Interpretation, Deconstruction, and Ideology: An Introduction to Some Current Issues in Literary Theory

By Christopher Butler | Go to book overview

5.3 Free Play

There are thus two interpretations of interpretation, of structure, of sign, of free play. The one seeks to decipher, dreams of deciphering, a truth or an origin which is free from free play or the order of the sign, and lives like an exile the necessity of interpretation. The other which is no longer turned towards the origin, affirms free play and tries to pass beyond man and humanism, the name of man being the name of that being who, throughout the history of metaphysics or ontotheology--in other words, throughout the history of all his history--has dreamed of full presence, the reassuring foundation, the origin and end of the game.1

Derrida's prescription here goes beyond those epistemologically attacking interpretations of the text which we have just looked at, where the search for self-contradiction seems to be performed in the light of a superior epistemological awareness--the insight of the interpreter revealing the blindness of the author, or the relativity or self-reference or self-contradiction of the frameworks he uses.

The release of the text into free play is different from this, but the basic assumptions of the interpretative method are the same. For once the text has been allowed a freedom from mimetic or situational commitment, then a Saussurean view of language allows us, using the text as a starting-point, to exercise considerable ingenuity in following its pathways.

Derrida's work in this field parallels that of Barthes, who emphasizes the value of this kind of critical activity or 'work': 'l'ennjeu du travail littéraire, c'est de faire du lecteur, non plus un consommateur, mais un producteur du texte.'2 We must give up our former certainties about meaning and the thematics of the text which made our attitude that of the consumer who, in accepting art as a mirror of reality, asks for more of what he knows or finds to his taste, and subjects it (or thematizes it) according to his own preferred 'transcendental signifieds'. We must engage in something more rigorous, not submitting ourselves to the text in declaring its conventional meaning, but in realizing its exploratory possibilities, which are potentially endless: 'interpréter un texte, ce n'est pas lui donner un sens (plus on moins fondé, plus ou moins libre) c'est au contraire apprécier de quel pluriel il est fait... dans le texte idéal, les réseaux sont multiples et jouent entre eux... une galaxie de signifiants'.3

These systems interact in language 'comme un jeu' and the

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Interpretation, Deconstruction, and Ideology: An Introduction to Some Current Issues in Literary Theory
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction ix
  • 1 - Implication 1
  • 2.1 - Metaphor in the Text 8
  • 2.2 - Metaphor in the Language 19
  • 3.1 - Linguistics and Interpretation 26
  • 3.2 'Leda and the Swan'; Three Approaches 36
  • 4 - The Text and the External World 46
  • 5.1 - Deconstruction and Scepticism 60
  • 5.2 - Ambiguity and Self-Contradiction 66
  • 5.3 - Free Play 77
  • 5.4 - Norms for Interpretation 83
  • 6.1 - Ideology and Opposition 94
  • 6.2 - Hidden Ideology 103
  • 6.3 - Marxism and the Dominant Ideology 110
  • 6.4 - The Moral and the Political 121
  • Notes 137
  • Bibliography 154
  • Index 157
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