ideologies whose only “identity” is the one we choose to believe.
- To reveal text’s undecidability
- The meaning of the text is plural, indefinite, conflicting
- There is no “meaning” of text in traditional sense
- “How to”
- Note all the various interpretations the text seems to offer
- Show the ways in which these interpretations conflict with one another
- Show how these conflicts lead to more interpretations, which lead to more conflicts
- Repeat steps 1, 2 and 3
- To reveal the complex operations of the ideologies of which the text is constructed
- Examine the ideological assumptions of the text
- Examine our own ideological assumptions
- Explore how the text undermines its own ideological convictions (deconstructs itself)
- Explore how we, and our reading, undermine our own ideological convictions (why do we care?)