- Paperback: 312 pages
- Publisher: Cornell Univ Pr; Second Printing edition (August 1, 1983)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0801492017
- ISBN-13: 978-0801492013
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,780,387 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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On Deconstruction: Theory and Criticism after Structuralism Paperback – August 1, 1983
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"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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Culler might have had more success had he addressed the legitimate concerns of deconstruction's detractors. Typical of such criticisms is John Ellis, who, in his AGAINST DECONSTRUCTION, notes three objections. First, whenever a deconstructionist applies Derrida's theory, that approach never varies regardless of the type, nature, or complexity of the text, thus calling into question whether the resulting paired opposites do little more than reduce the complexity of the text to a lower level of simplicity. Second, deconstructionists in general and Culler in particular are fond of grounding their vocabulary in a manner that overly uses such evocative words as ""unmasking" "disruptive" "subverting" and "challenging" in an effort to invest their respective analyses with a patina of powerfully exhilarating prose that suggests that they are heirs to a tool that only they know. And third, related to the psychologically loaded use of words is the tendency of deconstructionists to express themselves in an oblique language that is very nearly indecipherable to all readers but themselves. When they are called to explain why their language must be couched in such dense prose, their typical response is to complain that reducing the complexity of the language is to reduce the legitimacy of the theory itself. And that, counter the opponents is exactly the point. After reading Culler, one is left with judging the usefulness of deconstruction based only on his chosen points with the previously mentioned criticisms going unanswered.
Culler starts his book with an overview of Reader-Response and feminist critical theories. In the former case, he notes the need for an interaction between reader and text. In the latter he stresses the need to consider the gender of the reader in that there is a "male" way to read and a "female" way. The common link between the two is that Culler sees that both schools displace or undo the system of concepts or procedures that mark them, which coincidentally enough is the basis for most deconstructive thought.
Oddly enough, Culler, despite his vigorous defense of deconstruction is not the favored poster boy of other deconstructionists. They object to his too frequent bouts of blunt honesty when he points out both sides of the critical issue of deconstruction's legitimacy. A typical example of Culler undercutting himself is "Deconstruction has no better theory of truth. It does not develop a new philosophical framework or solution but moves back and forth with a nimbleness it hopes will prove strategic." (155) Such honesty is indeed refreshing and should Culler wish to address certain other critiques of deconstruction in a future edition, then that edition would prove more useful than this one.
The reader finds an account of what Culler considers the most vital and significant in recent theoretical writing and undertake an exposition of issues often seem poorly undertood. For it brings up debate, On deconstruction is provocative and demands some effort from the reader. It is certainly not a book for begginners... The theory and criticism of recent years is discussed focusing on deconstruction as the principal source of energy and innovation. He offers a detailed exposition of its ideas and methods, defining its relation to other strands of contemporary criticism, and assessing its implications for literary studies.
With emphasis on readers and reding, Culler considers deconstruction, in terms of the questions raised by psychoanalytic, feminist, and reader-response criticism. He then turns to a systematic analysis of deconstruction, drawing together the disparate and difficult writings of Jacques Derrida and the working out the implications of his approach for the concepts and methods that literary critics have relied on.
Surveying the variations and achievements of American deconstructive criticism, the author clarifies the procedures and assumptions of several interpretative essays, giving special attention to the work of Paul de Man. Not an easy book but surely a good deal for those who search for a better understanding of the post structuralist critics point of view and methods. Give a try!