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|Preceded by Modernism|
|Criticism of postmodernism|
Post-structuralism was either a continuation or a rejection of the intellectual project that preceded it—structuralism.Structuralism proposes that one may understand human culture by means of a structure—modeled on language (structural linguistics)—that differs from concrete reality and from abstract ideas—a "third order" that mediates between the two. Post-structuralist authors all present different critiques of structuralism, but common themes include the rejection of the self-sufficiency of structuralism and an interrogation of the binary oppositions that constitute its structures. Writers whose works are often characterised as post-structuralist include: Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Judith Butler, Jean Baudrillard, Julia Kristeva, and Jürgen Habermas, although many theorists who have been called "post-structuralist" have rejected the label.
In sociology, anthropology, and linguistics, structuralism is the methodology that implies elements of human culture must be understood by way of their relationship to a broader, overarching system or structure. It works to uncover the structures that underlie all the things that humans do, think, perceive, and feel. Alternatively, as summarized by philosopher Simon Blackburn, structuralism is "the belief that phenomena of human life are not intelligible except through their interrelations. These relations constitute a structure, and behind local variations in the surface phenomena there are constant laws of abstract structure".
Culture is the social behavior and norms found in human societies. Culture is considered a central concept in anthropology, encompassing the range of phenomena that are transmitted through social learning in human societies. Cultural universals are found in all human societies; these include expressive forms like art, music, dance, ritual, religion, and technologies like tool usage, cooking, shelter, and clothing. The concept of material culture covers the physical expressions of culture, such as technology, architecture and art, whereas the immaterial aspects of culture such as principles of social organization, mythology, philosophy, literature, and science comprise the intangible cultural heritage of a society.
Structure is an arrangement and organization of interrelated elements in a material object or system, or the object or system so organized. Material structures include man-made objects such as buildings and machines and natural objects such as biological organisms, minerals and chemicals. Abstract structures include data structures in computer science and musical form. Types of structure include a hierarchy, a network featuring many-to-many links, or a lattice featuring connections between components that are neighbors in space.
Existential phenomenology is a significant influence; Colin Davis has argued that post-structuralists might just as accurately be called "post-phenomenologists".
Existential phenomenology is Martin Heidegger's brand of phenomenology.
Colin Davis is professor of French at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is known for his research on French literature and Levinas's thought.
Phenomenology is the philosophical study of the structures of experience and consciousness. As a philosophical movement it was founded in the early years of the 20th century by Edmund Husserl and was later expanded upon by a circle of his followers at the universities of Göttingen and Munich in Germany. It then spread to France, the United States, and elsewhere, often in contexts far removed from Husserl's early work.
Structuralism was an intellectual movement in France in the 1950s and 1960s that studied the underlying structures in cultural products (such as texts) and used analytical concepts from linguistics, psychology, anthropology, and other fields to interpret those structures. Structuralism posits the concept of binary opposition, in which frequently used pairs of opposite but related words (concepts) are often arranged in a hierarchy, for example: Enlightenment/Romantic, male/female, speech/writing, rational/emotional, signified/signifier, symbolic/imaginary.
Linguistics is the scientific study of language. It involves analysing language form, language meaning, and language in context. The earliest activities in the documentation and description of language have been attributed to the 6th-century-BC Indian grammarian Pāṇini who wrote a formal description of the Sanskrit language in his Aṣṭādhyāyī.
Psychology is the science of behavior and mind. Psychology includes the study of conscious and unconscious phenomena, as well as feeling and thought. It is an academic discipline of immense scope. Psychologists seek an understanding of the emergent properties of brains, and all the variety of phenomena linked to those emergent properties, joining this way the broader neuroscientific group of researchers. As a social science it aims to understand individuals and groups by establishing general principles and researching specific cases.
A binary opposition is a pair of related terms or concepts that are opposite in meaning. Binary opposition is the system of language and/or thought by which two theoretical opposites are strictly defined and set off against one another. It is the contrast between two mutually exclusive terms, such as on and off, up and down, left and right. Binary opposition is an important concept of structuralism, which sees such distinctions as fundamental to all language and thought. In structuralism, a binary opposition is seen as a fundamental organizer of human philosophy, culture, and language.
Post-structuralism rejects the structuralist notion that the dominant word in a pair is dependent on its subservient counterpart and instead argues that founding knowledge either on pure experience (phenomenology) or systematic structures (Structuralism) is impossible because history and culture condition the study of underlying structures and these are subject to biases and misinterpretations. This impossibility was not meant as a failure or loss, but rather as a cause for "celebration and liberation".A post-structuralist approach argues that to understand an object (e.g., a text), it is necessary to study both the object itself and the systems of knowledge that produced the object. The uncertain distance between structuralism and post-structuralism is further blurred by the fact that scholars rarely label themselves as post-structuralists. Some scholars associated with structuralism, such as Roland Barthes and Foucault, also became noteworthy in post-structuralism.
Roland Gérard Barthes was a French literary theorist, philosopher, critic, and semiotician. Barthes' ideas explored a diverse range of fields and he influenced the development of many schools of theory, including structuralism, semiotics, social theory, design theory, anthropology, and post-structuralism.
Paul-Michel Foucault, generally known as Michel Foucault, was a French philosopher, historian of ideas, social theorist, and literary critic.
Some observers from outside the post-structuralist camp have questioned the rigour and legitimacy of the field. American philosopher John Searleargued in 1990 that "The spread of 'poststructuralist' literary theory is perhaps the best-known example of a silly but non-catastrophic phenomenon." Similarly, physicist Alan Sokal in 1997 criticized "the postmodernist/poststructuralist gibberish that is now hegemonic in some sectors of the American academy." Literature scholar Norman Holland argued that post-structuralism was flawed due to reliance on Saussure's linguistic model, which was seriously challenged by the 1950s and was soon abandoned by linguists: "Saussure's views are not held, so far as I know, by modern linguists, only by literary critics and the occasional philosopher. [Strict adherence to Saussure] has elicited wrong film and literary theory on a grand scale. One can find dozens of books of literary theory bogged down in signifiers and signifieds, but only a handful that refers to Chomsky."
John Rogers Searle is an American philosopher. He was Willis S. and Marion Slusser Professor Emeritus of the Philosophy of Mind and Language and Professor of the Graduate School at the University of California, Berkeley. Widely noted for his contributions to the philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, and social philosophy, he began teaching at UC Berkeley in 1959.
Alan David Sokal is a professor of mathematics at University College London and professor of physics at New York University. He works in statistical mechanics and combinatorics. He is a critic of postmodernism, and caused the Sokal affair in 1996 when his deliberately nonsensical paper was published by Duke University's Social Text. He also works to counter faulty scientific reasoning, as seen with his involvement in criticising the critical positivity ratio concept in positive psychology.
David Foster Wallace wrote:
The deconstructionists ("deconstructionist" and "poststructuralist" mean the same thing, by the way: "poststructuralist" is what you call a deconstructionist who doesn't want to be called a deconstructionist) ... see the debate over the ownership of meaning as a skirmish in a larger war in Western philosophy over the idea that presence and unity are ontologically prior to expression. There’s been this longstanding deluded presumption, they think, that if there is an utterance then there must exist a unified, efficacious presence that causes and owns that utterance. The poststructuralists attack what they see as a post-Platonic prejudice in favour of presence over absence and speech over writing. We tend to trust speech over writing because of the immediacy of the speaker: he's right there, and we can grab him by the lapels and look into his face and figure out just exactly what one single thing he means. But the reason why poststructuralists are in the literary theory business at all is that they see writing, not speech, as more faithful to the metaphysics of true expression. For Barthes, Derrida, and Foucault, writing is a better animal than speech because it is iterable; it is iterable because it is abstract; and it is abstract because it is a function not of presence but of absence: the reader’s absent when the writer’s writing and the writer's absent when the reader's reading.
For a deconstructionist, then, a writer's circumstances and intentions are indeed a part of the "context" of a text, but context imposes no real cinctures on the text's meaning because meaning in language requires cultivation of absence rather than presence, involves not the imposition but the erasure of consciousness. This is so because these guys–Derrida following Heidegger and Barthes Mallarme and Foucault God knows who–see literary language as not a tool but an environment. A writer does not wield language; he is subsumed in it. Language speaks us; writing writes; etc.
Post-structuralism emerged in France during the 1960s as a movement critiquing structuralism. According to J. G. Merquior a love–hate relationship with structuralism developed among many leading French thinkers in the 1960s.
In a 1966 lecture "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences", Jacques Derrida presented a thesis on an apparent rupture in intellectual life. Derrida interpreted this event as a "decentering" of the former intellectual cosmos. Instead of progress or divergence from an identified centre, Derrida described this "event" as a kind of "play."
In 1967, Barthes published "The Death of the Author" in which he announced a metaphorical event: the "death" of the author as an authentic source of meaning for a given text. Barthes argued that any literary text has multiple meanings and that the author was not the prime source of the work's semantic content. The "Death of the Author," Barthes maintained, was the "Birth of the Reader," as the source of the proliferation of meanings of the text.
The period was marked by the rebellion of students and workers against the state in May 1968.
Barthes in his work, Elements of Semiology (1967), advanced the concept of the "metalanguage". A metalanguage is a systematized way of talking about concepts like meaning and grammar beyond the constraints of a traditional (first-order) language; in a metalanguage, symbols replace words and phrases. Insofar as one metalanguage is required for one explanation of the first-order language, another may be required, so metalanguages may actually replace first-order languages. Barthes exposes how this structuralist system is regressive; orders of language rely upon a metalanguage by which it is explained, and therefore deconstruction itself is in danger of becoming a metalanguage, thus exposing all languages and discourse to scrutiny. Barthes' other works contributed deconstructive theories about texts.
The occasional designation of Post-structuralism as a movement can be tied to the fact that mounting criticism of Structuralism became evident at approximately the same time that Structuralism became a topic of interest in universities in the United States. This interest led to a colloquium at Johns Hopkins University in 1966 titled "The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man", to which such French philosophers as Derrida, Barthes, and Lacan were invited to speak.
Derrida's lecture at that conference, "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Human Sciences", was one of the earliest to propose some theoretical limitations to Structuralism, and to attempt to theorize on terms that were clearly no longer structuralist.
The element of "play" in the title of Derrida's essay is often erroneously interpreted in a linguistic sense, based on a general tendency towards puns and humour, while social constructionism as developed in the later work of Michel Foucault is said to create play in the sense of strategic agency by laying bare the levers of historical change. Many see the importance of Foucault's work to be in its synthesis of this social/historical account of the operation of power (see governmentality).[ citation needed ]
The following are often said to be post-structuralists, or to have had a post-structuralist period:
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to critical theory:
Originated by the philosopher Jacques Derrida, deconstruction is an approach to understanding the relationship between text and meaning. Derrida's approach consisted of conducting readings of texts looking for things that run counter to the intended meaning or structural unity of a particular text. The purpose of deconstruction is to show that the usage of language in a given text, and language as a whole, are irreducibly complex, unstable, or impossible. Throughout his readings, Derrida hoped to show deconstruction at work.
Postmodernism is a broad movement that developed in the mid- to late 20th century across philosophy, the arts, architecture, and criticism, marking a departure from modernism. The term has been more generally applied to the historical era following modernity and the tendencies of this era.
Literary theory in a strict sense is the systematic study of the nature of literature and of the methods for analyzing literature. However, literary scholarship since the 19th century often includes—in addition to, or even instead of literary theory in the strict sense—considerations of intellectual history, moral philosophy, social prophecy, and other interdisciplinary themes which are of relevance to the way humans interpret meaning. In the humanities in modern academia, the latter style of scholarship is an outgrowth of critical theory and is often called simply "theory". As a consequence, the word "theory" has become an umbrella term for a variety of scholarly approaches to reading texts. Many of these approaches are informed by various strands of Continental philosophy and of sociology.
"Logocentrism" is a term coined by the German philosopher Ludwig Klages in the early 1900s. It refers to the tradition of Western science and philosophy that regards words and language as a fundamental expression of an external reality. It holds the logos as epistemologically superior and that there is an original, irreducible object which the logos represents. According to logocentrism, the logos is the ideal representation of the Platonic ideal.
"The Death of the Author" is a 1967 essay by the French literary critic and theorist Roland Barthes (1915–1980). Barthes' essay argues against traditional literary criticism's practice of incorporating the intentions and biographical context of an author in an interpretation of a text, and instead argues that writing and creator are unrelated. The title is a reference to Le Morte d'Arthur, a 15th-century compilation of smaller Arthurian legend stories, written by Sir Thomas Malory.
Jonathan Culler is Class of 1916 Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Cornell University; his published works are in the fields of structuralism, literary theory and criticism.
The linguistic turn was a major development in Western philosophy during the early 20th century, the most important characteristic of which is the focusing of philosophy and the other humanities primarily on the relationship between philosophy and language.
In social theory and philosophy, antihumanism is a theory that is critical of traditional humanism and traditional ideas about humanity and the human condition. Central to antihumanism is the view that concepts of "human nature", "man", or "humanity" should be rejected as historically relative or metaphysical.
Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences was a lecture presented at Johns Hopkins University on 21 October 1966 by philosopher Jacques Derrida. The lecture was then published in 1967 as chapter ten of Writing and Difference.
Difference is a key concept of philosophy, denoting the process or set of properties by which one entity is distinguished from another within a relational field or a given conceptual system. In the Western philosophical system, difference is traditionally viewed as being opposed to identity, following the Principles of Leibniz, and in particular, his Law of the identity of indiscernibles. In structuralist and poststructuralist accounts, however, difference is understood to be constitutive of both meaning and identity. In other words, because identity is viewed in non-essentialist terms as a construct, and because constructs only produce meaning through the interplay of differences, it is the case that for both structuralism and poststructuralism, identity cannot be said to exist without difference.
French philosophy, here taken to mean philosophy in the French language, has been extremely diverse and has influenced Western philosophy as a whole for centuries, from the medieval scholasticism of Peter Abelard, through the founding of modern philosophy by René Descartes, to 20th century philosophy of science, existentialism, phenomenology, structuralism, and postmodernism.
The linguist Ignace Gelb coined the term "grammatology" in 1952 to refer to the scientific study of writing systems or scripts. Grammatology can examine the typology of scripts, the analysis of the structural properties of scripts, and the relationship between written and spoken language. In its broadest sense, some scholars also include the study of literacy in grammatology and, indeed, the impact of writing on philosophy, religion, science, administration and other aspects of the organization of society. Historian Bruce Trigger associates grammatology with cultural evolution.
Barbara Ellen Johnson was an American literary critic and translator, born in Boston. She was a Professor of English and Comparative Literature and the Fredric Wertham Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Society at Harvard University. Her scholarship incorporated a variety of structuralist and poststructuralist perspectives—including deconstruction, Lacanian psychoanalysis, and feminist theory—into a critical, interdisciplinary study of literature. As a scholar, teacher, and translator, Johnson helped make the theories of French philosopher Jacques Derrida accessible to English-speaking audiences in the United States at a time when they had just begun to gain recognition in France. Accordingly, she is often associated with the "Yale School" of academic literary criticism.
Poststructural feminism is a branch of feminism that engages with insights from post-structuralist thought. Poststructural feminism emphasizes "the contingent and discursive nature of all identities", and in particular the social construction of gendered subjectivities. A contribution of this branch was to argue that there is no universal single category of "woman" or "man."
Post-anarchism or postanarchism is an anarchist philosophy that employs post-structuralist and postmodernist approaches. Post-anarchism is not a single coherent theory, but rather refers to the combined works of any number of post-modernists and post-structuralists such as Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Jean Baudrillard; postmodern feminists such as Judith Butler; and alongside those of classical anarchist and libertarian philosophers such as Zhuang Zhou, Emma Goldman, Max Stirner, and Friedrich Nietzsche. Thus, the terminology can vary widely in both approach and outcome.
Feminist post-structuralist discourse analysis (FPDA) is a method of discourse analysis based on Chris Weedon's theories of feminist post-structuralism, and developed as a method of analysis by Judith Baxter in 2003. FPDA is based on a combination of feminism and post-structuralism. While it is still evolving as a methodology, FPDA has been used by a range of international scholars of gender and language to analyse texts such as: classroom discourse, teenage girls' conversation, and media representations of gender. FPDA is an approach to analysing the discourse of spoken interaction principally.
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