Recent quotes:

The Word Turned Upside Down | John R. Searle | The New York Review of Books

It is apparently very congenial for some people who are professionally concerned with fictional texts to be told that all texts are really fictional anyway, and that claims that fiction differs significantly from science and philosophy can be deconstructed as a logocentric prejudice, and it seems positively exhilarating to be told that what we call “reality” is just more textuality. Furthermore, the lives of such people are made much easier than they had previously supposed, because now they don’t have to worry about an author’s intentions, about precisely what a text means, or about distinctions within a text between the metaphorical and the literal, or about the distinction between texts and the world because everything is just a free play of signifiers. The upper limit, and I believe the reductio ad absurdum, of this “sense of mastery” conveyed by deconstruction, is in Geoffrey Hartman’s claim that the prime creative task has now passed from the literary artist to the critic.

The Word Turned Upside Down | John R. Searle | The New York Review of Books

One sometimes gets the impression that deconstruction is a kind of game that anyone can play. One could, for example, invent a deconstruction of deconstructionism as follows: In the hierarchical opposition, deconstruction/logocentrism (phono-phallo-logocentrism), the privileged term “deconstruction” is in fact subordinate to the devalued term “logocentrism,” for, in order to establish the hierarchical superiority of deconstruction, the deconstructionist is forced to attempt to represent its superiority, its axiological primacy, by argument and persuasion, by appealing to the logocentric values he tries to devalue. But his efforts to do this are doomed to failure because of the internal inconsistency in the concept of deconstructionism itself, because of its very self-referential dependence on the authority of a prior logic. By an aporetical Aufhebung, deconstruction deconstructs itself.

decon strategy #3

A third strategy is to pay close attention to marginal features of the text such as the sort of metaphors that occur in it, because such marginal features “are clues to what is truly important”

decon #2

A second strategy is to look for certain key words in the text that, so to speak, give the game away. Certain key words “figure in oppositions that are essential to a text’s argument, but they also function in ways that subvert those oppositions” (p. 213). The examples Culler gives are “parergon” in Kant, “pharmakon” in Plato, “supplement” in Rousseau, and “hymen” in Mallarmé: These terms are the points at which the strains of an attempt to sustain or impose logocentric conclusions make themselves felt in a text, moments of uncanny opacity that can lead to rewarding commentary [p. 213]. One example of such rewarding commentary is Derrida’s discovery that Rousseau uses “supplement” in discussing both his sexual experience and his theory of writing: he says both that writing is a supplement (to speech) and that masturbation is a supplement (to sex). Derrida concludes, “within the chain of supplements, it was difficult to separate writing from onanism” (Of Grammatology, p. 165).

Decon strategy 1

By “logocentrism” they mean roughly the concern with truth, rationality, logic, and “the word” that marks the Western philosophical tradition. I think the best way to get at it, which would be endorsed by many of its practitioners, is to see it, at least initially, as a set of methods for dealing with texts, a set of textual strategies aimed in large part at subverting logocentric tendencies. One of the several merits of Culler’s book is that he provides a catalog of these strategies and a characterization of their common aims: To deconstruct a discourse is to show how it undermines the philosophy it asserts, or the hierarchical oppositions on which it relies, by identifying in the text the rhetorical operations that produce the supposed ground of argument, the key concept or premise [p. 86]. There are numerous such strategies but at least three stand out. First, and most important, the deconstructionist is on the lookout for any of the traditional binary oppositions in Western intellectual history, e.g., speech/writing, male/female, truth/fiction, literal/metaphorical, signified/signifier, reality/appearance. In such oppositions, the deconstructionist claims that the first or left-hand term is given a superior status over the right-hand term, which is regarded “as a complication, a negation, a manifestation, or a disruption of the first” (p. 93). These hierarchical oppositions allegedly lie at the very heart of logocentrism with its obsessive interest in rationality, logic, and the search for truth.

What Was Deconstruction?

As a body of propositions, it was never hard to probe deconstruction’s weaknesses. Texts undid themselves, it claimed, whereas it was really the deconstructive text that did — and intentionally so. Denouncing something so amorphous and pretentious as “Western metaphysics” partook of the same reductions the school wanted to expose in other paradigms. What could be more damning than pointing out that deconstruction, against its own tenets, opposed opposition? This ultimate performative contradiction lay in claiming that semantic plenitude resists interpretation in the very act of writing that stood as proof of an effort to persuade. What its critics overlooked is that deconstruction triumphed in part by giving its readers less to think about. Its weaknesses gave it strength because running and dodging was its professed mode, so that pointing out its contradictions was a little like getting in its groove.

What Was Deconstruction?

The term “deconstruction” referred not to a set of philosophical concepts but to a desire, which was also a prescription, that there be (as Miller put it) no “center,” no “head referent,” no “innermost core.” In a post-radical era busy turning radicals into professionals, deconstruction — with a great deal of philosophical noise — fell back on America’s familiar modernist response to the partisans of all causes: There are no answers, no origins, no past, no perpetrators.

What Was Deconstruction?

Although few could hear the point during “theory” fever, some observed that deconstruction’s attack on “logocentrism” created problems for liberatory politics. Barbara Harlow (one of Derrida’s early translators) observed that Western philosophy had, in fact, always given tendentious priority to the written word, to scripture, and the law — not speech as Derrida contended. And what are Plato’s dialogues if not dissimulated speech skillfully managed in Socrates’s favor within the controlled ironies of writing? The technology of print in imperial Europe was the very brag of its civilization. How to escape, then, deconstruction’s implicit premise that peripheral traditions of storytelling, song, and word-of-mouth (what Ishmael Reed, after Booker T. Washington, called the “grapevine telegraph”) are illusory or naïve? “Texts” for many cultures are oral, bodily, tonal, and rhythmic. They depend on communal gathering — in short, on a metaphysics of presence.

Yale against Western Art - Quillette

The “diversity of today’s student body” guides the art history department’s curricular thinking, department leaders explained in a statement on the cancelled survey courses. But the ephemera of students’ race and sex have no bearing on the significance of the past. The sublimity of Chartres Cathedral, a focal point of Scully’s fall semester course, transcends the skin color of the latest round of freshmen. If the University of Lagos suddenly received a large influx of students from Idaho, that would not change how Yoruba bronzes would be taught or interpreted. It is only in the West where scholarship and pedagogy are held hostage to some students’ demographic profile.