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Derrida,Deconstruction and Postmodern texts ( Continued 1)

Derrida,Deconstruction and Postmodern texts ( Continued 1)


Hello and welcome to yet another session of
the NPTEL course post modernism in literature continuing with our discussion on Derrida,
Deconstruction and postmodern texts we begin today’s our session. With the challenges inherent in attempts to
define deconstruction Derrida himself has written in his 1983 work try to letter to
a Japanese friend; what deconstruction is not everything of course, what is deconstruction
nothing of course,. So, this is the irony which is embedded in
the in the many attempts to define deconstruction. Derrida himself has stayed away from giving
any kind of authoritative definition to the idea of deconstruction. In fact, ah ah if we scan across the ah ah
40 odd books and ah about 100 articles that he himself had written. He has not offered a definitive authoritative
definition to the idea of deconstruction. He has only spoken about it discussed ah ah
deconstruction at length in a ah number of his works through various ah frameworks and
talking about; how ah the construction helps him to ah ah ah access culture access text. In particular forms how it helps ah him to
how it how deconstruction enables him to ah unpack a language in ways that it has not
been ah ah available ah ah and to that point of time. So, our understanding of deconstruction is
also fraught with such challenges it is also embedded within such ironic ah effects, then
there is an impossibility to define a deconstruction, but at the same time we attempt to define
it we attempt to unpack it through a series of ah discourses available to us through a
series of ah frameworks within which deconstruction has been situated. In the previous session we started looking
at the various ah ways in which Derrida began to frame the idea of deconstruction. And ah it is also important to recall that
ah Derridas ah term the use of deconstruction is also departure from heideggers idea of
our destruction, and this is a French word ah that a mountain heidegger uses and ah heidegger
used. The term destruction to talk about a process
of exploring the categories and concepts the tradition has imposed on a word and the history
behind there. So, these terms tradition word and ah history
are continue to be important for us we have also seen, how from a linguistic turn which
spoke about the structural aspects of language, Derrida was able to formulate ah as a departure
from the structuralist modes Derrida was able to formulate his idea of deconstruction which
is also essentially a post structuralism approach Derrida; however, uses the term deconstruction. When he translates heideggers idea for the
de destruction he also modified it ah in in in multiple ways as we have been analyzing
he also modified, the term in multiple ways the critics of feel that Derrida opted for
the term deconstruction as the translation of destruction rather than going for a literal
translation because he sort of precision rather than violence .
So, ah when we also analyze deconstruction as a method, when we analyzed a deconstruction
and applied to ah various texts and contexts; we also begin to see that it is also about
seeking a new understanding of a text rather than completely destructing it rather than
completely annihilating it and in that sense ah if we also ah trace; the way in which the
term deconstruction departs from destruction it is also about though the term implies the
certain violence in certain ah ah mode of deconstruction it is also about constructing
the text in alternate ways. Constructing the text in ways that are not
readily available or readily accessible. In the previous session we also notice, how
Derridas deconstructive turn could be seen as an offshoot from the linguistic turn foregrounded
by Ferdinand de Saussure. Saussure as a starting point and that sense
becomes very important, because he looked at a language dynamically and it was also
have been multiple ways in which derrida departed from the structuralist mode that helped us
make better sense of the construction and also the other ideas of a derrida. And if we trace this back a little further
we can also move to z derrida was immensely influenced by the ka by Kantian critique of
reason which was also a dominant ideology. In the 19th century and we can also look at
other intellectual traditions as and when we begin to ah trace the significance of this
term deconstruction and we also notice ah that ah descartes who lived in the 16th century
that our context because they also had begun to question the objective truth of language
. And this is something which this is this is
also a theme on which ah ah Derrida, further builds upon to talk about deconstruction also
keeping in tune with the context that; this course has already ah set derrida is deconstructed
term can be read alongside that of barthes ah this. We have already ah noticed; in the way we
are engaged with barthes ah texts the net of the order and it would also be ah perhaps
appropriate to say that both derrida and barthes provided a significant shift. In the way we think about we think of language
and meaning and this understanding is extremely important to read derrida; in the context
of a post modernism in the context of post structuralist approaches. So, if we try to read derrida alongside barthe. What does it entail? What would it would suggest and here is a
very ah comprehensive commentary that ah Pramod Nayar offers in his book on contemporary electric
theory. He talks about a range of things that both
of them are together suggest and how they would be helpful? How these ideas? How these a frameworks would be helpful in
understanding the idea of deconstruction? First of all part and derrida ah talked about
an endless play in language and literacy texts and ah they also foreground the unreliability
of any meaning and this is something that barthe extensively ah ah worked upon and this
we had particularly noticed in his work the death of the author and we also highlight;
the need for openness of text and this is also an essentially a post structuralist postmodern
ah characteristic which ah ah which also ah presents the text as a site which is open
to multiple meanings and open to multiple interpretations. So, this also leads us another inherent assumption
that language is essentially instable the instability of life the instability of language
needs to be acknowledged, when one needs to understand the construction and the ways in
which language and literary text can be played with and ah eventually this leads us to ah
the possibility of the un finalized ability of any meaning or text. Here is where the approaches of barthe and
ah derrida they begin to challenge this structuralist assumptions of meaning making process of language
being unified a site and ah ultimately what makes the approaches of barthe and derrida. Essentially post structuralist and also quite
conducive to the postmodern ah scenario is that the relationships between words meaningless
antics as intrinsic to meaning rather than the words themselves. So, it is within this relation that we need
to understand it is within this relationship within this context that; we need to ah approach
deconstruction or approach the various ways in which language has been unpacked language
has been deconstructed to move away from the structuralist assumptions and the structuralist
ah meanings . So, how do we then begin to ah ah place deconstructive
criticism deconstructive criticism or we can say that it builds upon three major themes
and drawing upon the ideas ah drawing upon the various modes of departures from the structuralist
mode. They have built upon these three themes one
unfinalizability two deference and three relationality. We have also briefly taken look at, how all
of these are things operate within the context of language and ah when ah deconstruction
makes use of unfinalizability of text the deference of meaning. And the relationality of the; and the relationality
of language and ah meaning making process it together leads us to show how a text can
subvert it is own stated philosophical on literary assumptions .
So, here we have moved away from the static understanding of a single meaning and we only
look at ah different assumptions which are made available to us. So, if we again try to look at the construction
as a departure from the Saussurian understanding of ah structuralist linguistics. ah We will be looking at the ambiguities deconstruction
will be looking at the ambiguities and signifiers. In other words there can be many signified
meanings for a single signifier as we have already noted in the previous session .
So, when we subject a text to a deconstructive criticism the text refers to and is open to
one: a different reading. Secondly, another text that rather than reinforce
it is argument might a subvert; it because there is no single meaning there is a possibility
of different and multiple interpretations .
Thirdly the text is open to revisions even as it states it is meanings in unambiguous
terms. So, there is everything is in the state of
flux, there is no single meaning. There is no ah fixed a kind of a text everything
is subject to change and this is also incidentally a quality that; Derrida located in language
and meaning. In general if there is no single meaning,
if the text is open to multiple interpretations multiple possibilities of a tellings multiple
alternative a meanings . Then deconstruction is also interested in;
how text breaks down? How they defeat their stated aims and purposes? How the texts rely on false or unsustainable
oppositions . How they make use of figurative language such
as met first? How the text reverse their own arguments? How the texts depend on others texts and signs
which are not straightforwardly available within the text. How the texts conceal arguments that are the
very opposite of, what they ostensibly show deconstruction in that sense is not interested? In the text per say, but in these many possibilities
in these many layered meanings that the text offers. And when we approach ah ah deconstruction
as a methodology in a practice; it is also important to see; how deconstruction differs? How it departs from the structuralist mode
of criticism in structuralism. They are interested in knowing how meaning
is produced; when we move to the construction. The interest is in locating the contradictions
that resist meaning, because it is also a futile to make an attempt to know the single
meaning the single truth with which the text ah talks about .
Structuralism is interested in how texts work? Deconstruction is interested in how texts
deconstruct themselves and ah this is. So, this a phrase is extremely important,
because deconstruction as Derrida himself would reiterate is not something that; we
do to a text it is not something that we forcefully inject upon a text, but the texts are capable
of deconstructing themselves, because language also has a power to store these unlimited
layered constructed meanings within the framework of a text. So, to to sum up these ah moves of departure
from structuralism towards deconstruction, it would perhaps suffice to say that deconstruction
displays structuralism and undertook to de center or subvert. The claims for existence of all foundations,
such as knowledge meaning, truth and subject and this is also ah evident in the many deconstructive
readings which are available and which we shall also come back to take a look at in
the latter half of this course. Who does largely convenient for us to look
at our deconstruction to engage with deconstruct ah methodology as a practice as a political
framework. Derrida would certainly disagree with this
proposition, because according to him deconstruction neither an analysis nor a critique and it
is not a method and cannot be transformed into one. And ah he also ah believe that deconstruction
takes place, it is not something that we need to do it is an event that does not have a
deliberation, consciousness, or organization of a subject, even of modernity. It deconstructs itself. Deconstruction is not something that you do!
that is what derrida had believed it. And he had repeatedly written against this
re-appropriation of deconstruction. Especially, within the academia, fraternity
and ah nevertheless, we also ah know that there are innumerable numerable attempts to
explain simplified define and or or ‘package’ deconstruction for the academia-Derrida had
protested and criticized this tendency throughout! And also it is just ironical ah that ah in
this of course, in this lecture we are also trying to do precisely that; and in spite
of Derrida is extreme discomfort with this idea of packaging deconstruction for academic
purposes for ah introducing deconstruction as a methodology as a critical practice as
a mode of criticism . We find that deconstruction has also now become
the foundation of many postmodern ideas. It is become our rather impossible not to
engage with the deconstruction as a critical practice. When we ah engaged with post modernism and
also in the post structuralist ah practices especially from the 1980s onwards. Deconstruction is perhaps the one critical
method, which is dominated all other kinds of a critical practices and this is also found
it is way into our range of theoretical enterprises, in law anthropology, historiography, linguistics,
sociolinguistics, psychoanalysis, political theory, feminism, and even and and queer studies. And ah maybe a deconstruction has a; become
more popular than almost all the other kinds of frameworks is also, because it offers a
revolutionary explanation of the world society and knowledge and, ah this is extremely important
for the understanding of the wall to make sense of knowledge systems; to make a sense
of ah various subject positions in the postmodern scenario .
There have been ah numerous criticisms against a deconstruction; because of the particular
and detailed attention that the construction phases to language ah many critics have also
felt that occurred many critics have asked. Whether deconstruction is not a version of
new criticism ; however, new criticism is certainly very very different from that of
a deconstruction in new criticism. A new critical ah ah practices we know that
there is a close attention being paid to language on the ah paid to a ah ah close reading of
the words on a page . Ah, but; however, deconstruction operates
at a different level all together, there is a close reading. There is a close attention being ah ah given
to the language which is being used, but the concerned of the decons ah, but the concerned
of deconstruction is not exactly the words which are being displayed on the page, but
the constructed meanings that these words are foreground and deconstruction also seeks
to peel away. These various meanings which are being offered
to us at the outset and also look beyond these constructed meanings. Look beyond these constructed common sense
images in order to engage with the text at multiple levels within various or contexts,
why we can say that new criticism is largely an apolitical approach towards ah ah reading
ah literature deconstruction is a very political approach. We would also see ah how and when when we
talk about the construction in as the electrical practice in one of the later sessions .
The playfulness and puns that are the ah that the construction are heavily ah uses ah it
will also led to the accusations of ah deconstruction being very frivolous and not ah serious enough
to engage with a literary and cultural artifacts , but; however, ah it is the idea of playfulness
and the use of puns that makes the construction ah rather useful practice to engage with the
various sites or contexts and texts in the postmodern scenario. Moving we want to see how deconstruction works
as a ah particular critical method as a particular strategy it is important to take a look at
the look at the various steps that are involved in no particular order; ah when we apply the
method of deconstruction. When we try to engage with a text through;
though a deconstructive method, we find that we are also analyzing a hierarchy and you
are trying to reverse it and to show how the elements of hierarchy are constitutive of
each other. We do not art it take this understanding for
granted. We do not take the various positions various
ah locations of hierarchy for granted rather we begin to subvert it. And analyze the structures of meaning, which
are embedded onto it and we also try to discover the impurities and contaminations that are
ah that are within a text. They may not be a very apparent, but one once
we begin to peel away. The structures of meaning we would also begin
to see that these impurities and contaminations also have a different story to tell and ah
we are also particularly pay attention we are also ah ah very alert to the body crossing
that would upset notions of purity ah structure linearity and origins. So, eventually we would begin to see that
when we apply these strategies to engage with our text through a deconstructed method. We would begin to see that the text undergoes
a radical change and we have an entirely new text. A new telling available before us it is this
radical notion is this this our capability to invent itself to engage with ah the text
in a playful manner to completely be to to be dismissive of the original meanings quote
unquote. The original meanings that the text entails
makes; these capabilities that makes a deconstruction a very significant and a foundational element
of post modernism. If we try to ah give the example of the well
known fairytale snow, white and the seven dwarfs and try to do a deconstructed reading
of the same. What would we eventually get? If we look at this story in very simple terms
it is about the story of a little girl, snow white who is also vulnerable to all kinds
of evil attacks; that are present in the world and she is also being ah ah rather coincidentally
being rescued at different points of time by characters, were also kind hearted and
there is also an ultimate triumph for for the good over the evil and this story could
be seen as a moralistic story it is also seen as a feel good story like all fairy tales
ah, but; however, a deconstructive reading of the story the snow white and the seven
dwarfs would enable us to look at what is not in the story .
How do we do? That, because beyond these apparel constructed
meanings; there is the story there is an alternative telling which is available within the text
and if we push the deconstructive methods a little further into the story of snow white,
we would also see that what is not in this story becomes an alternative telling, for
instance; this story of snow white could also be a scene as a story of a young woman who
does not have any agency to control her own life, the incidents in her life the various
happenings in her life are subject to how the others operate are dependent on others
cruelty, others kindness, others intervention at various points of time and also to take
this reading a bit. Further, it will also be not wrong to say
that the person that ah snow white the characters snow white embodies is certainly not the kind
of person the that a model introvert woman aspires to be .
Because, there is an utter lack of control over one’s own life and there is also an utter
there is also a complete dependency, that the character shows not distant persons, but
also on circumstances and ah that that totally takes away any kind of ah power any kind of
agency that the character would have to con would have ah possibly to control her own
life here in this very crude deconstructive approach that we took. We are talking we we are also taking a look
at the binary of positions, in every story in every tail. There are these binary oppositions which are
present of which one would be a dominant and the other would be an oppressed or a non dominant
factor or a character. And when we try to deconstruct, the particular
tale we are also being made aware we are also being ah made alert to the ideologies that
are in the story in the language in the images. We are also being made aware of the ah of
the subject positions that are being fore grounded of the ideological practices; that
are being celebrated and the things which are being condemned and hear in a deconstructive
approach. We are looking to reverse these binary of
oppositions, we are privileging the oppressed and also trying to see, what kind of an alternate
reading is available? What are the various other suppressed meanings? What are the various other non dominant ideologies
and non dominant through a non dominant ah meanings which are being made available. So, the task at hand is also to find the blind
spots and to open new ways of thinking and knowing . So, here being also begin to see
that this alternate are telling this alternate tail, which is available within the story
is not something forced; we do not have to force and force anything on the text as Derrida
would say, there is nothing outside the text these alternate readings these absences these
oppressed non dominant ideologies these oppressed non dominant subject positions are available
within the story itself. All we have to do is to just peel away the
constructed meanings peel away the common sensical meanings one after the other to deconstruct
the text. Again, we would also see that just like Derrida
argued; in the case of language there is no final meaning that one can access there is
no ah getting to the core of the text once. We begin to peel away the constructed meanings
one after the other. We are only opening up newer ways of thinking
and knowing and also totally doing away with the idea of binaries with the idea of binary
oppositions that privilege one kind of an ideology one kind of a subject position over
the other and this certainly is the very political thing to do it is a very political reading
of available text and available tellings. Subsequently, in these discussions related
to deconstruction; we also find ah Derrida moved away from the logo centric. Logo centric view is a belief that there is
an ultimate reality or center of truth; there can serve as the basis for all our thoughts
and actions and that everything is grounded in the way we understand. Only when we begin to move away from this
a logo centric view that away we would be able to subvert the binaries the binaries
would our can operate and ah many different ways. It is his presence and absence male female
ah speech and writing ah about which Derrida also had written extensively, about identity
and difference of truth and error mastery and submission ah good and evil or west and
east and in this set in this limited set that we present over here. We also notice that; the former always denotes
a privileged such as presence, male, speech, identity, truth, mastery, good, the west and
the east this also becomes fundamental in understanding; what orientalism is all about? So, here we notice that deconstruction is
also about subverting the binaries because there is always in these binaries there is
always a probability of one over the other. Derrida also of famous your mutt that, there
is no outside text what he meant by this was that everything takes on a textualized form. And we engage with the difference and deference
in the meaning making process; and for this he also coined the new term difference which
is spelt within a and in this reading all texts are politicized as we have also briefly
noted . So, in that sense it is also important to
understand, what a text is according to Derrida? According to Derrida text is not restricted
by a books margin or binding it overruns and spills over it is borders and in that sense
the end of the book is certainly not the end of writing text. In in that sense does not constitute the number
of a pages which are ah bound in the form of a book from the beginning to the end and
every text also carries traces of other texts and this is also ah something that is being
extensively engaged in terms of in textuality .
And ah ah it is also a concept that we shall be examining at a later point and according
to Derrida every text is therefore, a network of other texts from which it differs and these
propositions about ah text by Derrida also challenges the basic assumptions about a text. So, here time ah here be again begin to see
how Derrida could be read alongside barthe and even Foucault, because they had also challenged
the ways in which our text. The idea of an author and even the idea of
reading could be approached we also saw how the the ah foregrounding of multiple readings
could also be done alongside the foregrounding of the emergence of reader. All of these challenging notions of the changing
ideas of the text the meaning; the ah critical practices they all play a significant role
in engaging with a text and context in the postmodern scenario. As we begin to wind up today’s lecture it
is also perhaps appropriate. we will leave you with a couple of quotes
are from Derrida himself where he talks about texts and we need to read them through the
lens of deconstruction as; Derrida says all those boundaries that form the running border
of what used to be called a text of what? We once thought this word would identify that
the supposed end and beginning of a work the unity of a corpus the title the margins the
signatures the referential realm outside the frame and. So, forth what has happened is sort of overrun
that spoils all of these boundaries intuitions and forces us to extend the accredited concept
the dominant notion of a text . That is no longer a finished a corpus of writing,
some contain enclosed in a book or it is margins, but a differential network, a fabric of traces
referring endlessly to something other than itself, to other differential traces. This understanding of the text this possibility
of viewing everything as a text is also fundamental to the approaches within post modernism, this
also enables us to look at text and context from multiple angles through multiple viewpoints
which also eventually ah lead to the emergence of multiple interpretations .
So, this idea of looking at everything as a text and the idea that there is nothing
outside the text, and the idea that every text has the ability to deconstruct itself
has been fundamental to our understanding of post modernism itself. Derrida had further qualified the ah phrase
outside-the-text in a lot that he published in 1989. “There is no outside-the-text signifies that
one never exceeds to a text without some relation to it is contextual opening that a context
is not made up only of what is. So, trivially called a text, that is, the
words of a book or the more or less biodegradable paper document in a library. If one does not understand this initial transformations
of the concept of a text and context one understands nothing about nothing of deconstruction” .
This also helps us to recall, why we began our understanding of the theoretical frameworks
that dominate post modernism with a discussion of the of the challenging notions of the shifting
understanding of the idea of text. When we began to discuss Barthe and ah Foucault
and here we are also being led to understand that one unless; we understand the ways in
which text has transformed unless we begin to understand how there has been a radical
shift in the ideas about text in the ideas about engaging with particular texts. In the critical practices of reading our text
we would not be able to engage with the construction or by extension post modernism. We shall be following up this discussion,
in the next session by focusing on a particular text and how a postmodern reading is also
made possible through ah deconstructivist approach on that note we wind up todays session. Thank you for listening and I look forward
to see you in the next session.

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