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Post-Structuralism Essay

L3 Crítica Literaria
Prof. Antonieta Ramírez
Verónica Salomé Roldán Rodríguez
August 31st, 2019
Post-structuralism as a school of literary criticism made its debut in the early
Nineteenth Century, however, it reached its apex in the 1960’s in a politically
unstable France. A reaction to the formulaic system of Structuralism, poststructuralism sees the collective works of literature as an interconnected network of
derived meanings.
According to Jacques Derrida: Derrida, author of the paper “Structure, Sign, and
Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences,” spearheaded the concept of words
deriving meaning from one another in an endless and futile cycle. He sought to
challenge the logocentric structure and patterns of western thinking, claiming that
there could be no universal source of logic and meaning.
Roland Barthes: Barthes was originally a structuralist before he wrote “Death of the
Author,” a piece encouraging critics to forgo the analysis of the author’s intention.
His valid argument was that most of the time, even authors didn’t quite understand
what they were trying to say, and the only true human/literature relationship that
mattered was the relationship between the novel and the reader. Thus, poststructuralism was hailed by some as the “Birth of the Reader.” (Lyphen, 2011)
Works are inspired and based upon each other. They share techniques and subject
matter. It is impossible for a poem or novel to be self-sufficient. Perhaps to avoid this
inevitability somewhat, post-structuralists tend to focus on seemingly meaningless
and small details in a piece of literature. Consequently, critics find deeper themes
such as class conflict and social structure in pieces that on the surface deal with
wholly different issues. Indeed, post-structuralists find pride in the ability to create
totally unexpected outcomes from an analysis, but there is never one definitive
According to post-structuralist theory, literature can have no singular meaning for
many reasons:
✓ The first reason is that no two readers will be alike. Each person flipping
through the pages will bring his or her own life experiences to the work, and
with that, his or her own interpretation of the meaning of words and themes.
✓ Another reason for this stance against singular meaning goes along with the
word “différance,” which refers to the process of words deriving meaning from
other words. Because words are essentially meaningless symbols that can
never fully represent the ideas they are meant to convey, they are always at
a distance to what they signify and are open to a multitude of interpretations
through sheer lack of specificity.
✓ Through a process called erasure, Derrida proved the theory of différance,
taking words and notions out of context and revealing their “traces.”Traces
are basically indicators of what a word or concept is not.
✓ Color, for example, only exists as a concept because humans differentiate it
from size and shape and is therefore defined as being a property other than
shape or size. This concept of traces can be applied to more complicated
subjects for analysis.
Many critics of Post-structuralism have said that it boils down to sense of negativism,
since everything is essentially meaningless and therefore lacking any reason to
exist. Still others preach against the theory for its lack of structure and “anything
goes” attitude, but half of the fun of analyzing literature with Post-structuralist
methods is the high likelihood of unexpected results. If you continue to apply traces
to works of literature, you are sure to find interesting correlations, and make your
report/essay/whatever that much more engaging. And believe me, when you’re
dealing with literary criticism, engaging is a plus.
Lyphen. (9 de June de 2011). Owlcation. Obtenido de Owlcation Lyphen: https://owlcation.com