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Deconstruction

"Deconstruction" is the name given to a radical and wideranging development in the human sciences, especially philosophy and literary criticism, initiated by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida in a series of highly influential books published in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including (in translation): Of Grammatology, Writing and Difference, Speech and Phenomena, Margins of Philosophy, and Dissemination. "Deconstruction," Derrida's coinage, has subsequently become synonymous with a particular method of textual analysis and philosophical argument involving the close reading of works of literature, philosophy, psychoanalysis, linguistics, and anthropology to reveal logical or rhetorical incompatibilities between the explicit and implicit planes of discourse in a text and to demonstrate by means of a range of critical techniques how these incompatibilities are disguised and assimilated by the text. In one of its typical analytical procedures, a deconstructive reading focuses on binary oppositions within a text, first, to show how those oppositions are structured hierarchically; second, to overturn that hierarchy temporarily, as if to make the text say the opposite of what it appeared to say initially; and third, to displace and reassert both terms of the opposition within a nonhierarchical relationship of "difference." Both historically and methodologically, deconstruction as a form of critical reading is related to the advent of poststructuralism. In addition to influences from Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger, several of its key concepts are derived from the structural linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure's Course in General Linguistics (1916), which inaugurated Structuralism by postulating such ideas about language as the arbitrary nature of the linguistic sign; the division of the sign into signifier (the spoken or written word) and signified (the mental concept); the notion of linguistic value as a function of "difference" or noncoincidence rather than of correspondence or nomenclature; and the adumbration of Semiotics or semiology (see Charles Sanders Peirce), the study of signs and their mechanisms of signification. By grounding his theory in the arbitrary nature of the sign, Saussure affirmed that there is no intrinsic, organic, or "motivated" reason for signifying a particular concept by means of a particular word; the meaning of a word is arbitrary but agreed upon by social convention. Hence words acquire value or identity not through any natural correspondence between signifier and signified but through each word's opposition to every other word within a system of interdependence in which both signifiers and signifieds are defined in terms of what they are not, that is, in terms of a simultaneous

linguistic presence and absence, or what Saussure calls "difference" (Course in General Linguistics, trans. Wade Baskin, 1959, 111-22). The concept of difference is crucial to Derrida, who uses it to "deconstruct" Western philosophy, which he argues is founded on a theory of "presence," in which metaphysical notions such as truth, being, and reality are determined in their relation to an ontological center, essence, origin (arch), or end (telos) that represses absence and difference for the sake of metaphysical stability. The best-kept secret of Western metaphysics is thus the historical repression of difference through a philosophical vocabulary that favors presence in the form of voice, consciousness, and subjectivity. Derrida calls this philosophy "logocentrism" or "phonocentrism" in that it is based on a belief in a logos or phon, a self-present word constituted not by difference but by presence (Writing and Difference 278-82). Logocentrism, for Derrida, represents Western culture's sentimental desire for a natural or Adamic language whose authority is guaranteed by a divine, transcendental signified. On the surface, language seems unwilling to face up to its human arbitrariness, yet on closer inspection it also appears to call attention to its differential structure: language at once posits and retracts its own desire for presence. Derrida's deconstructive method proceeds by means of slow and ingeniously detailed close readings of texts, focusing on those points where a binary opposition (e.g., signifier/signified, presence/absence, nature/culture, literal/figural, outside/inside), a line of argument, or even a single word breaks down to reveal radical incongruities in the logic or rhetoric. Unlike ambiguity, irony, or paradox, these incompatibilities cannot be harmonized in the service of textual "unity" or "integrity," terms that for Derrida would be synonymous with "self-presence." Instead, the contradictions expose the text to the force of its own difference, its displacement from a univocal center of meaning. They show that what a text says and how it says it do not converge but simultaneously strive toward and defer convergence. Deconstruction always reveals difference within unity. One of Derrida's clearest examples of a deconstructive reading concerns the relation between speech and writing in Saussure's Course (Of Grammatology 27-73). Whereas Saussure, as "phonocentric" linguist, favors speech as the proper object of linguistic investigation, rather than writing as a secondary representation or even disguise of speech, he is forced to acknowledge the dangerous, usurping power of writing over speech (Course 24-31). Derrida approaches this problem, first, by confirming historically the priority of voice over the letter: speech is immediate, self-present, and authentic in that it is uttered by a speaker who hears and understands himself or herself in the moment of speaking; by contrast, writing is the copy of speech and is therefore derivative, marginal, and delayed. But having outlined a speech/writing hierarchy in this way, Derrida shows how

Saussure's text inverts the hierarchy, giving priority to writing over speech. The inversion of the hierarchy constitutes one-half of a deconstruction; Derrida completes the procedure by showing how in Saussure's own terms both speech and writing are subsumed into a larger linguistic field in which all language, spoken and written, is constituted by difference rather than hierarchy. Thus those inferior, secondary qualities attributed to writing (temporal delay, spatial distance from a speaker) are seen to inhabit speech itself; difference has been there, too, all along. The privileging of speech and the repression of writing represent for Derrida a fundamental aspect of the logocentric history of Western culture. In order to deconstruct this hierarchical tradition of presence, Derrida elaborates Saussure's notion of linguistic difference to create what he calls diffrance, spelled with an a (Speech and Phenomena 129-60). (In French there is no phonetic difference between diffrence and diffrance; the difference, seen and not heard, thus reveals in writing something speech does not have.) Diffrance retains its Saussurean structuralist connotation of noncoincidence--as well as its meanings of deferring in time / differing in space--but Derrida expands the concept to include the whole field of signs. This field he names criture, or "writing," not in the literal sense of graphic script but in the figural sense of writing as any system inhabited by differance. The study of writing, which he calls "grammatology," is the science of differance itself, involving the analysis of the play of terms within a closed semiotic system in which each term acquires value only through its opposition to the other terms. "Play," another name for differance, is Derrida's word for the interpenetration of terms--that is, how each sign simultaneously confers and derives meaning with respect to other signs, so that any given sign is tacitly implied in another as a "trace" or an effect of linguistic interdependence (Speech and Phenomena 154-58; Writing and Difference 292). The concept of a linguistic system--for example, a text-structured by difference raises questions concerning referentiality, meaning, and representation in language. Instead of resting assured in the ability of the sign to embody meaning, or to refer simply and directly to an object existing in the outside world, a deconstructive interpreter such as Derrida affirms that there is nothing "outside" the text and that meaning and reference must be constituted from within the system as functions of difference (Of Grammatology 158). Referentiality is not denied so much as it is problematized: if signs acquire linguistic value only insofar as they are opposed to and differentiated from other signs, then a word's "reference" must necessarily take into account its own difference. Thus what a word is "about" is partly itself, in its very "aboutness." This idea is analogous to the phenomenological concept of "intentionality" or directedness, by which one means that consciousness is always consciousness "of"

something present to but different from consciousness itself. Deconstruction turns reference into self-reference, avoiding the misunderstanding that meaning is created by directedness from words to things rather than from words to words in an "intertextual" play or semiosis. Linguistic representation, in this view, becomes less a mimesis of the world than a self-representation in which rhetorical operations at once repress and foreground themselves, creating an illusion of referentiality that veils an abyss of words. Critics of deconstruction have tended to address two polarized issues. The first issue, in a sense superficial, is Derrida's prose style, a challenging, allusive, witty, even literary style--it has been compared to the style of James Joyce, and Derrida himself has written on Joyce--that some readers feel is "mere wordplay," ingenious in its puns and other tropes but also obfuscating and resistant to comprehension. Derrida's prose may dazzle, critics say, but it does not enlighten, preferring instead to indulge in jargon, rhetorical games, and overly subtle metaphysical conceits. Against such a criticism it is possible to argue that Derrida's style, difficulties of English translation notwithstanding, is a deliberate and strategic expression of his theory: there is nothing "mere" or trivial about wordplay; on the contrary, "play" is what constitutes words themselves, what gives them linguistic value in their very difference. While such a counterargument is unlikely to convince some critics, or to succeed in justifying a genuinely demanding style, it is nevertheless an argument implicit in Derrida's own work. The second issue is much deeper than surface style. If language, metaphysics, and consciousness really are structured by difference, then there can be no solid foundation, no fixed point of reference, no authority or certainty, either ontological or interpretive. Everything can be "put in question," that is, viewed as arbitrary, freefloating elements in a closed system of "writing," with the result that previously settled assumptions of stability and coherence, both in words and in things, become radically shaken, even, as a number of critics have claimed, to the point of nihilism. Again, it is possible to counter this charge, as some of Derrida's followers have done, by showing that deconstruction seeks not to destroy meaning but to expose the production of meaning as an arbitrary effect of writing. The exposure of this arbitrariness is most apparent at those points where a text's explicit statement is incompatible with its implicit principles of logic or rhetoric. These two main criticisms, when viewed together, form a paradoxical hierarchy of surface and depth that can itself be deconstructed. According to normal logic, it is puzzling that something as superficial as mere wordplay could strike so deeply to the root of Western metaphysics. But according to the logic of paradox, or to use a trope appropriated by deconstructive terminology, the "aporia," the

hierarchical opposition of surface and depth, in which depth is valorized over surface, the ground over the figure, seems to be inverted and then deconstructed in such a way that surface interpenetrates ground, thus constituting a relationship of difference rather than of discrete self-presence. Superficiality appears to inhabit the very depths of language. Despite these and other resistances to deconstruction, Derrida's impact on critical thought, as evidenced in the pages of scholarly journals and books, has been significant and extensive. As part of a general poststructuralist tendency to move language to the forefront of discussion--that is, to rethink both word and world from the point of view of textuality--deconstruction has had a vital influence in multidisciplinary studies involving feminism, theology, psychoanalysis, Marxism, anthropology, and linguistics. As a method of literary criticism, however, deconstruction first became identified largely with the work of certain critics at Yale University--Geoffrey H. Hartman, J. Hillis Miller, and Paul de Man--though these critics have responded to Derrida in markedly different ways. Hartman's engagement with deconstruction can be seen most obviously in terms of style, though Hartman would quickly remind readers that the question of style is also the question of method. In its own method, Hartman's style operates largely on the level of the signifier in a punning, associative manner that incorporates both learned allusion and verbal clich, always calling attention to questions of language and forcing the reader to recognize that texts are also intertexts. In this way Hartman attempts to reclaim for interpretation a sense of literary history--classical, Romantic, and modern. In the preface to Deconstruction and Criticism, Hartman describes himself as barely a deconstructor (ix), but his recent work on William Wordsworth, for example, is thoroughly informed by poststructuralist ideas about the priority of the signifier over the signified, the textualization of consciousness, and the rhetoric of form. Yet the question of style always seems uppermost in Hartman's mind, whether in discussions of Derrida, Wordsworth, or Shakespeare. In his most theoretical moments Hartman remains text-oriented, committed to explicating but moreover to interrogating the text, as well as critical commentary on it. To some extent this orientation accounts both for the appearance that he is not a systematic deconstructor and for his longstanding interest in the practice of interpretation--including his recent involvement with Midrashic commentary--as a legitimate and independent, though not autotelic, form of writing. Interpretation, for Hartman, must always be a reflective act, a "consciousness of self" (Wordsworth's Poetry 17) raised to critical pitch in order to question and to problematize this turning of the mind upon itself. The interpreter must be located in time and history and culture, but never entirely outside language. As an answer to the art of literature,

Hartman's continuing effort is to develop for criticism a responsible style. J. Hillis Miller enters deconstruction through language itself, the "groundless ground" of words that offers an illusion of presence and reference only for them to be swallowed up in an abyss of difference. Miller repeatedly uses the concept of an abyss structure, or mise en abyme, to suggest the possibility of infinite play in language, the endless substitution of one sign for another (Deconstruction and Criticism 232). The expression mise en abyme, taken from heraldry via Andr Gide and used strategically by Derrida, denotes the repetitionin-miniature of a whole within itself, as in the example of a painting within a painting. In such a model, repetition has, as Derrida would say, "always already" taken place: the regression is synchronic, at once originary and teleological. No matter where the regression halts, there will always be the traces of past and future repetitions. Miller sees such a theory as part of a "tradition of difference" working within and against a "tradition of presence" ("Tradition and Difference"). Deconstruction works "within" logocentrism because it cannot exist "outside" it; there is nothing outside a logocentric metaphysic in Western culture, no such thing as a deconstructive metaphysic: deconstruction stands in interdependent relation to logocentrism even as one sign does to another in Saussurean linguistics. Every presence in language, Miller argues, can be deconstructed and exposed as difference, shown to be based on a baseless fabric of words, not a real metaphysical ground. Whether the key to the abyss in a text is a semantic ambiguity, a double-faced etymology, or a tropological deviance, it is in any event a linguistic problem, a question of language as such. The critic's function is to face that problem, not to attempt to solve or neutralize it, but to recognize the abyss as an inherent feature of an arbitrary and differential system of language. In this sense, deconstruction for Miller is not a method of analysis that a critic "applies" to a text. It is something that the text has already done to itself. Every text is always already deconstructed. What the critic does, then, is repeat the text in his or her analysis, that is, repeat its rhetorical operations, its linguistic maneuvers, its very difference. Deconstruction, Miller claims, is just good close reading (Deconstruction and Criticism 230). Such a statement has two implications, the first of which has already been noted: deconstruction is less an applied method than an intrinsic habit of language; second, all texts, not just some texts or some periods of literature, can be deconstructed. If play, difference, the abyss, and the trace, for example, are the "essence" of language, then there is no theoretical reason why all discourse--literary and nonliterary, Romantic and modern--should not be subject to the radical forces of "writing." While Miller is often regarded as the spokesperson for Yale

deconstruction in that he has attempted in his writing, in conferences, and in panel discussions and interviews to explain deconstruction and defend it against charges of hermeneutical anarchy and nihilism, Paul de Man, by contrast, is a deconstructor who makes no apology for either his method or its startling results. De Man's interest is in the operation of rhetorical figures, and his essays often focus on a single trope--metaphor, prosopopoeia, apostrophe, or metonymy--as a means of opening up a text to its "allegory of reading," by which de Man means the text's reflexive awareness of itself as a system of rhetorical figures. Allegory, de Man argues, belongs to a "rhetoric of temporality" (Blindness and Insight 187-228) in which signs repeat other signs and in that repetition signify their difference. Reading is an act that critics perform vis--vis texts but also something that texts perform on themselves in those moments when they declare and at the same time dispute their status as language. De Man's method of textual analysis resembles Derrida's in its recurrent effort to uncover hierarchical oppositions within texts and to reveal the linguistic and philosophical grounds upon which those hierarchies are built. Such a method, called a "critique," seeks to make explicit what is implicit, assumed, repressed, or contradicted in a text. Thus de Man is less concerned to explicate theme than to show how rhetoric is "thematized," that is, how the literal or narrative level of a text may repeat its figural substructure. Stylistically, however, de Man is far from Derrida: puns, multilingual resonances, and other rhetorical flourishes do not play a significant role in de Man's prose, which by contrast is sedate and analytical. Deconstruction for de Man involves the careful drawing out of those moments when what a text says seems at odds with the rhetoric in which it says it. Such moments are examples of what de Man calls "undecidability" or "unreadability," when questions of epistemology are suspended within rhetoric and ways of knowing are dependent on ways of saying. The figure for such an impasse is the aporia, or textual doubt, involving the mutual assertion and negation of opposing systems of logic or rhetoric. In an aporia, nothing can be harmonized, nor can it be wholly canceled; any figure in question oscillates between contrary poles of discourse. For example, a text may lay claim to a certain figure of rhetoric--metaphor, perhaps--but if one reads carefully, de Man suggests, one will find that the privileged term or figure is part of a rhetorical hierarchy that depends on the repression of an opposing term--say, metonymy (Allegories of Reading 13-16). But the repression can never be complete; indeed, the moment of deconstruction will be precisely that instant when the return of the repressed figure occurs and the most striking metaphorical identifications are revealed to depend on metonymic contiguities. Metaphor and metonymy neither simply assert nor automatically cancel each other; they interinvolve themselves in a simultaneous

affirmation and negation of their rhetorical authority. All texts, literary or critical, go on forever saying and unsaying their own language. In the initial stages of deconstruction, from 1966 through the early 1980s, the Yale critics exerted the chief influence on the development of deconstructive criticism. Since then, however, deconstruction has not been confined to any one school or group of critics, though many of today's leading deconstructors do trace their critical affiliations back to the Yale school, as former students or otherwise. Not unexpectedly (nor unproblematically), this second phase of deconstruction can be described as applied deconstruction, or "deconstruction and x"--deconstruction and feminism, deconstruction and psychoanalysis, deconstruction and Marxism, and so on. In each case the insights and techniques of deconstructive reading are transferred to another field of the human sciences, sometimes with very fruitful results. (For whatever reasons, the reverse crossfertilization--for example, a psychoanalytic or feminist reading of deconstruction--has not occurred to the same extent.) A further distinction might be made between criticism on deconstruction and deconstructive criticism: many articles and books have been published to explain or to market deconstruction, but these, obviously, are not necessarily the same as a deconstructive criticism. Indeed, as Rodolphe Gasch has written in "Deconstruction as Criticism," even much of what passes for deconstructive criticism is not really deconstructive (Glyph 6 [1979]). Among poststructuralist literary critics writing in the later 1980s and 1990s, those most closely identified with the practice of deconstruction overwhelmingly show the influence of Derrida in the spirit of their criticism but the impact of de Man in their technique. The best-known second-generation deconstructor is undoubtedly Barbara Johnson, whose two books The Critical Difference: Essays in the Contemporary Rhetoric of Reading (1980) and A World of Difference (1987), along with her translations of Derrida, quickly became regarded as classics of deconstructive criticism. Deeply influenced by de Man's teaching, Johnson brilliantly adapted his mode of dismantling texts through close readings of their rhetorical operations. Her analyses of Roland Barthes, Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, Jacques Lacan, and Derrida are dramatically ingenious and original and stand as excellent models of deconstructive readings. In her second book, however, she modifies the strict literary focus of her method to include questions of gender, race, canonicity, and the institutionalization of academic criticism. Johnson takes deconstruction, and theory generally, out of the realm of critical abstraction to apply it to political concerns: feminist literature, African-American writing, and polemics and patriarchy in criticism. For Johnson, deconstruction is not just a technique of reading literary texts but an attitude toward a whole field of signs, an entire world composed of textual, sexual, and

racial difference. Johnson's later work thus may be viewed as the second stage of deconstruction, as its applied rather than purely theoretical mode, or simply as what Johnson calls the "consequences of theory." While such a binary opposition between abstraction and application, or between theory and practice, is itself suspicious to a deconstructor, it is a distinction that Johnson herself makes. Of course, applied deconstruction is always already at work in any deconstructive reading, no matter what the text; however, what differentiates deconstructive criticism of the 1980s and 1990s from its earlier rhetorical and phenomenological types is the target or context, now more likely to be "political" in some sense. While deconstruction has always been either implicitly or explicitly concerned with problems in the history of Western philosophy and culture, and therefore necessarily with ethical and political issues, critics such as Johnson address these concerns of the "real world" (always written in ironic quotation marks) directly and self-consciously, with the full complement of deconstructive techniques at their disposal. Attempts to discuss deconstruction in connection with Marxism and New Historicism have been made by critics such as Marjorie Levinson, Andrew Parker ("Between Dialectics and Deconstruction: Derrida and the Reading of Marx," After Strange Texts: The Role of Theory in the Study of Literature, ed. Gregory S. Jay and David L. Miller, 1985), Michael Ryan (Marxism and Deconstruction, 1982), and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak ("Speculation on Reading Marx: After Reading Derrida," Post-Structuralism and the Question of History, ed. Derek Attridge, Geoff Bennington, and Robert Young, 1987). The marriage has not been particularly fruitful; not surprisingly, deconstruction and Marxism have been seen as oxymoronic bedfellows, and critics inevitably tend to privilege one methodology over the other. While Ryan argues that deconstruction "put[s] the very possibility of a totalistic [i.e., Marxist] reading into question" ("Political Criticism," Contemporary Literary Theory, ed. G. Douglas Atkins and Laura Morrow, 1989, 204), many critics have tried to find common ground. Levinson, for example, envisions a "deconstructive materialism" that would employ shared aspects of Marxism and deconstruction (Wordsworth's Great Period Poems: Four Essays, 1986, 10), yet her readings clearly privilege the materialism over the deconstruction. Spivak has brought her knowledge of deconstruction (she translated Derrida's De la grammatologie into English) to bear on feminist and cultural studies, particularly issues in colonialism and phallocentrism (see "Displacement and the Discourse of Woman," Displacement: Derrida and After, ed. Mark Krupnick, 1983; and "Poststructuralism, Marginality, Postcoloniality, and Value," Literary Theory Today, ed. Peter Collier and Helga Geyer-Ryan, 1990). As her essays demonstrate, deconstruction and Marxism can intersect

profitably, though not entirely rigorously, in the analysis of hierarchies, oppositions, and power structures, about which the two methodologies may yet have something to teach each other. A genuine dialogue between them remains to be achieved, however. The same must be said for the engagement of deconstruction and new historicism: insofar as the ground of history, as constructed by new historicists, carries with it, as Derrida would say, "the theme of a final repression of difference" (Speech and Phenomena 141), the engagement remains unproductive. Parker suggests that rather than taking sides on Marx versus Derrida, or on history versus difference, critics need to maintain the differences, "both to discourage the premature assimilation of the one to the other as well as to mitigate the increasing hostility displayed by advocates of each 'opposing' mode" ("'Taking Sides' (On History): Derrida Re-Marx," diacritics 11 [Fall 1981]: 72). Not all second-generation deconstructive criticism is politically inclined, and examples of readings that use deconstruction in relation to literary history and rhetoric are still the most numerous. Cynthia Chase and Carol Jacobs, for example, two practitioners of deconstruction in the rhetorical mode, clearly show the influence of de Man in their readings of English and European texts in which literary or tropological self-consciousness leads to "the insistence in each text that it stage its own critical performance" (Jacobs, Uncontainable Romanticism: Shelley, Bront, Kleist, 1989, ix). Thus figures of selfreflexivity, scenes of reading, and the aporia are prominent here in analyses that focus on interpretation and its textual thematizations. Chase, like de Man or Derrida, often scrutinizes a particular rhetorical trope or figure--prosopopoeia or personification, for example--for what it reveals about the rhetorical conditions of meaning (see Chase, Decomposing Figures: Rhetorical Readings in the Romantic Tradition, 1986). In a related vein, Timothy Bahti ("Figures of Interpretation, The Interpretation of Figures: A Reading of Wordsworth's 'Dream of the Arab,'" Studies in Romanticism 18 [1979]), David L. Clark ("Monstrous Reading: The Martyrology after de Man," Studies in Canadian Literature 15.2 [1990]), and Andrzej Warminski (Readings in Interpretation: Hlderlin, Hegel, Heidegger, 1987) have produced deconstructive readings of British, Continental, and Canadian literary and philosophical texts whose rhetoric problematizes conventional understandings of interpretation. Still others who have theorized about deconstruction but who are not, ultimately, deconstructors themselves would include Tilottama Rajan, whose work on Romanticism and reading has historicized deconstruction and poststructuralism by placing them within the perspective of a hermeneutics of indeterminacy (The Supplement of Reading: Figures of Understanding in Romantic Theory and Practice, 1990); and Gregory L. Ulmer, whose "applied grammatology" has "turn[ed] attention away from an

exclusive concern with deconstruction" toward the fields of pedagogy and performance (Applied Grammatology: Post[e]-Pedagogy from Jacques Derrida to Joseph Beuys, 1985, x). On the interface between psychoanalysis and deconstruction, critics such as Shoshana Felman and Stephen W. Melville, reading Derrida's work "as in large measure an extension of psychoanalysis into the history of philosophy" (Melville, Philosophy beside Itself: On Deconstruction and Modernism, 1986, 84), have with the help of Lacan mounted poststructuralist psychoanalytic readings of both literary and nonliterary texts. Felman's work exhibits a brilliant combination of psychoanalysis and deconstruction in her insistent "interpretation of difference" and her Lacanian-Derridean "analysis of the signifier as opposed to an analysis of the signified" (Jacques Lacan and the Adventure of Insight: Psychoanalysis in Contemporary Culture, 1987, 43, 44). Much of Derrida's work has been an explicit dialogue with Sigmund Freud (and some of it a mute dialogue with Lacan); his essay "Freud and the Scene of Writing" (Writing and Difference 196231) and his book The Post Card amply show the possibilities of a deconstructive psychoanalysis. As it now stands, deconstructive criticism is literally and figurally all over the map. As a result, some hard-line deconstructors have complained that over time deconstruction has lost its original radical impact, that it has been neutralized or eclectically diluted by less rigorous techniques of reading. Paradoxically, others maintain that it is still nihilistic, without respect for meaning, history, or truth. While early fears that deconstruction would destroy the academy by questioning Western values have proved to be unfounded, there is no denying that deconstruction has undergone considerable changes in focus and application over its relatively brief development. The turning outward by some deconstructors from literary matters to political issues and current events can be construed, in the context of latetwentieth-century attacks on theory, as an attempt to make deconstruction "relevant," to demonstrate the practical or social benefits of deconstruction as part of a larger defense of theory. At the same time it is inevitable that certain aspects of deconstruction-whether its vocabulary, ideas, or procedures--will be appropriated by other disciplines and thus transmuted into new forms of reading. Unquestionably, the work of the Yale critics and, subsequently, that of a younger generation of critical readers has helped to legitimate and popularize deconstruction as a form of literary criticism, but their efforts have done more than promote a fashionable style of thought and writing. Deconstruction has forced critics to reexamine their philosophical assumptions and to rethink their own language. What is more, the products of such reconsiderations have been often brilliant insights and new understandings of specific texts by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Sigmund Freud, Claude Lvi-Strauss,

William Wordsworth, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Charles Dickens, Marcel Proust, and W. B. Yeats, among others, as well as a radically different understanding of textuality and the philosophy of language generally. Deconstructive criticism has brought an intellectual rigor to the reading of texts, not just by questioning previous readings but by questioning reading itself. As the initiator of deconstruction, Jacques Derrida has begun a project that, in taking language, arbitrary and differential, as its medium and focus, continues to engage a striking array of topics, from philosophy to psychoanalysis to contemporary architecture, that have implications for virtually all aspects of human activity--culture, discourse, science. After nearly three decades of productive theory and practice, deconstruction remains one of the most significant developments in twentieth-century critical thought. J. Douglas Kneale

Notes and Bibliography See also Jacques Derrida, French Theory and Criticism: 5. 1945-1968 and 6. 1968 and After, and Speech Acts. Harold Bloom et al., Deconstruction and Criticism (1979); Paul de Man, Allegories of Reading: Figural Language in Rousseau, Nietzsche, Rilke, and Proust (1979), Blindness and Insight: Essays in the Rhetoric of Contemporary Criticism (2d ed., 1983); Jacques Derrida, Acts of Literature (ed. Derek Attridge, 1992), La Carte postale: De Socrate Freud et au-del (1980, The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond, trans. Alan Bass, 1987), De la grammatologie (1967, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, 1976), A Derrida Reader: Between the Blinds (ed. Peggy Kamuf, 1991), La Dissmination (1972, Dissemination, trans. Barbara Johnson, 1981), L'criture et la diffrence (1967, Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass, 1978), Marges de la philosophie (1972, Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass, 1982), Positions (1972, Positions, trans. Alan Bass, 1981), La Voix et la phnomne: Introduction au problme du signe dans la phnomnologie (1967, Speech and Phenomena, and Other Essays on Husserl's Theory of Signs, trans. David B. Allison, 1973); Geoffrey H. Hartman, Criticism in the Wilderness: The Study of Literature Today (1980), Saving the Text: Literature/Derrida/Philosophy (1981), Wordsworth's Poetry, 1787-1814 (1964); J. Hillis Miller, "The Critic as Host" (Bloom et al.), The Linguistic Moment: From Wordsworth to Stevens (1985). Thomas J. J. Altizer et al., Deconstruction and Theology (1982); Jonathan Arac, Wlad Godzich, and Wallace Martin, eds., The Yale Critics: Deconstruction in America (1983); Jonathan Arac and Barbara

Johnson, eds., Consequences of Theory (1991); Jonathan Culler, On Deconstruction: Theory and Criticism after Structuralism (1982); Robert Con Davis and Ronald Schleifer, eds., Rhetoric and Form: Deconstruction at Yale (1985); Terry Eagleton, Literary Theory: An Introduction (1983); Josu V. Harari, ed., Textual Strategies: Perspectives in Post-Structuralist Criticism (1979); Irene E. Harvey, Derrida and the Economy of Diffrance (1986); J. Douglas Kneale, Monumental Writing: Aspects of Rhetoric in Wordsworth's Poetry (1988); Vincent B. Leitch, Deconstructive Criticism: An Advanced Introduction (1983); Frank Lentricchia, After the New Criticism (1980); Christopher Norris, Deconstruction and the Interests of Theory (1988), Deconstruction: Theory and Practice (1982), The Deconstructive Turn: Essays in the Rhetoric of Philosophy (1983), Derrida (1987), Paul de Man: Deconstruction and the Critique of Aesthetic Ideology (1988); Hugh Silverman, ed., Derrida and Deconstruction (1989).

Topics Index Cross-references for this Guide entry: criture, allegory, anthropology, aporia, close reading, deconstruction, feminism, grammatology, intentionality, intertextuality, logocentrism, logos, Marxism, metonymy, phallocentrism, repression, structural linguistics, transcendental, trope, Yale critics