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February 26, 2012

Playing with Contradictions in the System: Deconstruction


Image Source: http://www.idiagram.com/examples/MR/deconstruction.JPG

Habib, M.A.R. A History of Literary Criticism: From Plato to the Present. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005. ISBN:0-631-23200-1.

Lynn, Steven. Texts and Contexts: Writing about Literature with Critical Theory. 5th ed. New York: Pearson, 2008. ISBN: 032144907X.

Rivkin, Julie and Michael Ryan, eds. Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd ed. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2004. ISBN: 1405106964.

Tyson, Lois. Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2006. ISBN: 0415974100.

Fry, Paul H. Theory of Literature. New Haven: Yale UP, 2012. ISBN: 9780300180831


[These are our primary course texts on theory. The Rivkin and Ryan anthology contains your collection of primary sources about literary theory as written by the pioneers and theorists who helped develop them. Use the articles from the anthology (and any others I publish for you on our course libguides page) as your primary sources for your final mock conference papers].

Remember: I have to "approve" all comments so you won't see it immediately after posting. After hitting submit, you should see a screen that confirms this.

We are beginning to use some concepts in our discussions that you may or may not have had practice using before. I want to be sure that you have a clear understanding of the words we use in class (no more blank stares!) so be sure you are looking up words you don't feel you yet "own" (means, making it a part of your personal vocabulary) by utilizing your dictionaries to the fullest.

Dr. Hobbs

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For more English-Blog entries on the topic of Critical Theory, please click HERE.

Posted by lhobbs at February 26, 2012 04:06 PM

Readers' Comments:

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ENG 435 Students of 2009,

In this entry, you will be entering:

[1] Your two self-designed reading-response questions (short answer) based on the "overview" summaries of this theory you were assigned from various textbooks. Due in the comment box here AND in the appropriate folder on turnitin.com on the day BEFORE the class meeting they are to be used.

[2] Your two self-designed discussion questions (longer answer) based on the application of specific terminology from this particular theory toward the primary works we have read for this course. Due in the comment box here AND in the appropriate folder on turnitin.com on the day BEFORE the class meeting they are to be used.

[1] your precis of the article assigned to you from the Rivkin and Ryan anthology about this particular theory. Due in the comment box below, in the appropriate folder on turnitin.com, AND as a hardcopy in class according to the deadline listed on our itinerary (see syllabus). Be prepared to discuss your article with the rest of the class.

Good luck,

Dr. Hobbs


Video URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2bPTs8fspk

From Lois Tyson’s Chapter Overview on “Deconstruction”

 

1.    SHORT Answer: Tyson claims that deconstruction “has a good deal to offer” including the fact that “it can be a very useful tool for Marxism, feminism, and other theories.”  Why? (Tyson 249).

 

2.    TRUE or FALSE (Circle One, then explain answer): According to Jacques Derrida, since a sign can only be composed of one “signifier” and one “signified,” language can be a quite reliable tool for communication (Tyson 249, 252).

 

3.    SHORT Answer: Derrida says that the correct “meaning” in a word can be found in the inter-exchange between the concepts of “to defer” and “to differ” He coined a word with a specialized spelling to replace the word “meaning” for a word. What is it (Tyson 253)?

 

4.    Two-Part Answer: When Derrida puts a word “under erasure” a.) what mark does he make on the word to indicate that it is under erasure and b.) what he is he doing with a sign/word once it has been put under erasure? (Tyson 253).

 

5.    Short Answer: Derrida says that “Western philosophy’s greatest illusion” is something he calls “logocentrism” (Tyson 256). Very briefly, explain what he means by this term.

 

6.    Explain how what Derrida did to Western philosophy is analogous to what Copernicus did with his theory of the planet Earth’s relation to the cosmos (Tyson 256).


Video URL Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xL6mB1y_20I

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Cecilia B
Dr. Lee Hobbs
ENG 435
18th February 2009
1. Concerning signs and signifiers, structuralists claim that human utterances are typically unambiguous and follow the simple signifier + signified formula. How do deconstructionists depart from this formula?
- Deconstructionists argue that statements are unstable and ambiguous because any one signifier can have a range of meanings. Thus, a reworking of the structuralist formula would resemble: sign= signifier + signified…+ signified (Tyson 252).
2. For critic Jacques Derrida, where does meaning lie in language?
- Meanings in words only appears through their distinction from other words (Tyson 253) and are a result of the differences between signifiers.

Posted by: Cecilia at February 17, 2009 01:38 PM

According to Tyson, what influences how I see the world? (The language I'm born into.)
Sub question: this is called the_____ quality of language. (Ideological)


According to Tyson, how is a culture's ideologies passed on? (Language) Do these ideologies exist independently of us?

For deconstructionists, do we shape our language or does it shape us?

Posted by: Wesley J. at February 17, 2009 07:58 PM

Kristin Brittain

Dr. Hobbs

ENG 435

2/16/09

Deconstruction questions and answers

1. According to deconstruction how is language nonreferential?
A: Language is nonreferential because it consists of a chain of signifiers. It refers to neither things in the world or our concepts of things and it is made up of only the play of the signifiers.
2. How do binary oppositions support ideologies in the realm of deconstruction?
A: Part of deconstruction is exploring the ways language determines experiences. People tend to conceptualize experiences by using binary oppositions. Each binary opposition is hierarchal with one term privileged over the other. By identifying the privileged term within the opposition the ideology is discovered.

Posted by: Kristin B. at February 17, 2009 09:17 PM

Sarah Tatko
Dr. Hobbs
Eng-435
18 February 2009
Deconstruction Reading Check
Q – What is Derrida’s view of language?
A – “It is not a reliable tool of communication” (241) which most people feel it is. Instead, he claims that it is loose and made up of experiences that ideologies have programmed into people and they do not even realize it.

Q – What are the two main purposes for deconstructing a text?
A – 1) “To reveal the text’s undecidability” 2) to unveil the ideologies that construct the text

Posted by: Sarah T. at February 17, 2009 10:39 PM

Travis Rathbone
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 435
17 February 2009

Deconstructionism Quiz Questions

Q: Practitioners of Formalism champion the equation sign = signifier + signified. How would Deconstructionists rewrite this formula? Fill in the blank: sign = signifier + _____

A: Sign = signifier + signified . . . + signified.
Communication can be explained as a sliding accumulation of signifieds (Tyson 252).

Q: What is meant by the phrase “language mediates our experience of ourselves and the world” (Tyson 253).

A: The language in which we are indoctrinated with determines how we interact with the world. For example, we might experience snow differently if we had fifty different words to describe it.

Posted by: Travis R at February 17, 2009 11:36 PM

Jessica P.
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 435
2/18/09

Short Answer Question:

Q: Like Structuralists, Deconstructionists analyze language through the break down of grammatical structure and communication elements. Both literary theories use the word sign to refer to a basic element of communication. What is this formula?

A: Sign = signifier + signified

Discussion Question:

Q: Why does language and literature have the same characteristics in deconstructionism? Bonus: What are these characteristics?

A: Deconstructionism analyzes literature through analyzing its elements—language.
There are three characteristics: dynamic, ambiguous, and unstable.

Posted by: Jessica Pall at February 17, 2009 11:48 PM

Wesley Johnson
Hobbs
Eng 435
22 February 2009
Précis 4: “The Will to Power”
The article “The Will to Power,” by Friedrich Nietzsche, is a philosophical discussion on the nature of truth. Specifically this article extends from the structuralist notion of objectivity as potentially subjective. However, Nietzsche delves into deconstruction as he explores how everything is subjective. Even “Truth” becomes scrutinized as a constructed ideal.
Initially, Nietzsche posits that, as humans, we are constantly seeking to categorize information. But, the problem with this is that we only have a few ways to catalog things. Therefore, we try to fit new things into old schemes. And, this is where we develop our notion of equality. If something new fits into an old category, it is equal. Also, Nietzsche emphasizes that from equality, we develop “Truth.” But, and this distinction is very similar to Derrida’s term différance, our “truth” develops from falsity. That is, we establish truth by separating it from falsity. So, in thinking that the false is knowable, the “Truth” is created.
However, Nietzsche goes on to show that human reason is not even a truth. Reason has been constructed by humans and what determines truth is agreed upon. Therefore, reason is not a viable way to dilenate anything. Here, Nietzsche illustrates the falsity of life. Though humans think that life is honest and clean, because our notions of reality, truth, falsity, and life in general are not “True” in and of themselves, life iteself is
a falshood. From this, Nietzsche’s overreaching point develops. If life is false, than the desire for humans to seek “truth” is simply a attempt to catagorize things. This is the will to truth. Looking for truth is an attempt to secure a constant in life. It is a passive act that can be done with ease and withought much thought. But, Nietzsche’s title, “The Will to Power,” comes into play in that instead of searching for truth, one should seek to make the world a better place. That is, instead of trying to secure the world in terms of constant “Truths,” humans should try to create a new world. Based upon different parameters and ideologies. We should create instead of catagorize.

Work Cited
Nietzsche, Friedrich. “The Will to Power.” Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd ed. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004. 72-75.

Posted by: Wes J. at February 22, 2009 03:39 PM

Sarah Tatko
Dr. Hobbs
Eng-435
23 February 2009
Deconstruction of Writing
Barbara Johnson outlines the different theories of writing in her essay “Writing”. Her main focus is the connection between writing and the theoretical “revolution” in France that occurred in 1967; yet, she begins by providing an overview on how writing was perceived by different theories throughout the years (Johnson 340). It is important to understand the history of the perception of writing because they all link together and progressively build off of one another.
Roland Barthes is a key contributor to understanding writing and he wrote a book entitled Writing Degree Zero in 1953 which charts literature’s movement into the “religious” status of Literature which actually lead to the death of literature because it caused a split between “work” and “text”. A work is defined as the classical idea of literature and is closed, finished, and only a “reliable representational object”; while text is a modern concept of being open, an infinite process, and the generation meaning (Johnson 341). Both of these concepts are perceptions of the written word. Barthes’ interest does not lie in the difference between the two but the tension between Literature as an object and text as a process. His theory of writing owes a lot to the theories of Marxism and psychoanalysis which is influenced by structuralism.
A brief overview of structuralism is it is based upon a system which is a set of relations governed by rules. There is the signifier and the signified which is a part of a sign and represents a convention whether it is societal or literary. This links to Marxism because it helps to create an analogy between the liberation of the signifier and the “rebellion against idealist repression” because the signifier is a symbol of a society’s ideals (Johnson 342).
The link to psychoanalysis lies in the relationship between unconscious manifestations and the signifier, the signifier is symbolic of the manifestations. The signified can only be determined through the “signifying chain” which resembles an unconscious foreign language and by following the chain then one can find insight into the meaning of the signifier (Johnson 342). These links between Marxism and the psychoanalysis theories are important to Saussure and structuralism because it is used to show that signifiers can “generate effects even when the signified is unknown” which leads to the idea that writing is more than simply the transaction of words.
Derrida responds to the idea that writing is more than words on a page and through his Deconstruction theory he points out that speech is not primary to writing, which is the common belief. He argues that speech cannot be privileged because even though the words go directly to a listener’s ear does not mean that meaning is comprehended immediately; rather, it lacks the immediacy that was originally thought to be there (Johnson 343). Derrida points out that many writings try to establish speech as the primary which only further establishes the paradox that speech is not privileged.
Derrida’s theory of writing is that the “other” needs to be taken into account during the act. This means that reading also explores the gaps, the differences, the margins, the figures, and the echoes that are present on the page; take all aspects of writing into account because “the reader’s task is to read what is written rather than simply attempt to intuit what might have been meant” (Johnson 346).


Work Cited
Johnson, Barbara. “Writing.” Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd ed. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004. 340-347.

Posted by: Sarah T. at February 22, 2009 08:46 PM

Ava Littlefield
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 435
22 September 2009

Supplementing the Signifier

According to Jacques Derrida, author of “Of Grammatology”, “writing in the metaphysical tradition is a recurring delinquent” (Derrida 300). Derrida implies that whenever a word is used, it is a direct result of something else. He argues that “writing is a signifier of a signifier” (Derrida 300). Derrida asserts that what writers like Rousseau did not understand are that “writing shares the same structure of supplementation as difference” (Derrida 300). What Derrida implies is that writing is a result of a signifier that signifies something else. Derrida noted that the definition of language was “a moment of presence that is prior to all significations” (Derrida 300). Derrida’s argument is that even language relied on a signifier. He argues that the presence of signifiers cannot be isolated from the characteristics of writings (Derrida 300).

Derrida’s deconstructive approach to writing was to “notice the a-logical, a-human processes that make our thinking possible while also making it other than what we think” (Derrida 301). He attempts to shift the focus away from the logo’s and place more emphasis on the fact that “our thinking is made possible by process of signification and by movements of differance that lie outside our subjective control” (Derrida 301). Derrida was concerned with finding out why we apply certain signifiers to the signified. He argues that the process of applying a signifier to the signified is flawed because the object, idea, written word, and signified that we are identifying with is a result of another signifier.

Derrida states that “writing or signification has always had a duel meaning” (Derrida 302). Writing, in other words, is not free from influence; “it is a secondary addition to ideas remembered” (Derrida 301). It is also represents inability to recollect the “truth of mental speech or ideas” (Derrida 301). The dual meaning of writing is one aspect of the way that writing can be deconstructed.

Derrida asserts that over the last twenty centuries that the “name of language has been transformed into writing” (Derrida 303). The problem, according to Derrida, is that the signifier now takes up a double meaning, “the signifier of a signifier begins to go beyond the extension of language” (Derrida 303). This transference of the signifier of language to writing “destroys the concept of “sign” and its entire logic” (Derrida 304). Language no longer represents language. It now represents the process of writing. This transference misrepresents writing because “the concept of writing exceeds and comprehends that of language” (Derrida 305). For Derrida, the natural signification that exists between language and writing is what he is attempting to expose.

Derrida also states that “the order of the signified is never contemporary” (Derrida 313). What he implies is that the ideal, object, or word being signified can never be new because they are always directly influenced by a familiar signifier. Something will always trigger the individual to associate the word, idea, or object with something else. It is “one illusion among many, since it is the condition of the very idea of truth” (Derrida 314). The point that Derrida is trying to stress is that everything is influenced by something else, and that the individual interpretation of anything is limitless.

Work Cited

Derrida, Jacques. “Of Grammatology.” Literary Theory: An Anthology. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. New York: Blackwell, 1998. 300-14.

Posted by: Ava at February 22, 2009 09:46 PM

Ava L.
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 435
22 February 2009

Reading Check Questions on Deconstruction

1.What does Derrida consider to be the two most important characteristics of language?

A.The play on signifiers continually defers, or postpones meaning.

B.The meaning that it produces is a result of the way we distinguish one signifier from another.

2.Identify the three main points discussed in the chapter concerning the deconstruction of literature.

A.Language is dynamic, ambiguous, and unstable.

B.Language has no stable meaning, no center, and no fixed ground.

C.The identities that human beings assign to language are fragmented and are a result of what we choose to believe or invent.

Discussion Question

What does Tyson mean by “revealing a text’s undecidabiltiy and how is this accomplished?

A.Tyson is referring to the fact that the text may possess many possible meanings, so it cannot contain one meaning. In order to accomplish revealing the indecisiveness within the text the reader must recognize the various interpretations, show how these interpretations conflict with one another, and present how these conflicts produce other interpretations.

Posted by: Ava at February 22, 2009 10:09 PM

Jessica P.
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 435
2/23/09

A Précis of Differance

Jacques Derrida states in his article, Differance, that differance is the root word for combining both meanings of the verb “to differ”. Separated from difference by a silent a, differance is multivalent, referring to differing as both an interval of spacing/temporalizing and of distinction. Not characterized by the passive or active voice, differance uses the middle voice and is placed in the present, linking the past to the future.

Differance is at the root of everything. In conjunction with Sassure’s philosophy, language is comprised solely of differences which are effects. Thus, differance links the play of differences within a language, assuming that an opposition exists between speech and language.

Differance is at the root of metaphysics also as the self-presence of consciousness is a force that is never present, only a play of differences and quantities. Furthermore, Freud states that all differences are involved in the creation of unconscious traces with which are named, moments of differance.

An inconceivable factor with which consciousness is comprised of, Differance existed before everything, even Being—God. Thus, Being stemmed from differance. The origin of differance is unknown, as Heidegger states that the difference between Being and beings has been forgotten by metaphysics, disappearing without a trace. However, Derrida claims that although differance is neither a word nor a concept, it the essence of everything, speaking through every language.


Works Cited
Derrida, Jacques. “Difference”. Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd ed. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004.278-299.

Posted by: Jessica Pall at February 23, 2009 10:18 AM

Travis Rathbone
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 435
23 February 2009

Deconstructing Baudrillard: Simulacra and Simulation

Jean Baudrillard begins his critique of the authenticity of reality in his essay Simulacra and Simulation with a twist on a Borges story. In this fable, cartographers build a map of the Empire that is so intricate and detailed it covers the land from which it was modeled, and when the natural land begins to fall into decay, it is the map that remains intact and is mistaken for the real. Baudrillard declares this notion as a hyperreal: a real without origin or reality. There is no longer an original territory; there is only the map. The map now precedes the genuine, and this is the precession of simulacra. The point has been reached where the simulation is self perpetuating, and it no longer needs the real.

Baudrillard states that simulation (to posses what one does not) is dangerous and muddles the difference between what is true (real) and what is false (imaginary). When a simulation occurs, some (but not all) of the real traits are present in the simulated. For example, if someone feigns an illness he merely pretends to be ill. If, however, he simulates that same illness, he produces (within) some of the symptoms of the illness. Baudrillard defines four phases of simulacrum: (1) It reflects basic reality. (2) It hides and distorts basic reality. (3) It masks the fact that there is no basic reality, and (4) It no longer has any relation to reality: it is pure simulacrum.

To further his point concerning the phases of simulacrum, Baudrillard uses Disneyland as an example. He states that it is not the fantasy aspect of the theme park that fascinates the masses (though that aspect cannot be denied). Instead, what is intriguing about Disneyland is that it is a copy of Main Street USA. Park-goers can exist in a miniature “reality” which houses the ideologies and values of actual America. The warmth and authenticity of the crowds relate a more satisfying existence in the copy than the harsh, deserted parking lot of the real. This façade hides the park’s one truly sinister characteristic: because Disneyland is a copy of the real, it further champions the notion that the outside world is that much more authentic. In actuality, it is not real at all: it is simulacrum.

Work Cited
Baudrillard, Jean. "Simulacra and Simulations." Literary Theory: An Anthology, 2nd Ed.
Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004. 365 - 377.

Posted by: Travis R at February 23, 2009 11:18 AM

Kristin Brittain

Dr. Hobbs

ENG 435

2/20/09

Précis of “Identity and Difference”

“Identity and Difference” written by Martin Heidegger differentiates between the metaphysical existence of being and being of existence. Being of existence “authenticates reason” and being always means the “being of existence” (271). Heidegger argues that when being is thought of different from existence and existence as different from being; being becomes an object. If an image is formed of being it becomes a difference which is reduced to a distinction.
Difference becomes an addition to existence, and both are discovered through its difference which is present within every thought; and thus, “being [is] thought of as emerging from difference” (272). Heidegger is concerned with the history of being within metaphysics, as an “issue in an oblivion which escapes even us” (272).


Work Cited

Heidegger, Martin. “Identity and Difference.” Literary Theory: An Anthology 2nd Ed. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 1998. 271-272.

Posted by: Kristin B. at February 23, 2009 01:10 PM

Cecilia B
Dr. Lee Hobbs
ENG 435
23rd February 2009
Précis on Jean-Francois Lyotard’s “The Postmodern Condition”
Deconstructionist critic, Jean-Francois Lyotard, revolutionizes previously held ideologies by announcing a new skepticism critical of modernity’s industrialization and subsequent transformation of the arts and sciences which Lyotard terms Post-modernism. In his article, “The Postmodern Condition,” Lyotard presents the idea of ‘metanarratives’ which are systems attempting to explain the whole of humanity and the world in one account (355). Lyotard draws examples from the religious and scientific spheres and specifically illustrates Catholicism and post-Industrial philosophies like Marxism as narratives which suppress smaller narratives such as an individual’s opinion. However, Lyotard argues many of these particular metanarratives strive to make their values prevail by imposing “a certain level of terror” (356). Yet the purpose of Post-modernity, Lyotard contends, is to debate endlessly and in spite of these dominant narratives rhetorical contests will always exist. As a result, Post-modernism strives to eradicate the idea of one definitive system of value. Lyotard also proposes the concept of legitimation and delegitimation of knowledge. Legitimation entails metanarratives creating truths, or ‘prescriptive statements’, to serve its goals and “allocate our lives for the growth of power” (358). Delegitimation, in the vein of post-modernity, liberates humanity from oppressive powers and allow anything from ideas to language to evolve into new forms without consequence from a dominant system.
Work Cited
Lyotard, Jean-Francois. “The Postmodern Condition.” Literary Theory: An
Anthology. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. New York: Blackwell
Pub., 1998. 355-364.

Posted by: Cecilia at February 23, 2009 08:06 PM

Wesley Johnson
Hobbs
Eng 435
25 February 2009
The empowering will of Fool for Love
Sam Shepard’s Fool For Love is a post modern love story. That is, there is a very unclear order of events and the reader is left with much uncertainty as to what actually occurs. Friedrich Nietzsche’s article “The Will to power” outlines the attempts of people to schematize new information into old categories (Nietzsche 265). Therefore, when presented with a new work, especially a post-modernist piece like Shepard’s, one is hard pressed to categorize the work. So, to apply Nietzsche’s notion of “the will to power” to Fool For Love, one need only examine some of the paradoxes in the story. In Fool For Love paradox is key; much of that action of the play is based on unsecure truths and secondary information.
Nietzsche describes the “will to truth” as an attempt of fear to make clean what is dirty (Nietzsche 270). That is, people atempt to catagorize events because they are scared into doing so. The characters within Fool for Love attempt to do this throughout the play. Most notably, the Old Man attempts to make his visions the ultimate truth or reality. And, as no one seems too concerned with what he says, he attempts to take his information and put it into the other characters’ schemas. For example, the Old Man describes a picture on the wall as “See that picture…That’s the woman of my dreams…She’s all mine. Forever” (Shepard 77). While this is the dramatic end to the play, earlier references of the old man to Eddie regarding this picture prove fruitless. As the Old man attempts to explain to Eddie that he is in fact married to the Barbara Mandrell picture; Eddie is unimpressed by this. But, the Old Man persists “Well…That’s realism. I am actually married to Barbara Mandrell in my mind. Can You understand that” (Shepard 27)? This question posited by The Old Man illuminates “the will to power.” Although he is a strange character, the old man is not content with simple truth. He sets out to redefine reality.
Also, the characters in the play attempt to understand what occurred in their lives. As one outlines their version of the story, the other one follows. So, as the characters attempt to understand new interpretations of events, so does the reader. In this way the play acts as a kind of practice for readers. Instead of searching for “truth” (which Nietzsche did not like), one may decide that the will to truth is not their desired path. Instead, the reader, like the characters in the play, will choose the “will to power.” That is, the readers can create for themselves a new ideal of reality or truth instead of just accepting the normative cultural values.


Works Cited
Nietzsche, Friedrich. “The Will to Power.” Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd Ed. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004. 266-270
Shepard, Sam. Fool for Love & the Sad Lament of Pecos Bill. San Francisco: City Lights, 2001.


Posted by: Wesley J. at February 25, 2009 11:26 AM

Brooke King
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 435
27 February 2012

Reading-Check Questions for Deconstruction Overview Chapters

Q:What is Derrrida trying to get at when he says that ideas and things that are like signs in language have "différance"?
A: there are no identities, only differences, the simultaneous movement of temporal deferment and spatial difference, both ongoing processes that constitute being (Rivkin and Ryan 258)

Q: Explain Derrida's idea of the "transcendental signified."
A: it is the possibility that ideas somehow exist apart from signification. Such ideas themselves are not signifiers; they exist outside the differential network that makes signification possible, points where truth appears in a realm separated entirely from signifiers.(Rivkin and Ryan 260-1).

Posted by: Brooke King at February 26, 2012 07:51 PM

Emmanuel Cruz
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 435
February 27, 2012
Questions
Is language ideological within deconstructive criticism? (253).Yes/ No.
A word is a linguistic___________ (251).

Posted by: Emmanuel Cruz at February 27, 2012 09:16 AM

Douglas Phillips
Burgsbee Hobbs
ENG 435
27 February 2012
Reading Check Questions
1. Q. According to Stephen Lynn, Deconstruction comes after what literary theory?
A. “Deconstruction is, in a literal and theoretical sense, what comes after structuralism” (Lynn 108).
2. Q. According to Rivkin and Ryan, what is “Deconstruction?”
A. “Deconstruction is the name of a method of critique developed by Jacques Derrida, a philosopher whose writing is central to the emergence of post-structuralism” (Theory 257).
Works Cited
Lynn, Stephen. “Structuralism and Deconstruction.” Contexts: Writing about Literature with Critical Theory. Fifth Ed. New York: Pearson, 2008. Web. 27 February 2012.
Rivkin, Julie, and Michael Ryan. “Introductory Deconstruction.” Literary Theory: an Anthology. Second Ed. Malden: Blackwell P,1998. Pgs. 257-61 Print.

Posted by: Douglas Phillips at February 27, 2012 09:17 AM

Travis N. Rathbone
Dr. B. Lee Hobbs
ENG 435
29 February 2012

Deconstruction Quiz Questions

Q: For Derrida, the meaning of a word stems solely from its distinguished difference from other words (Tyson 253).

True
False

A: True


Q: In considering binary oppositions, what does it mean for one term to be privileged over the other (Tyson 254)?

A: One term is considered superior to the other.

Posted by: Travis N. Rathbone at February 29, 2012 09:12 AM

Q: According to Lynn, Derrida beings deconstruction from the recognition that words do not directly refer to things. What does this mean?
A: If words directly referred to things, all languages would represent the world in the same way, and the meaning of words would be stable. (112)

True or False. For Derrida, the signifier and signified are not a unified entity, but rather an arbitrary and constantly shifting relationship. A: True (Lynn 112)

Posted by: Diego Pestana at February 29, 2012 10:21 AM

Diego Pestana
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 435
March 2, 2012
“On Truth and Lying in an Extra-moral Sense” Precis
In his essay “On Truth and Lying in an Extra-moral Sense,” Friedrich Nietzsche begins by writing about how presumptuous it is on the part of man to believe that he has a monopoly on, or even an idea of, the “truth.” Nietzsche comments that most of nature is kept hidden from man, even his very own functions, i.e. the blood flowing through the body. Upon this recognition that man's knowledge is dubitable, Nietzsche goes on to question the very premises of what truth, or anything, could objectively mean, and if man has anyway of ascertaining it.
Nietzsche writes about how arbitrary language, the only vehicle man has to communicate truth, is. In fact, Nietzsche writes, “Only by means of forgetfulness can man ever arrive at imagining that he possesses 'truth' in that degree just indicated” (262). In other words, it is only by forgetting how arbitrary language is that man can believe he has some idea of the “truth.” Nietzsche calls out language, and the words that make it up, for what it really is: nerve-stimuli in sounds. Once the arbitrary nature of language is realized, it becomes easier to understand the idea Nietzsche later conveys as language as removed. Nietzsche writes that language is a series of metaphors. For Nietzsche, the nerve-stimulus that interprets objects or ideas is the first metaphor, followed by that perception being conveyed through sound, which is the second metaphor. And in this fashion, Nietzsche illustrates how far removed language is from an objective reality, or truth.
After noting the arbitrary nature of language and how far removed it is from objective truth, Nietzsche restates his assertion that it is only through forgetting this, that man claims to know truth. Nietsche writes that “Truth are illusions of which one has forgotten that they are illusions” (263). And it is through this forgetfulness, according to Nietzsche, that man is able to establish orders. For example, because man forgets that his notion of truth is illusory, he is able to establish fixed laws that are meant to be seen as objective and true. For Nietzsche, this tendency on man's part to be architecture to orders that are built off of illusions is admirable, as the premises on which these orders stand are ever-changing.
Nietzsche concludes the selection by noting the tendency on man's part to forget that his perception of truth is based off on his experience as the subject. What this means, is that man believes that he has a monopoly on objective truth because of a lack of recognition of other points of view. For example, Nietzsche writes that man's perception of the world would be quite different than that from an insect or bird. Nietzsche writes that man doesn't recognize these other points of view because it would imply there being an objective truth, which, for Nietzsche, there isn't. As Nietzsche writes that an attempt to do this is an attempt “to apply the standard of right perception, i.e. to apply a standard which does not exist” (265).

Work Cited

Nietzsche, Friedrich. “On Truth and Lying in an Extra-moral Sense.” 1873. Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd ed. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden : Blackwell, 2004. 262-65. Print.

Posted by: Diego Pestana at March 2, 2012 02:03 AM

Douglas Phillips
Burgsbee Hobbs
ENG 435
02 March 2012
Simulacra and Simulations Précis
In Jean Baudrillard’s essay “Simulacra and Simulations,” the author begins by introducing an allegorical tale of a map of the Borges Empire that was so exact that “with the decline of the Empire this map becomes frayed and finally ruined, a few shreds still discernible in the deserts” (365). This tale draws a direct correlation between the simulacra (the map) and the real object (the Empire). Ultimately, the signs of real things end up taking the place of real objects in our society.
Next, Baudrillard explains the meanings of the words dissimulate and simulate: “To dissimulate is to feign not to have what one has. To simulate is to feign to have what one hasn’t” (366). Thus, dissimulation suggests presence and simulation suggests absence. However, simulation is stated to go beyond feigning, and that it involves creating a simulacrum of an object being feigned or faked. So, dissimulation merely masks the truth, while simulation creates a truth which is simultaneously false.
Two more important terms applied by Baudrillard are the “hyperreal” and the “imaginary.” In defining these terms, Baudrillard supposes that the theme park of Disneyland is not, in fact, just a representation of America, it is the “’real’ America, which is Disneyland” (369). In other words, the simulation of the theme park has become a “hyperreal,” the truth of what is being simulated, and is no longer an “imaginary” object, and the “real” country that Disneyland represents is itself no longer real.
Baudrillard also addresses the infamous Watergate “scandal” and argues that Watergate was in fact not a scandal by re-examining the purpose behind the media attention to Watergate. Because the scandal serves as a “means to regenerate a reality principle in distress” (370), it is not a true scandal. Instead, a scandal is simulated to “regenerate” morality, and now “the task is to conceal that there is [no scandal]” (370). This shows how a perception of reality can actually supersede reality itself. Simulation has become an important tool in political manipulations between the “right” and the “left,” yet every manipulation could go either way.
One disturbing reality of simulation is that because of the very existence of simulation, “law and order themselves might really be nothing more than a simulation” (372). In other words, because we know that things can be untrue, there is a legitimate reason for doubting the validity of social structures upon which we rely for stability. Also, if one were to simulate something such as a crime, there is always the risk of the act being interpreted as a “real” crime and because of the perception of others; there is the chance for real consequences, even if everything about the “crime” is fake. In essence, as Baudrillard puts it, “this is why order always opts for the real. In a state of uncertainty, it always prefers this assumption” (373). Basically, because a simulation might be truth, formal organizations have to treat the simulation as though it is real.
Finally, Baudrillard concludes with a lecture on the simulation of work, that it is “the object of a social ‘demand,’ like leisure” (375). This is in turn related to power, how the reality is gone, replaced by a hollow simulacrum. The ideology of work is now a power scenario, and that power is “in accord with ideological discourses and discourses on ideology, for these are discourses of truth… to counter the mortal blows of simulation” (376). Power seeks to restore truth and expunge simulation, and ideology allows for such purgation, although ideology itself may be a simulation.

Work Cited
Baudrillard, Jean. “Simulacra and Simulations.” Literary Theory: an Anthology. Second ed. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. 1998. Pgs 365-77. Malden: Blackwell P. Print.

Posted by: Douglas Phillips at March 2, 2012 01:59 PM

Travis N. Rathbone
Dr. B. Lee Hobbs
ENG 435
5 March 2012

Deconstruction Precis: Derrida’s “Différance”

Derrida utilizes the verb “to differ” to illustrate his concept of différance. The verb “to differ” can correspond both to the different and to the deferred. The play on the word difference is characterized by variation, distinction, inequality, and discernibility. This refers to spacing within the concept. Concordantly, the play on the word differed expresses a sense of delay, and this refers to a temporalizing of the concept. For Derrida, the différance to which the concept refers exists in a state between speech and writing. Because of this, différance is neither a word nor a concept.

Interestingly, différance refers to the entirety of its meaning and is self-contained. This self-contained nature is a wholly unique characteristic of the concept, for signs rely on other signs to garner significance. Signs are not autonomous, and complete meaning cannot be contained within a single sign.

For Derrida, Meaning stems from the difference found within signs. Every sign contains within itself, and references, a modicum of the signs that come before and the signs that follow. In this way, a chain of signifiers is created that is endless by nature. There is never a single signifier that refers to a single signified. Instead, a signifier is defined by the signifiers around it, and each signifier contains an impression of the other signifiers. In this way, meaning is postponed along a chain of signifiers. There never will be a single word to which the chain will refer back, nor will the ever be a single word to which the chain reaches. Signification resides within the perpetual nature of the signifiers.

Another concept of import for Derrida is the concept of trace. To an extent, tracing a sign is to follow it down the rabbit hole that is the chain of signifiers. In essence, the concept of trace is inseparable from the concept of difference.

Work Cited

Derrida, Jacques. “Différance.” 1968. Literary Theory: An Anthology 2nd Ed. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004. 278 – 99. Print.

Posted by: Travis N. Rathbone at March 5, 2012 01:28 PM

Question 1:
According to Lynn, deconstruction assumes that language is arbitrary. True or false?
Answer: True
(Lynn 140)
Question 2:
Deconstruction encourages us to resist a complacent acceptance of anything and to question our positions and statements in a particularly rigorous way. True or false?
Answer: True
(Lynn 112)

-------------------------------------

Students,

Here are your self-designed questions, rephrased as they appear on the reading check with the answers. Please strive for this format for your future self-designed reading check questions.

Dr. Hobbs

1. From Stephen Lynn: Derrida begins his formulation of deconstruction from the recognition that words do not directly refer to things. What does this mean? In other words, if words DID directly refer to “things” what would be the result?
A: If words directly referred to things, all languages would represent the world in the same way, and the meaning of words would be stable. (112)

2. From Lois Tyson: Imagine a person standing in an open field pointing to the only tree in sight and proclaiming “This tree is big.” At first glance, this sentence seems “clear and specific.” Deconstructionists would ask us to look at the many ambiguities present. Identify, at least, one.
A: (1) Is the speaker comparing the tree to herself? (2) Is the speaker comparing the tree to another tree? If so, what tree? (3) Is the speaker “surprised” by the size of the tree or just informing us that it happens to be big? (Tyson 252).

3. From Rivkin and Ryan: What is Derrida trying to get at when he says that ideas and things that are like signs in language have “différance”?
A: There are no identities, only differences, the simultaneous movement of temporal deferment and spatial difference, both ongoing processes that constitute being (Rivkin and Ryan 258).

4. From Stephen Lynn: (Multiple Choice) Which of the following statements did Derrida profess?
[a] “There is nothing outside the text”
[b] “There is no outside the text”
[c] “There is no text”
[d] All of the above
[e] None of the above
[f] Only “a” and “b”

A: [f] (Lynn 112)

5. From Lois Tyson: According to deconstruction how is language nonreferential?
A: Language is nonreferential because it consists of a chain of signifiers. It refers to neither things in the world or our concepts of things and it is made up of only the play of the signifiers (Tyson 252).

6. From Rivkin and Ryan: Explain Derrida’s idea of the “transcendental signified.”
A: It is the possibility that ideas somehow exist apart from signification. Such ideas themselves are not signifiers; they exist outside the differential network that makes signification possible, points where truth appears in a realm separated entirely from signifiers (Rivkin and Ryan 260-1)

7. From Stephen Lynn: (True or False?) For Derrida, the signifier and signified are not a unified entity, but rather an arbitrary and constantly shifting relationship.
A: True (Lynn 112)

8. From Lois Tyson: (True or False?) For Derrida, the meaning of a word stems solely from its distinguished difference from other words.
A: True (Tyson 253).

9. From Stephen Lynn: (True or False?) The term “deconstruction,” as critical theorists understand and use it, is generally thought of as synonymous with “dismantling” or “destruction.”
A: False (Lynn 112).

10. From Lois Tyson: Many people interpret the old saying “time flies like an arrow” to mean that time passes quickly. However, according to the deconstructionist, there are obviously several other meanings. Provide at least one alternate meaning. Hint: verbs could be nouns and vice-versa.
A:
(1) Time (verb) flies (object/noun) like an arrow (adv. Clause) = Get out your stopwatch and time the speed of flies as you’d time an arrow’s flight.
(2) Time flies (noun as it fruit flies) like (verb) an arrow (object/noun) = Time flies are fond of arrows (or, at least, one particular arrow) (Tyson 250).

11. From Stephen Lynn: Explain, briefly, at least two different ways a sign in an elevator that says “Seeing Eye Dogs Only” can be interpreted and also explain the irony.
A:
1. Only guide-dogs for the blind can ride this elevator (people take the stairs).
2. Blind persons with other “seeing-eye” animals are not allowed on the elevator.
3. Can a non-blind person with a dog who has papers that says it is “seeing-eye” certified ride the elevator? (Think abuse of handicap parking).
3. Persons with sight-impairment cannot read the sign (Lynn 113).

12. From Lois Tyson: In considering terms with binary oppositions, what does it mean to say that “one term to be “privileged” over the other”?
A: One term is considered superior to the other (Tyson 254)?

13. From Stephen Lynn: Using deconstruction tactics, many ironies and alternative meanings can be derived from the advertised titled “Hemingway’s Cap.” Identify one.
A: Macho hat for guys who aren’t macho. Live the life of Hemingway as he did in Ketchum? He killed himself there. What does “blowing off your head” also signify? (Lynn 115).

14. From Lois Tyson: What is the primary factor that influences how a person sees the world? Hint: It is considered to be an “ideological quality”
A: The language that one is born with/in to.

15. From Lois Tyson: Through what medium are the ideologies of a culture passed on to future generations and/or other cultures?
A: Through language.

16. How do binary oppositions support ideologies in the realm of deconstruction?
A: Part of deconstruction is exploring the ways language determines experiences. People tend to conceptualize experiences by using binary oppositions. Each binary opposition is hierarchal with one term privileged over the other. By identifying the privileged term within the opposition the ideology is discovered.

17. What is Derrida’s view of language?
A: “It is not a reliable tool of communication” (241) which most people feel it is. Instead, he claims that it is loose and made up of experiences that ideologies have programmed into people and they do not even realize it.

18. There are two apparent purposes for deconstructing a text. Identify, at least, one.
A: (1) “To reveal the text’s undecidability” (2) to unveil the ideologies that construct the text

Posted by: Tiffany Carpenter at March 5, 2012 11:32 PM

Travis N. Rathbone
Dr. B. Lee Hobbs
ENG 435
9 March 2012

In Search of Common Ground: The Chain of Signification in The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The displacement of meaning down a perpetual chain of signifiers is one of the salient ideas championed in Jacque Derrida’s essay “Différance.” Ultimately, a sign is not an autonomous entity but relies on, and is relied upon by, other signs to garner significance. Derrida illustrates this point by stating that “[e]very [signified] concept is necessarily and essentially inscribed in a chain or system, within which it refers to another and to other concepts, by the systematic play of differences” (Derrida 285). The issue that subsequently arises is whether any significance can be achieved at all, for if the meaning of a sign is perpetually passing down an endless chain of signifiers, certitude will never be achieved. This “difference” of meaning and the implications therein are made apparent in Milan Kundera’s novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

In applying Jacque Derrida’s notion of the endless chain of signifiers to Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, one need to look no further than the section of the novel aptly titled “Misunderstood Words” to see the volatile nature of language. The perpetual play of signifiers—each impressing and containing within it the other—can be seen in the interactions between Franz and Sabina, specifically in reference to the bowler hat: “[H]e listened eagerly to the story of her life ad she was equally eager to hear the story of his, but although they had a clear understanding of the logical meaning of the words they exchanged, they failed to hear the semantic susurrus of the river flowing through them” (Kundera 88). Ultimately, the bowler hat represents something different for each character. For Sabina, the hat embodies a plethora of meaning and significance. For Franz, it held no meaning at all: “What made him feel uncomfortable was its very lack of meaning” (Kundera 88). The bowler hat is one representation of the constant misunderstanding between Franz and Sabina, but it is also merely the tip of the iceberg. A lexicon of other misunderstood words is also present in the novel.

When discussing the bowler hat, Kundera often follows a line of reasoning that ultimately appeals to a Derridian sensibility: “the bowler hat was a [river]bed through which each time Sabina saw another river flow, another semantic river: each time the same object would give rise to a new meaning, though all former meanings would resonate (like an echo, like a parade of echoes) together with the new one” (Kundera 88). This seems to be an apt metaphor to illustrate the shortcomings of language and the inability to arrive at a point of single significance. In this case, meaning is forever held at bay, moving endlessly down the chain of signifiers until its place of origin is lost and its endpoint is incomprehensible. It is interesting to note that all hope of communication is not lost, for each signifier does contain within itself the minute presence of every other signifier. It is here that salvation from the wasteland of significant language can be found; if every signifier contains within itself the shadow of every other signifier, than there will always be present a faint trace of reciprocal significance. At least enough meaning is produced to foster some form of communication; if no meaning was present, communication would be impossible.

Perhaps this minutiae of understanding created the bases for Sabina and Franz’s union. Given their lexicon of misunderstood words was so vast, mutual understanding had to stem from some source. Perhaps the difficulty for Franz and Sabina is temporal by nature. Ultimately, Kundera suggests that once people mature and become set in their ways, it becomes more difficult to engage in a common understanding of significance—the epitome of words misunderstood.

Works Cited
Derrida, Jacques. “Différance.” 1968. Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd Ed. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004. 278-99. Print.
Kundera, Milan. The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Trans. Michael Henry Heim. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1984. Print.

Posted by: Travis N. Rathbone at March 9, 2012 01:36 PM

Emmanuel Cruz
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 435
March 09 2012
Deconstruction within Fences
Lyotard examines the relationship between language and history, which directly applies to August Wilson’s Fences. The characters within this play embrace the English language quite differently—they communicate by speaking words that are uniquely used by African Americans. Characters such as Troy, Cory, and Rose, identify themselves with black dialect because it symbolizes their background, heritage, and culture. These three characters, evidently, share a common background and heritage, which allow them to interact with one another without being misunderstood. Based on Lyotard’s argument, Troy, Cory, and Rose are not using black dialect to distant themselves from their current society (white society). They are using black dialect because the relationship between their history and language is too difficult to separate from one another. For instance, Troy is rejected by white society, which is symbolized by his struggle to survive and by his struggle to provide for his family. He, of course, never overcomes the society that has been holding him back both psychologically and emotionally. Hence, he can only overcome white society by creating something unique of his culture that nobody can take away from him but other African Americans—he relies on language. Black dialect within Fences not only symbolizes the struggle of African Americans, but it also symbolizes the direct relationship between history and language. Language evolves as societies and people grow older, which is symbolized by history. Lyotard argues that new languages should not be overlooked or ignored because they stem from humanity—they are the product of history. Lyotard writes that “new languages are added to the old ones, forming suburbs of the old town” (360). The black dialect used by Troy, Cory, and Rose represent the beauty of evolution.

Works Cited
Lyotard, Jean-Francois. “The Postmodern Condition.” Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd ed. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. 90-97. Print.


Posted by: Emmanuel Cru at March 13, 2012 10:11 AM

Tiffany Anne Carpenter
Dr. Hobbs
Eng 435- Literary Criticism
7 March 2012
Précis 4: “Writing” by Barbara Johnson
In her article, “Writing,” Barbara Johnson discusses how important writing is to not only the texts we read, but the theories we develop and apply to them as well. She questions, “isn’t [writing] merely a medium through which a reader encounters words no a page?” (340). She examines the “theoretical ‘revolution’ in France in 1967” and how it had an impact on the world of literary studies and theory (340). She mentions major figures and their contributions and perspectives in writing such as Saussure’s descriptions of sign and the idea of the signifier and signified, Barthes’ concept of paradox and language, and Strauss’ elements. She discusses the role of logic and examines Derrida’s examination of the paradox that “western tradition is filled with writing that privilege speech” (343). Continuing the examination of influential thinkers and theorists, she takes a look at the psychoanalytic theory of Jacques Lacan and the influence of Frued in relationship to the role of how signifiers and the signified are termed and related to the conscious and unconscious. Additionally, she briefly touches on the role of linguistics and how writing is influenced by specific word choice, the role of phonetic language, and speech. She points out Derrida’s point that “the emphasis on writing as the more originary category is designed to counter the history of logocentrism and to track the functioning of difference in structures of signification” and the idea of the extended metaphor as a “metaphysical conceit” (344). Furthermore, she attempts to explain Derrida’s idea of a “supplement” acting as additions and substitutes in relationship to writing. She argues that most of the works and arguments that Derrida proposed were not against writing, but rather ended up being about reading. She closes her article by pointing out that the importance of all of these men as theorists who commented on the role of writing, reading, and logic at the time also failed to include the role of women, mentioning the importance of Gilbert and Gubar’s joining the literary scene, and “others,” such as the lens of Orientalism.

Work Cited
Johnson, Barbara. “Writing.” 1990. Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd Ed. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004. 340-48. Print.

Posted by: tiffany.carpenter at March 19, 2012 11:46 PM

Brooke King
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 435
29 Feb. 2012
Mighty Morphing Beowulf
The epic poem of Beowulf has been translated into many avenues of literature, comparing characters, meaning, etc. However, very little has been said about its basic narrative structure, the meat and a potatoes of the poem itself. By looking at a certain section of structure within the poem, one can find that it structure parallels to other epics and narrative works. Vladimir Propp suggests that every narrative folk-tale has a universal narrative structure. In Beowulf one of Propp's thirty-one functions exists quite obviously, the villainy that occurs in the form of Grendel. Villainy is a section of the narrative structure that deals with the villain causing harm. Looking at the character Grendel in Beowulf, the villainy function within Propp's universal folk-tale structure can be seen and broken down, making Beowulf a universally structured narrative poem.
The villainy function serves to create the conflict within the narration. In order to cause disarray within the narration, a element of complication must be introduced. The villain suits this role of hindrance for the hero. " The villain causes harm/injury to a family member (by abduction... plunders in other forms... commits murder...). This lack is made known; the hero is given a request or a command, and he goes or is sent on a mission/quest" (Rivkin and Ryan 75). In Beowulf, Grendel attacks Heorot, leaving Hrothgar defenseless against Grendel's evil doings. Grendel serves as the catalyst for Beowulf to leave Geatland "and seek out that king, the famous prince who needed defenders" (Norton 1636). The initially attack by Grendel serves as the function for which other actions are taken off of and used to serve as other elements of function. Propp's structure relies on the fact that every function feds off another function. So, when Grendel attacked Heorot, it triggered the call to adventure for Beowulf ,what Propp calls "the beginning counter-action," where the hero agrees or decides upon a counter-action in order to resolve the villainy that has taken place.
Beowulf entrance into the narrative plot occurs as a continuance of the dramatis personae that Grendel begot when his narrative function of villainy occurred. The sequence of events, Propp asserts, must go in a certain order for the function of action and dramatis personae to continue. In other words, Grendel and Beowulf have to meet and strikes blows with each other because their dramatis personas are at odds with their functions within the narrative structure.
So Grendel waged his lonely war,
inflicting constant cruelties on the people,
atrocious hurt. He took over Heorot,
haunting the glittered halls after dark... (1635)
The introduction of the hero, Beowulf, must occur because Grendel's actions have occurred, lending themselves to the function of villainy within the narrative structure and plot. Grendel himself cannot serve as a function of dramatis persona without Beowulf character to counter him. They serve as equal functions. "Functions of characters serve as stable, constant elements in a tale... They constitute the fundamental components of a tale" (Rivkin and Ryan 73). While the functions can vary in action, coming before or after in the tale, they must be there in order for the dramatis persona to exist and it is because these functions are certain in a tale, the tale can be viewed through the use of the functions to understand the narrative structure.
Beowulf exists within Propp's definition of morphological folk-tale because the functions within the narrative structure are set off by the actions of the dramatis personas within the narrative plot. Grendel's villainy serves a glimpse of how Propp's functions of dramatis persona work within Beowulf. However, it is Grendel's function within the poem that proves to be the catalyst for the remaining functions within the epic poem, which coincides with Propp's thirty-one functions of dramatis persona, making Beowulf a universally structure epic poem.

Work Cited
"Beowulf." The Norton Anthology of World Literature. Ed. Sarah N. Lawall and Maynard Mack. 2nd ed. Vol. B. New York: Norton, 2002. 1626-702. Print. 100-1500.
Propp, Vladimir. "Morphology of the Folk-tale."1927. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. 2nd ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2004. 72-75. Print.

Posted by: Brooke King at March 20, 2012 04:00 PM

Tiffany Anne Carpenter
Dr. Hobbs
Eng 435- Literary Criticism
9 March 2012
The Role of Writing in Wilson’s Fences
In her article on “Writing,” Barbara Johnson explains the importance of writing, language, and how the role of the text plays into the interpretations of the reader. Writing about influential thinkers in the realm of philosophy, literary thought, and the elements of speech and diction, it is important the Johnson discusses how the slightest choices in writing can make a vast impact on the audience. One of the works that we have examined this semester, August Wilson’s Fences, is a good example of the importance of word choice and how it can alter the perspective and understanding of the audience. For example, the use of diction that August Wilson employs with the dialogue of his characters, namely Troy and Bono, allows him to introduce and emphasize to his readers the world of the black Americans of the time and their struggles with education, society, and identity. He focuses on the theme of baseball, setting it us as a symbol of the traditional American dream and pastime in the 1950’s. Furthermore, with the specific selections of his characters’ jobs in their society, he comments on the economic and class struggles that were prevalent of the time, especially for minorities in America and the role of these struggles for all Americans as a result of the umbrella of war and the pre-civil rights movement. Wilson’s writing does, however, leave some hope towards the end of the play because not only has he showcased the difficulties of the time, the nation, and the people, but he has also left room for growth pending the members of society understanding the world around them and making an effort to grow and develop in that world. Troy and Bono seem to be fighting against the changes in society at various points throughout the novel, and there are some new opportunities that Wilson showcases as coming to light for the black American community, if only they strive to take advantage of those opportunities and change with the times around them, for better or worse.
Being able to touch on such a wide variety of social issues and criticisms, Wilson is a great example of how subtle messages in his writing and various themes and symbolisms can have more meaning than those at face value. As a result, his writing is so selective and allows the importance of speech, language, diction, and style to shine through in the way that his readers and audience are able to understand and interpret his writing and relate their own logic and experience to that writing.


Work Cited
Johnson, Barbara. “Writing.” 1990. Literary Theory: An Anthology. 2nd Ed. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004. 340-48. Print.
Wilson, August. Fences. New York: Plume, 1986. Print.

Posted by: tiffany.carpenter at March 24, 2012 11:34 AM

Brooke King
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 433
9 March 2012
The Newly Born Woman
In Hélène Cixous’s essay The Newly Born Woman, she focuses on deconstructing the binary in masculinity and femininity by suggesting the median of these sexes in bisexuality. She starts by defining that everywhere there exists a binary ordering, a law of organization to what is thought to be opposition within the binary order. These pairs than become coupled together, asserting that the one that comes first is the favored and the second in the pair is the passive one, the one that is not favored. She then further defines and questions hierarchical order and asserts that this organization of power was created by man and that no other species does this, but man. However, she switches and points out that while man created the hieratical structure, he has put his coupled mate lower, leaving women as passive. She further points out that while women are construed as passive in philosophy, man asserts that she must have power because of her mothering figure. Cixous argues that a woman must either be passive of not exist in the eyes of man because man must always be dominate. However, Cixous claims that the key to leveling this absolution of sexes is to dual gender each sex, making the playing field, equal, so to speak.
The concept of bisexuality surrounds the concept of making known each sex to the other, the binary sex couples of man/woman then become a “them,” where a man exudes both masculinity and femininity and vice versa for women. This state of “them” is called “I.” The concept involves in writing as genders become blended, taking away the gender of the piece and attaching it with the concept of “I suffer” or “I enchant,” allowing the inscribed gender take form in the eyes of the reader and not have it predestined on paper. It makes the writing more universal, Cixous claims. The theory then is that two within me, and not even two wholes, but rather two halves that create a whole. Cixous asserts that femininity and bisexuality go together because both are conceived to be passive in the eyes of man. However, she does point out that it is much harder for a man to let femininity in than it is for a woman to allow masculinity in. Cixous claims that this is because men must keep their assertive title and by allowing femininity in, it would somehow weaken their assertive masculinity. It is because men fear the femininity of their gender that they constantly create the negative passive female binary, entrapping women into being passive. Men fear being possessed and because femininity is address by men as passive, possession over a man by a woman is feared because women are thought to be passive and submissive as a gender. However, Cixous says that if men were to bisexualize their gender perceptions, then the fear of being possessed would not exist and man would be able to live as equals with women.
Cixous ends her essay by saying that, “I am spacious singing Flesh: onto which no one grafts but I- which masculine and feminine, more or less human but above all living, because changing I” (354).


Work Cited
Cixous, Hélène. "The Newly Born Woman." 1975. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. 2nd ed. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. 348-54. Print.

Posted by: brooke king at April 13, 2012 05:33 PM

Brooke King
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 435
12 March 2012
Sabina’s Bisexuality
Throughout Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, he toys with the sexuality of his characters, for example giving the male name of Karenin to a female dog and giving Franz overly masculine qualities. However, when looking at Hélène Cixous’s definition of bisexuality in her essay The Newly Born Woman, Kundera’s character Sabina shines through as a definitive bisexualize character.
Sabina, from the very beginning of the book, toys with her sexuality and questions her feminine identity. However, it is when she meets Thomas’s wife, Tereza that her bisexual tendencies flare up, overtly making herself masculine so that Tereza is off guard. Cixous’s view of bisexuality deals with the concept of passivity and the female form. The concept of dual gendering happens when Tereza asks to come to Sabina’s apartment so that she can photograph Sabina. Cixous defines bisexuality in two ways, one is the possibility and the other is the practice of bisexuality. Cixous define the possibility of bisexuality as, “a fantasy of complete being, which replaces the fear of castration and veils sexual difference… a fantasy of unity. Two within one” (351-2). Sabina embraces this definition when she takes the camera away from Tereza and demands that she strip naked. This authoritarian assertion of Sabina’s part engenders her femininity to a masculine side. “Hearing the word now made her desire to obey even stronger, because doing a stranger’s bidding is a special madness, a madness all the more heady in this case because the command came not from a man but from a woman” (Kundera 66). By forcing Tereza into a situation that is usually brought on by a male, Sabina has crossed over to a bisexual side of femininity, which Cixous defines as a part of understanding the feminine and masculine binary.
The second way bisexuality can be looked at according to Cixous definition is the practice of bisexuality. Sabina, in demanding that Tereza be the passive female by stripping, has applied the practice of bisexuality. “Bisexuality… is …the location within oneself of the presence of both sexes, evident and insistent in different ways according to the individual, the nonexclusion of difference or of a sex… the multiplication of the effects of desire’s inscription on every part of the body and the other body” (Cixous 352). Through her actions towards Tereza, Sabina subverts her role as a female and bi-genders herself. The effect is then that she inscribes both genders to herself, practicing both the erotic tendencies of the other body gender and the same erotic tendencies of the same gender. “Thus Tomas’s mistress has just given Tomas’s command to Tomas’s wife. The two women were joined by the same magic word… I think that Sabina, too, felt the strange enchantment of the situation: her lover’s wife standing oddly compliant and timorous before her” (Kundera 66). By ascribing both genders to herself, Sabina has become the dual gender, the partnering of both sexes. Cixous asserted that femininity and bisexuality were linked together through a combination of variation that differed from the individual. When Sabina entered into a bisexual state, both Tereza and Sabina became bi-gendered. They both shared a collective consciousness about the state of their sexuality, the coming together of their shared experience.
Cixous defined bisexuality as a common ground for which two people can be made whole through an experience. Sabin and Tereza, through their experience together, came to understand one another in terms of their separate experiences with Tomas. Though Sabina is characterized differently than any other character in Kundera’s book, she is a prime example of Cixous terminology of what bisexuality means in terms of the female state.

Work Cited
Cixous, Hélène. "The Newly Born Woman." 1975. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. 2nd ed. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. 348-54. Print.
Kundera, Milan. The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Trans. Michael Henry. Heim. New York:
Harperperennial, 2009. Print.

Posted by: brooke king at April 13, 2012 06:04 PM

Joseph Schwartz
Dr. Hobbs
ENG 435
23 April 2013

An Analysis of _A Farewell to Arms_ and _The Stranger_ through Deconstructionist Criticism

_A Farewell to Arms_ by Ernest Hemingway is a story that represents two types of literary thought. The story is seen as an early example of modernism; it also seen through the lens of the deconstruction. Deconstructionist criticism teaches that the "text" is not always truth, and that different structures like truth, are fallible constructs of man. By approaching Hemingway's text, from this perspective, we can see how the truths of love and war fail to represent any meaning. Albert Camus, The Stranger, a popular novella written in 1943, it is one of the prominent symbols of absurdism in literature. This text will be used as a secondary source in order better discuss the deconstruction of truth within A Farewell to Arms. Both these works and there authors, are infamous for representing a period corrupted by violence, poverty, and war. The stories represent the feeling of ambiguity and hopelessness in a world that was seemingly lost. Hemingway and Camus created pessimism in their work that reflected the time period they lived in. Since both authors were heavily involved with political affairs, their lives were an enduring legacy in popular culture. A Farewell to Arms when first published in 1929 solidified Hemingway's claim to literary immortality. Already famous for his earlier work, The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway (only the age of twenty-nine) second effort became one of the more prominent novels of a "lost" generation. Albert Camus also would later become a literary force in the 1940's. His novels centered on characters who lacked emotional depth and his plots were often narcissistic and meaningless. The Stranger is Camus first novel, and one of his most intriguing. The story is about a protagonist with no feeling or emotion. He is neither evil nor good; he represents the philosophy of absurdism. A Farewell to Arms and The Stranger are two works that represent the ideals of deconstructionism. These authors also rely on the underlying meaning of text to produce emotion and insight. A Farewell to Arms and The Stranger are both great examples of this form. Jacques Derrida's quote below is the definition of how underlying meaning can be derived both of these works. “What cannot be said above all must not be silenced but written” (Derrida).
A Farewell to Arms is a classic of American literature. It is one of the most important pieces that discuss the depravity of World War I. The novels primary themes are love and war. Each represents truths that can be deconstructed. The novel is about an American expatriate named Fredric Henry. He joins the Italian army in World War I despite his cultural differences. As an ambulance driver for the army he has become disenchanted with war. The sadness and violence that surrounds the battlefront have destroyed Fredric both emotionally and mentally. The consequences of these feelings often deprive Fredric of enjoying a normal life. Instead he gets drunk often and has affairs with many women. Although Fredric has the persona of a "tough-guy," in actuality Fredric has trouble dealing with his feelings of isolation and insecurity. Hemingway depicts Fredric as a simple man who enjoys simple pleasures. His desire for wine and salacious nights on the town have a created a lost sense of moral ethics within him. Hemingway makes it a point to depict Fredric as a man who has a lost sense of morality. Like Camus’, The Stranger, Hemingway writes in a terse simple style. He limits his words and detail in order to convey underlying emotion in the work. The Ice-Berg theory is a theory created by Hemingway to understand the philosophy behind the style. Hemingway describes a good work of fiction as an iceberg that only shows the surface of its proper purpose. It is not until careful re-readings that one will see the deeper meaning underneath the surface of a text. In A Farewell to Arms this theme is highly prevalent. There are many examples, where it is apparent that Hemingway left certain parts of the novel ambiguous. Because of this, acquiring truth from the work is complex and subjective. This relates to one of the principles of deconstructionist theory. Truth is a construct built from a human structure; how we define truth is through language that is often flawed and vague. Hemingway is purposely using vague language to show us how the search for the truth is senseless and absurd. In this quote from the novel he discusses how men who live in chaos have nothing lose compared to others who fight the futility. “But life isn't hard to manage when you've nothing to lose” (Hemingway 138). In the novel, Frederic falls in love with a British nurse, Catherine Barkley. Here is another example of absurdism in the piece. Catherine and Frederic are separated from their homes for miles. Both serve on a foreign front, and Fredric is an American who assumes the identity of another culture. There is no objective truth to truly define these individuals. Instead they are a simply two people caught in the hopelessness of war. As they fall in love, Frederic is nearly killed in a bombing. Because of this, he experiences a brief freedom from the hell that is the Italian battlefront. Although at first Fredric joined the Italian Army to acquire glory, he comes to the consensus that the truth of war is chaos. The officers from the front are inflicted by the death and violence happening around them. Most of them use prostitution and drinking to sedate their emotions. Because of this many have lost their morale and others cannot carry living anymore. There are many examples in the novel of how the chaos of war has caused people to lose their sense of humanity and there value of truth. Earlier in the novel Frederic treats a man who is willing to give himself a concussion and prolong his painful hernia to avoid the battlefront. Before the bombing that injures Frederic, he and his fellow ambulance driver are discussing the injustices of the war. Passini and another driver are arguing with Frederic over whether the Italian army should give into Austrians and surrender.
“It could be worse,' Passini said respectfully." There is nothing worse than war."
“Defeat is worse."
“I do not believe it," Passini said still respectfully. "What is defeat? You go home”
(Hemingway 52).
They begin to agree that they would rather see their country surrender then to spend another night on the front fighting the war, no matter what the consequences. After the bombing, Frederic is awarded the Medal of Honor for no apparent reason. The only thing he did was bring macaroni and cheese to the hungry drivers sitting in the dugout. He did nothing be become injured. This is again another example of how the war and the countries pursuit of achieving victory have no real morale truth. The war does not create bravery or glory; instead it creates evil and chaos. The end of the novel is one of the most controversial of all literature. The symbolism surrounding the death of Catherine Barkley in child birth and what is left of Frederic Henry afterwards is left up to speculation. Love in the story is the only way Frederic comes close to absolution and truth in his life. “When I saw her I was in love with her. Everything turned over inside of me. She looked toward the door, saw there was no one, then she sat on the side of the bed and leaned over and kissed me” (Hemingway 91). Before he meets Catherine he is a drunkard who gives in to the pleasures of a sinful existence. After they fall in love he transforms. This transformation begins as a romance and slowly evolves into feelings intense passion. Emotions for Frederic are very hard for him express, but his feelings for Catherine are intense and beautiful. Her death shows how although love can form a sense of truth, but in a world where there is no sense of meaning, love is lost.
Albert Camus, The Stranger, is a story about a man named Meursault who lacks feeling and emotion. In order to properly show how The Stranger and A Farewell to Arms both exude the philosophy of absurdism, there must be an in depth analysis of how Meursault and Frederic compare. Both are reflections of each other. Meursault is a protagonist who is not very interesting, like Frederic Henry he can be seen as boring and almost ineffectual. Although both characters enjoy the pleasures of life, they have trouble relaying their emotions to others. Meursault like Frederic also kills for insubordination. Meursault kills a man he doesn't even know because he "rebelled" against the domestic abuse caused by his friend Raymond. Frederic in turn, kills a "strange" man because he deserted the Italian army. Both of these protagonists show little emotion after they kill, in a sense both they are hardened by their unemotional nature. As you can see, both of these novels are similar, in that they value chaos over reason. Frederic's life is destroyed by the chaos of life, and Meursault seeks destruction through chaos of violence. In A Farewell to Arms, the idea that life is a chaotic entity, uncaring of humanities struggle is personified in this quote: “The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kill. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially” (Hemingway 293). Camus' obsession with the absurd does not just focus on truth. Like Hemingway, Camus also sees the notion of "god" and religion as ridiculous. In a world built on chaos, there can be no room for a creator or divine structure. Instead both of these authors saw life as a force that cared little for humanity or any reason. This created a pessimism that permeated in both A Farewell to Arms and The Stranger. The Stranger's ending deals with the Meursault's trial and conviction. In a sense it is Meursault's trial and conviction of God. When he is sentenced to execution, he visits a priest who does anything in his power to convert him. Meursault refuses to believe in the notion of God and religion because he believes that people live a meaningless existence. Going so far as to say: “I had only a little time left and I didn't want to waste it on God” (Camus 73).The same theme can be seen A Farewell to Arms, where a priest is accosted by fellow soldiers for his religious views. Like Meursault, Frederic seeks spiritual fulfillment through the priest, yet he finds nothing more than absurdity. In the novel he states: “All thinking men are atheists” (Hemingway 8).
In both A Farewell to Arms and The Stranger there is a lack of morale and spiritual truth. Each work personified how people seek truth in their daily lives only to find despair and isolation. Albert Camus was described as the premier existentialist during his time period. Hemingway also exhibits the same sort of "existential loneliness" in his modernist works. Existential loneliness is defined by that idea that humans are by nature born into loneliness. In both novels the feelings of this isolation are portrayed through the protagonists. Existentialist thought holds the belief that humanity faces the question through life and into death. Camus and Hemingway believed that meaning of life was facing this truth. In exploring these authors we have found that they both embrace the ideal of deconstructionist criticism. The use of language and themes in both of these works show how the truth is a construct created by man. Because truth is a fallible construct it is meaningless to search for its meaning in daily life. Hemingway and Camus captured the essence of this idea through fiction.

Works Cited

Camus, Albert, and Matthew Ward. The Stranger. New York: Vintage International, 1989. Print.

Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms. New York: Scribner Classics, 1997. Print.

Posted by: Joseph Schwartz at April 24, 2013 05:33 PM

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