Deconstructive Criticism: An Advanced Introduction

Deconstructive Criticism: An Advanced Introduction

Deconstructive Criticism: An Advanced Introduction

Deconstructive Criticism: An Advanced Introduction


The ideal prelude to the study of deconstructive theory for the as-yet-uninitiated reader. Leitch uses in-depth analyses, surveys of historical background, and helpful overviews to address the questions posed by the major figures -- Saussure, Lacan, Levi-Strauss, Heidegger, Derrida, Barthes Foucault -- then penetrates and displays the subtle intricacies of their answers.


I lean back and begin to write about the book.

I write that I wish to move beyond the book . . .

--Mark Strand, The Story of Our Lives, Selected Poems

This book deals with two perennial questions: what is a text? and what is interpretation? Traditionally, the process of interpretation reconstructs themes from the rich, sometimes cryptic, substance of a text, producing as much sense and meaning as the flow of words and images permits. Interpretation resolves textual difficulties through careful comparison and combination of scattered passages. Yet, however saturated a text is with meaning, its enigmas often endure repression through omission, forgetfulness, and elision. At the end of the interpretive activity, the text is more or less intelligible because all elements appear tied together and unified. As a mode of textual theory and analysis, contemporary deconstruction subverts almost everything in the tradition, putting in question received ideas of the sign and language, the text, the context, the author, the reader, the role of history, the work of interpretation, and the forms of critical writing. in this project a past crumbles and something monstrous emerges: a future.

Deconstructive Criticism: An Advanced Introduction aims to portray deconstruction clearly, concisely, and comprehensively, using a prudent selection of interesting and important source materials. Such selectivity should offend someone. Patterned like a history of ideas, the book approximates a spiral as it regularly returns to significant concepts, texts, and figures. Yet reading it should produce the sense of a straightforward progress, though not a smooth narrative. Each Part follows particular directions of inspiration, tracks clusters of related concerns, and reflects recurring modes of thought and style. Occasionally, the text mimics the production of Penelope's tapestry, weaving a series of passages only to unstitch them later.

Part One focuses on modern theories of language, especially formulations of the sign, as they relate to the activity of textual interpretation. An initial reading of the Iliad briefly previews the . . .

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