Deconstruction is one of the most influential theories of criticism. This mode of criticism came into existence in the late 1960s and became popular during 1970s.it was originated by a powerful French philosopher, Jacques Derrida. Derrida developed the theory of deconstruction as a reaction against the structuralism. This theory goes against the structuralist notion that the structure of language offers us one fixed and determinate meaning. In contrast, it shows that language often fails to communicate exactly since it contains complex structure that offers the possibility of multiple meaning. This is the nature of language that is the meaning that language offers is slippery and always sliding. For example, the sentence, ‘The fish is ready to eat’, may have two possible meaning: firstly, the cooked fish is ready for us to eat and secondly, one fish is ready to eat another fish. So, a single signifier may have many signified. And hence no one can be sure of the exact meaning. But Derrida does not limit his analysis only upon language. He shows the problem of Western philosophy that emphasizes on fixity and determinacy. However, deconstruction is not the destruction of the structure but this is a way of showing the problem of structure. As Derrida thinks that the language is the base of our thinking. Deconstruction has so many good points. It can improve our ability to think critically and to see more readily the ways in which our experience is determinate by ideologies of which we are unaware; because they are “built into” our language and because deconstruction offers these advantages. It can be a very useful tool for Marxism, feminism and other theories that attempt to make us aware of the oppressive role ideology can play in our lives.
Language is a means of communication. According to structuralism, language has structure, through which he put order to the chaos world. Ferdinand de Saussure has coined the word “sign” for the linguistic element. To him, the “sign” is the bond between signifier and signified. The pictorial concept any signifier brings is signified which gives meaning. Besides, the differential relationship between linguistic sign imposes fixity of meaning. Derrida disagrees with Saussure and proves that what Saussure says structure and sign are merely a play of language. What Saussure calls signified is a mere chain of signifiers. Derrida criticizes the western theories of language especially Saussure’s structuralist view of language. Saussure purposes that the meaning in language is possible because of the difference of a sign from other signs which depends on upon signs and element which are nonpresent in an illusion. Moreover, the meaning is not fixed. Therefore there is no guarantee that the signified leads us to the signified. Derrida in order to clarify this idea uses the concept of difference and purposes and alternative that is the unbridgeable play of meaning. He argues that there is always a mix match between signifier and signified because of which gap or lacuna is created. The gap is unbridgeable which results in irresolvable contradictions or aporias.
Deconstruction of Human Identity
Human identity refers what make human or characteristics that identify human beings. Earlier, a human being was assumed to have fixed, stable and definite identity such as rational being, civilized being, superior being but for deconstruction, human identity is highly unstable ground and human self is rather fragmented into many slaves. It is not singular self but has multiple selves together containing various beliefs, desires, fear and so on. For example, the same person may have multiple identities depending on the places and time. For example, taking about myself, I am a student at the college, daughter at home and so on. For deconstruction, if the language is the ground of being, then the world is infinite text that is an infinite chain of signifiers always in play. We human beings believe in the world, so we are too constituted by language. We are too text. As we are already aware that we understand the world through language, we form an identity, we form culture through language. The nature of language is uncertainty. There our identities also come into flux. Before the introduction of deconstruction theory, it was supposed that human identity is fixed and it cannot be changed. Through this principle, the high-class people use to marginalize the poor.
The governing logocentrism formed binaries and the suppression is exercised. In the name of culture, in the name of identity the society is lopsidedly constituted. Deconstruction questioned such practices. All language is unstable, ambiguous force fields of competing ideologies; we are our self, unstable and ambiguous force fields of competing ideologies. The self-image of a stable identity is merely an illusion or just a ruling discourse.
Deconstructing Our World
Before the introduction of deconstruction theory, it was supposed that a language has fixed meaning. We understand the world through language. The fixity is imposed upon the world which is it dynamic. The western metaphysics negligence of multiple meaning and high concern over the logos are attacked by the deconstruction. If we understand the world through language and language is play then the logo is impossible. The language plays a significant role in the formation of our understanding of the world and our self. The world is not as it is said but it is what the language explains. Language influences our understanding regarding the world and our self. So the language is the ground of being. Whereas the traditional philosophers emphasize only on one thing, for example, Plato, “The world of original ideas” is true and real.
Similarly, for Descartes reason is a source of an understanding the structuralist focus on the human consciousness and language. In this way, the earlier philosophers focus on only one concept that Derrida has called logocentric. This logocentric world view has a problem in Derider’s opinion. He says that the concept built up by earlier philosophers about the world and our self cannot be the fixed and stable logos but they are indeterminate and unstable because they are influenced by the play of the language. Hence, there is no world of one view that the world of multiples views. Through language, culture ideologies are passed on. It is through language we perceive the world. Therefore, language is the basis for our existence. Plato highly focuses on the form that is an innate structure for the world of phenomena. Descartes says “I think therefore I am “and structuralism believes that human language and experience and is generated by innate structures of human consciousness.
Literature is as dynamic, ambiguous and unstable as the language because the literature is composed of language so the meaning is also not fixed and stable element residing in the text. The meaning is created by the reader in the act of reading more clearly meaning is produced by the use of language through the readers. That means the reader generates the meaning out of the text with the use of the language. Furthermore, meaning is created by the reader is also not stable and fixed. Hence, no interpretation of the text is final. The reader interprets the text based on the values and believes that s/he has internalized in the particular culture or a society. So every interpretation is based on the certain ideology, even the writer writes the text reflecting or depending on certain ideological and cultural ground. So, neither the reader nor the writer can be completely away from certain cultural assumption. So no interpretation is stable or valid rather it is the subject to be changed.
Tyson, L. (2013). the critical theory today. Kathmandu: Ekta Publication.
- Deconstructionism argues that all writing is reducible to an arbitrary sequence of linguistics sign or words whose meaning have no relationship to the author’s intention or to the world outside the text.
- Language is dynamic, ambiguous and unstable continually disseminating possible meanings.
- Human beings are fragmented battle fields for competing ideologies whose only identities are the ones who invent and choose to belief.
- The language plays a significant role in the formation of our understanding of the world and owns self.
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