Constructive Postmodernism: Toward Renewal in Cultural and Literary Studies

Constructive Postmodernism: Toward Renewal in Cultural and Literary Studies

Constructive Postmodernism: Toward Renewal in Cultural and Literary Studies

Constructive Postmodernism: Toward Renewal in Cultural and Literary Studies

Synopsis

Are indeterminancy and relativism the only possible consequences of embracing the uncertainties of the postmodern era? Are other less deconstructive options to be found emmbedded in postmodernism's many ambiguities? In arguing affirmatively to both questions, this study points--in a constructively postmodern way--toward renewal in literary and cultural theory.

Excerpt

To represent is to select, to select is to omit, to omit is to misrepresent.

A book could readily be written to show how the deconstructions of Jacques Derrida have energetically mined this conundrum 1 with notable success. The systematic representations of Rousseau, Saussure, Husserl, Lévi-Strauss, and many others whom Derrida has studied so intimately each selects certain ideas as its basic explanatory material. These grounding principles, functioning within each system as the source of what Derrida has called "presence" or "logos," are then theoretically driven to subdue or explain everything the selected ideas omit. One crucial thing they omit but which always resists subordination is the richly complex and often inexplicable play of meaning-in-writing itself. Though absent from explicit consideration within each system, this conceptual reality nevertheless wreaks silent havoc at its most important explanatory junctures. A deconstruction points to these stresses and inconsistencies within the language of the system itself and shows how these representational systems must effectively and invariably misrepresent that which they have sought to explain.

Well before the era of deconstruction, however, philosophers like Dewey and Wittgenstein approached their own versions of this conundrum in distinctive and productive ways. For Dewey, although no representation would ever, or could ever, be articulated in com-

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