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Thread: Deconstruction, Wtf?

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    Senior Member Makers!*'s Avatar
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    Deconstruction, Wtf?

    It's the most obtuse non-committal way of thinking I've ever encountered. More infuriating, it puts commercials on the plane of Shakespeare and entreats readers to seek out cultural fallacies in the worlds greatest works, rather than anything of aesthetic or qualitative value. And they're teaching it in schools! Utter horseshit: that the formal study of literature has been reduced to such baseless pandering to the hip and irreverent. Why even bother?
    Last edited by Makers!*; 03-07-2014 at 06:19 AM. Reason: Rant first edit later.

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    I said that in class and got a B.

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    Senior Member Makers!*'s Avatar
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    It's a cult, intellectual kool-aide. I'm reading scholarly articles where "doctors" are using street slang to attack methods adapted since Aristotle's poetics, because it's oh so cool to ride that stylistic line between high and low art. Nevermind that they have nothing of their own to say.

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    Member Krill's Avatar
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    I didn't think deconstruction was still hip. Sad to hear that it's still being misused and abused. I'm sure Derrida is turning in his grave.

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    libertine librarian sandwitch's Avatar
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    There are appropriate times for deconstruction, and the intellectual exercise in itself is worthwhile. As an English major, I immediately decided that I hated deconstruction and arranged my courses to avoid the professors who prefered it. Over time, I've come to recognize some of the value, and I wish that I hadn't written it off so quickly. Deconstructionism is initially frustrating, especially as it changes the approach to literature from something enjoyable to an extended mental inversion process. There's a reason (edit: okay, not just because of this- there are more reasons) that English graduate students (I don't mean the nationality, tho maybe them too) are often harried and generally considered useless to society- they're struggling just to determine what it is that can be determined (and why can't it be? what does that mean?). I wasn't cut out for it, and for that reason I refuse to even attempt explaining it.

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    Global Moderator Polemarch's Avatar
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    Whoa, sounds meta.
    We didn't land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us.

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    Senior Member Starjots's Avatar
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    My reaction was similar to the OP when it was explained to me thirty years ago. However, half the utility of this site is following up ideas presented, so I found an assignment where the professor explains some tips on what deconstruction is (second page).

    random class random guidance see second page

    So with umpteen caveats, I think this might be a reasonable exercise if

    A story is the best vehicle for planting significant and complex mental shit in our head. We like stories and we tend to accept them more easily than factual accounts.

    But a story comes from a much larger whole world view of the author, it is drawn consciously or unconsciously from their totality of experience. So a pleasing story that seems to have meaning of XYZ might easily be accepted yet we swallow it without understanding all the debris that was shaved away and omitted that was used in the story's construction. Normal critical reading (engaging our higher mental functions) is mostly about getting what the author is trying to say (I think). And that's a very good thing way above just swallowing up the words without any reflection.

    But deconstruction might be a way of in a pseudo archeological sense looking for the debris field out of which the story was constructed - what the author was thinking but not saying and thereby informing a bit more about what it is you are reading. Consider all the dang TV shows where they try to figure out how the pyramids were built. Appreciating the pyramids for what they are is one thing, appreciating them knowing how they were built could be a little more ... eh... something. That is deconstruction as I understand it after ten minutes of research.

    I have no doubt most would call bullshit including the learned, but note that there is a lot of disagreement out there as to what it is and how its done, so I'll just think I figured it out and be happy with my ignorance.

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    "Deconstruction" has had no real impact on the real world and how people live aside from annoying the hell out of a generation of students. Or, unless you're trying to become tenured at a university English department and you have difficulty swallowing the party line. Sometimes the words actually do mean what we all know them to mean.

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    Minister of Love Roger Mexico's Avatar
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    I don't find deconstructionist literary criticism more annoying or useless than I find most academic literary criticism in general.

    (I find the vast majority of academic literary criticism very useless and annoying.)

    As I remember it being explained to me, though, the act of "deconstruction" per se mostly boils down to questioning your own assumptions, which is actually a very smart thing to do from time to time.

    I mean, it's just common sense--sure, common sense expressed in ten times as many words with twice as many syllables as are probably needed to express it, but like I said that's pretty much what everyone with a PhD in literature seems to get paid to do.

    Thus, I'm not sure why deconstructionist criticism seems to earn so much more hostility than any other form of pretentious academic windbaggery. I suspect because of its inherently iconoclastic nature, which if anything only makes me slightly more sympathetic to it.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ptah View Post
    No history, no exposition, no anecdote or argument changes the invariant: we are all human beings, and some humans are idiots.

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    Member Krill's Avatar
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    I think there are two reasons people find 'deconstruction' annoying (when they aren't disturbed by its iconoclastic or what seem to be nihilistic leanings). Both really boil down to a lot of 'deconstructive' readings being obnoxious parroting. The first way is by trying to imitate the style of Derrida, a style most people find obtuse and irritating even when it was used by someone who was actually good at it. The second way is by creating a discrete set of methodological moves that make 'deconstructive' analyses read very similarly on the content level as well (invert binary opposition? check. find a term with a contradictory etymology? check. create a 'pun' techinical term fusing two different concepts? check [and if you can't do that, here's a list of ones you can take from Derrida: hauntology, phallogocentrism, differance etc..])

    Basically, it frequently works and looks like some kind of cargo cult. In a certain sense, it's the opposite of iconoclastic.

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