Plan for the Evening
- Leading Class Discussion with Jesse S.
- Back to Barthes (time permitting)
Why’d the Hipster cross the road?
–To get to the other side–BEFORE THE CHICKEN!!!
The three interviews shouldn’t be considered a totality of Derrida’s ideas; nor should we think all of deconstruction is answered. As he was quoted in his obituary, “deconstruction requires work”; therefore, its meaning can’t be handed to you.
Terms to Define
I think the following terms need to be defined, so we’re all (somewhat) on the same page. This discussion is our introduction to Derrida, but his influence will be felt for quite some time:
- Phenomenology: the study of the structure of experience; reflection of consciousness.
- Existentialism: the idea that human (individual) existence comes from experience, that of the individual.
- Structuralism: studying culture as a system made up of identifiable connections that are all related to a grand structure, an overarching paradigm.
- Post-Structuralism: well, this is structuralism “deconstructed.” What? Refer to p. 41 in Positions.
- Liguistic terms
- grammatology: writing doesn’t reproduce speech (the window pane theory); instead, everything to do with writing constructs/affects meaning.
- phoneme: basic (smallest) unit in a language that builds words. (think phonetic…do re mi)
- grapheme: words, punctuation, numbers–they don’t carry meaning themselves
- Absolutist/Monolithic Critiques
- logocentrism: the Western assumption that “the word” is the superior conveyor of meaning, one that has an identifiable in an ideal form.
1) “the systematic play of differences, of the traces of differences, of the spacing by means of which elements are related to each other” (p. 27)
2) “reference to a present reality [or meaning] [is] always deferred” (p. 29)
- trace: Because the meaning of a sign is generated from the difference it has from other signs, especially the other half of its binary pairs, the sign itself contains a trace of what it does not mean.
- transcendental signified: the first cause or zero point–absolute origin.
Now, we just need to figure out where to go next. If I haven’t already, let me mention my approach to Derrida and, more importantly, teaching Derrida. Maybe one of my mentors can help us out…
Derrida list several homonyms–words that sound alike but have different meanings (p. 40 and 42). Let’s consider some English words:
Derivatives of cat?
cat, catsup, Catawba, catch
What about cognates across Italian and English? (Beware of false friends!)
Let’s get into groups and try to “trace” meaning in the following terms:
widow, crime, slut, chaos, education
Let’s try to deconstruct, if possible, the following passage from the preface of Ashley Montagu and Floyd Matson’s The Dehumanization of Man:
It neither kills outright nor inflicts apparent physical harm, yet the extent of its destructive toll is already greater than that of any war, plague, famine, or natural calamity on record—and its potential damage to the quality of human life and the fabric of civilized society is beyond calculation. For that reason this sickness of the soul might well be called the “Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse.” Its more conventional name, of course, is dehumanization (p. xi).
Next Week’s Reading
Next week (4/10–can you believe it’s already April?) we continue into postmodernity with Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition. Don’t forget to read the Appendix–pp. 71-82.