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On Deconstruction: Theory and Criticism After Structuralism Hardcover – January, 1983

3.9 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews


"Academic literary criticism continues to be dominated by 'theory' and the struggle between deconstructionist and humanist approaches to the business of reading. Jonathan Culler's On Deconstruction is a typically patient, thoughtful, illuminating exposition of the ideas of Jacques Derrida and their application to literary studies."―David Lodge, Commonweal

"Culler is lucid and thorough, can move into and out of other people's arguments without losing the sense of his own voice and argument, and can manage to seem equally at home with Freudianism, feminism, and traditional literary criticism."―Times Literary Supplement

"As a practicing critic, Culler has always been a deconstructor, and he approaches this topic with special immediacy and force. In On Deconstruction, he offers generous summaries of numerous representative articles and a fine annotated bibliography. . . . His magisterial way of tracing particular topics and techniques through our diaspora of critical texts, and his provocative analyses, cannot fail to focus any critic's thinking about deconstruction."―Modern Language Quarterly

"Gifted with grace and clarity, Culler provides us with a stimulating survey of contemporary literary criticism."―Antioch Review

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Jonathan Culler is Class of 1916 Professor of English at Cornell University. His book, Structuralist Poetics: Structuralism, Linguistics, and the Study of Literature, won MLA's Lowell Prize and established his reputation as analyst and expositor of critical theory. His other books include On Deconstruction: Theory and Criticism after Structuralism; The Pursuit of Signs: Semiotics, Literature, Deconstruction; and Ferdinand de Saussure (all published by Cornell), as well as Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction and Theory of the Lyric.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 307 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell Univ Pr (January 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801413222
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801413223
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,712,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Even though the book was written very nearly 20 years ago, Culler's 'On Deconstruction' remains a good, solid grounding in post-structural theory. But it's no beginner's guide; Culler assumes the reader brings a fair amount of knowledge to the table regarding the topic -- a familiarity with general post/structuralist concepts, plus a good sense of Barthes, Derrida, de Man, and Kristeva.
Culler's style is clear and straightforward -- no easy task considering the complexity of his topic. And although Culler calls 'On Deconstruction' a sequel to his 'Structuralist Poetics', 'On Deconstruction' can certainly be read on its own -- or before one tackles 'Structural Poetics'.
Culler begins with an emphasis on readers and how readers read, moves to feminist issues ("is it possible to 'read as a woman?' What does this mean? And why would we do this?), and finally moves to elucidate (primarily) Derrida's then-project of 'deconstruction' and its philosophical implications.
Culler's book strikes me as one of those essential backgrounders -- in order to move past the book one must read it, understand it, and then understand its implications for how critical thought has changed since it was written. No easy task. But this book -- paired with 'Structuralist Poetics' -- certainly make this a managable task.
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Format: Paperback
Jonathan Culler's 'On Deconstruction' is a remarkably lucid analysis of the theory and practice of deconstruction. Not only does Culler introduce the whole concept of deconstruction step by step for beginners, but also analyzes the most complex aspects of Derrida and De Mann's work for the more knowledgeable reader. This in fact, is the beauty of the work. The reader's journey into the murky field of deconstruction begins with an analysis of reading. Focussing on the reader-response theories of Stanley Fish, Culler illustrates how reader's have been seen to take a more active role in the production of meaning in texts in recent years. The role of the reader has gained importance also in the world of feminist criticism. Culler attempts to analyze what exactly it means to 'read as a woman'. So far, so good, even for the beginner. A reader with virtually no knowledge of deconstruction can begin to develop an idea of what the theory is actually based on, reading strategies and the production of meaning. The final two sections, which deal with deconstruction itself are more difficult to grasp without a background in literary theory and terminology. Culler addresses topics such as 'graft', 'traditional hierachies of thought', and the now notorious 'differance'. Yet still, his analysis is clear, thorough and comprehensible. His final section, giving examples of deconstructionist criticism, is interesting in the way that it shows the complexity of the topic. Few of the works he cites have anything in common with each-other, and the meaning extracted from various works proves to be both thought-provoking and original. Isn't this, after all, the whole aim of deconstruction. Fornovices in the world of post-modernist literary theory, this book is still extremely useful (especially if read more than once). Those readers with a background in the subject will also benefit from Culler's extremely detailed analysis of the mysterious world of deconstrution.
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Format: Paperback
On Deconstruction delivers lucid explanations of some of the most difficult ideas in post-structural theory. Culler manages to explain the ideas without diluting them, which is no mean feat. Culler reads like an excellent teacher who whets the appetite for further reading. Read this book before you read anything by Jacques Derrida. It may change your whole experience. This book is also helpful as an introduction to a cross section of literary trends including feminist criticism and reader response. I have owned this book for several years and find myself returning to it again and again.
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By A Customer on November 24, 2003
Format: Paperback
Responding to an earlier review:

"Has anyone else noticed that Culler's recent book (2003) on deconstruction simply recycles what he says in this book from 1983? Culler hasn't learned a whit more about deconstruction in the past 20 years. Yes, he's better than Christopher Norris on deconstruction, but then again so is my auto mechanic (I'm not kidding). Read Culler if you want to know what Culler thought deconstruction was 20 years ago."

People have already responded to this but it bears repeating. The book you're discussing was written in 1983. Hence, it seems (eerily) similar to Culler's work from 1983.

"As for reading Heidegger for ten years constituting a perfect world, as another reviewer suggests, I think we can all agree that that really wouldn't be a perfect world at all. What's more, this argument seems to say that it's fine - really, it's OK - not to read philosophy because Heidegger (and Derrida) are really too complex to get anyway."

This isn't what the previous reviewer was suggesting. The point was that if you want the best possible understanding of Derrida, you're going to need to read extensively within the philosophical tradition. No secondary text on Derrida--not Gasche's, Culler's, Bennington's, Norris', Harvey's, Beardsworth's, etc.--will change that. Nonetheless, people have limited amounts of time--they can't read everything (though they can certainly try). If you want to read something on Derrida that doesn't assume a vast knowledge of the tradition, Culler's book is an excellent choice.

"If you really think ten years of Heidegger is necessary to understand Derrida, then the situation really is futile and impossible (and you've probably misunderstood something about Derrida's work).
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