Post-structuralism

Post-structuralism was either a continuation or a rejection of the intellectual project that preceded it—structuralism.[1] 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.[2] 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.[3][4][5] [6] 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.[7]

Existential phenomenology is a significant influence; Colin Davis has argued that post-structuralists might just as accurately be called "post-phenomenologists".[8]

Post-structuralism and structuralism

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, signifier/signified, symbolic/imaginary.

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".[9]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.[10] 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.[11]

Controversy

Some observers from outside the post-structuralist camp have questioned the rigour and legitimacy of the field. American philosopher John Searle[12] argued 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[13] 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."[14]

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.[15]

History

Post-structuralism emerged in France during the 1960s as a movement critiquing structuralism. According to J. G. Merquior[5] 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.

Major works

Barthes and the need for metalanguage

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.

Derrida's lecture at Johns Hopkins

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).

See also

Authors

The following are often said to be post-structuralists, or to have had a post-structuralist period:

References

  1. ^ Lewis, Philip. "The Post-Structuralist Condition." Diacritics 12, no. 1 (1982): 2-24. doi:10.2307/464788.
  2. ^ Deleuze, Gilles. 2002. "How Do We Recognise Structuralism?" In Desert Islands and Other Texts 1953-1974. Trans. David Lapoujade. Ed. Michael Taormina. Semiotext(e) Foreign Agents ser. Los Angeles and New York: Semiotext(e), 2004. 170-192. ISBN 1-58435-018-0. p.171-173.
  3. ^ Bensmaïa, Réda Poststructuralism, article published in Kritzman, Lawrence (ed.) The Columbia History of Twentieth-Century French Thought, Columbia University Press, 2005, pp.92-93
  4. ^ Mark Poster (1988) Critical theory and poststructuralism: in search of a context, section Introduction: Theory and the problem of Context, pp.5-6
  5. ^ a b Merquior, J. G. (1987). Foucault (Fontana Modern Masters series), University of California Press, ISBN 0-520-06062-8.
  6. ^ , Craig, Edward, ed. 1998. Routledge Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. Vol. 7 (Nihilism to Quantum mechanics). London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-18712-5. p.597.
  7. ^ Harrison, Paul; 2006; "Post-structuralist Theories"; pp122-135 in Aitken, S. and Valentine, G. (eds); 2006; Approaches to Human Geography; Sage, London
  8. ^ Davis, Colin; "Levinas: An Introduction"; p8; 2006; Continuum, London.
  9. ^ Colebrook 2002, pp. 2-4
  10. ^ Raulet, Gerard. "Structuralism and post-structuralism: An interview with Michel Foucault." Telos 1983, no. 55 (1983): 195-211. doi: 10.3817/0383055195 telos March 20, 1983 vol. 1983 no. 55 195-211
  11. ^ Williams, James. Understanding poststructuralism. Routledge, 2014.
  12. ^ Searle, John. (1990). "The Storm Over the University," in The New York Times Review of Books, 6 December 1990.
  13. ^ Sokal, Alan. (1997) "Professor Latour's Philosophical Mystifications," originally published in French in Le Monde, 31 January 1997; translated by the author.
  14. ^ Holland, Norman N. (1992) The Critical I, Columbia University Press, ISBN 0-231-07650-9, p. 140.
  15. ^ Biblioklept (22 December 2010). "David Foster Wallace Describes Poststructuralism". Biblioklept. Retrieved 25 May 2017.

Sources

  • Angermuller, J. (2015): Why There Is No Poststructuralism in France. The Making of an Intellectual Generation. London: Bloomsbury.
  • Angermuller, J. (2014): Poststructuralist Discourse Analysis. Subjectivity in Enunciative Pragmatics. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Barry, P. Beginning theory: an introduction to literary and cultural theory. Manchester University Press, Manchester, 2002.
  • Barthes, Roland. Elements of Semiology. New York: Hill and Wang, 1967.
  • Cuddon, J. A. Dictionary of Literary Terms & Literary Theory. London: Penguin, 1998.
  • Eagleton, T. Literary theory: an introduction Basil Blackwell, Oxford,1983.
  • Matthews, E. Twentieth-Century French Philosophy. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1996.
  • Ryan, M. Literary theory: a practical introduction. Blackwell Publishers Inc, Massachusetts,1999.
  • Wolfreys, J & Baker, W (eds). Literary theories: a case study in critical performance. Macmillan Press, Hong Kong,1996.

External links

20th-century philosophy

20th-century philosophy saw the development of a number of new philosophical schools—including logical positivism, analytic philosophy, phenomenology, existentialism, and poststructuralism. In terms of the eras of philosophy, it is usually labelled as contemporary philosophy (succeeding modern philosophy, which runs roughly from the time of René Descartes until the late 19th to early 20th centuries).

As with other academic disciplines, philosophy increasingly became professionalized in the twentieth century, and a split emerged between philosophers who considered themselves part of either the "analytic" or "Continental" traditions. However, there have been disputes regarding both the terminology and the reasons behind the divide, as well as philosophers who see themselves as bridging the divide, such as process philosophy advocates and neopragmatists. In addition, philosophy in the twentieth century became increasingly technical and harder for lay people to read.

The publication of Edmund Husserl's Logical Investigations (1900–1) and Bertrand Russell's The Principles of Mathematics (1903) is considered to mark the beginning of 20th-century philosophy.

Alterity

Alterity is a philosophical and anthropological term meaning "otherness", that is, the "other of two" (Latin alter). It is also increasingly being used in media to express something other than "sameness", an imitation compared to the original.

Antihumanism

In social theory and philosophy, antihumanism (or anti-humanism) 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.

Continental philosophy

Continental philosophy is a set of 19th- and 20th-century philosophical traditions from mainland Europe. This sense of the term originated among English-speaking philosophers in the second half of the 20th century, who used it to refer to a range of thinkers and traditions outside the analytic movement. Continental philosophy includes German idealism, phenomenology, existentialism (and its antecedents, such as the thought of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche), hermeneutics, structuralism, post-structuralism, deconstruction, French feminism, psychoanalytic theory, and the critical theory of the Frankfurt School and related branches of Western Marxism.It is difficult to identify non-trivial claims that would be common to all the preceding philosophical movements. The term continental philosophy, like analytic philosophy, lacks clear definition and may mark merely a family resemblance across disparate philosophical views. Simon Glendinning has suggested that the term was originally more pejorative than descriptive, functioning as a label for types of western philosophy rejected or disliked by analytic philosophers. Nonetheless, Michael E. Rosen has ventured to identify common themes that typically characterize continental philosophy.

First, continental philosophers generally reject the view that the natural sciences are the only or most accurate way of understanding natural phenomena. This contrasts with many analytic philosophers who consider their inquiries as continuous with, or subordinate to, those of the natural sciences. Continental philosophers often argue that science depends upon a "pre-theoretical substrate of experience" (a version of Kantian conditions of possible experience or the phenomenological "lifeworld") and that scientific methods are inadequate to fully understand such conditions of intelligibility.

Second, continental philosophy usually considers these conditions of possible experience as variable: determined at least partly by factors such as context, space and time, language, culture, or history. Thus continental philosophy tends toward historicism (or historicity). Where analytic philosophy tends to treat philosophy in terms of discrete problems, capable of being analyzed apart from their historical origins (much as scientists consider the history of science inessential to scientific inquiry), continental philosophy typically suggests that "philosophical argument cannot be divorced from the textual and contextual conditions of its historical emergence".

Third, continental philosophy typically holds that human agency can change these conditions of possible experience: "if human experience is a contingent creation, then it can be recreated in other ways". Thus continental philosophers tend to take a strong interest in the unity of theory and practice, and often see their philosophical inquiries as closely related to personal, moral, or political transformation. This tendency is very clear in the Marxist tradition ("philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it"), but is also central in existentialism and post-structuralism.

A final characteristic trait of continental philosophy is an emphasis on metaphilosophy. In the wake of the development and success of the natural sciences, continental philosophers have often sought to redefine the method and nature of philosophy. In some cases (such as German idealism or phenomenology), this manifests as a renovation of the traditional view that philosophy is the first, foundational, a priori science. In other cases (such as hermeneutics, critical theory, or structuralism), it is held that philosophy investigates a domain that is irreducibly cultural or practical. And some continental philosophers (such as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, the later Heidegger, or Derrida) doubt whether any conception of philosophy can coherently achieve its stated goals.Ultimately, the foregoing themes derive from a broadly Kantian thesis that knowledge, experience, and reality are bound and shaped by conditions best understood through philosophical reflection rather than exclusively empirical inquiry.

Dead White Males (play)

Dead White Males is a 1995 play by David Williamson. It was written in response to an academic paper on post-structuralism that Williamson found incomprehensible. The appearance of William Shakespeare features as a motif throughout the play.

Dialogic

Dialogic means relates to or is characterized by dialogue and its use. A dialogic is communication presented in the form of dialogue. Dialogic processes refer to implied meaning in words uttered by a speaker and interpreted by a listener. Dialogic works carry on a continual dialogue that includes interaction with previous information presented. The term is used to describe concepts in literary theory and analysis as well as in philosophy.

Along with dialogism, the term can refer to concepts used in the work of Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin; especially in his text, The Dialogic Imagination.

Discontinuity (Postmodernism)

For Michel Foucault (1926–84), discontinuity and continuity reflect the flow of history and the fact that some "things are no longer perceived, described, expressed, characterised, classified, and known in the same way" from one era to the next. (1994).

Dispositif

Dispositif is a term used by the French intellectual Michel Foucault, generally to refer to the various institutional, physical, and administrative mechanisms and knowledge structures which enhance and maintain the exercise of power within the social body.

Feminist post-structuralist discourse analysis

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 (Castañeda-Peña 2008; Sauntson 2012), teenage girls' conversation (Kamada 2008; 2010), and media representations of gender (Baker 2013). FPDA is an approach to analysing the discourse of spoken interaction principally.

The poststructualist part of FPDA views language as social practice and considers that people's identities and relationships are 'performed' through spoken interaction. FPDA analyses the ways in which speakers are 'positioned' by different and often competing 'discourses' according to Michel Foucault's (1972: 49) definition as 'practices that systematically form the objects of which they speak'. According to this, speakers constantly move between powerful and powerless 'subject positions' as they talk and interact. FPDA is influenced by a poststructuralist rather than a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) perspective: that is, the method is informed by the view that no speaker is wholly a victim and powerless, nor wholly dominant and powerful. Rather, speakers are constantly shifting their subject positions according to the interplay of discourses within specific settings. The feminist part of FPDA considers gender difference to be a dominant discourse among competing discourses when analysing all types of text. According to Baxter (2003), FPDA does not have an 'emancipatory' agenda for women but a 'transformative' one. This means that it aims to represent women's voices that have been 'silenced' or marginalised since FPDA considers that these have been historically absent in many cultures. For example, Kamada (2008a; 2008b and 2010) uses FPDA to show how a friendship group of half-Japanese girls, who are seen by their culture as 'less than whole', draw upon competing discourses to negotiate more positive versions of their 'hybrid' ethnic and gender identities.

French post-structuralist feminism

French post-structuralist feminism takes post-structuralism and combines it with feminist views and looks to see if a literary work has successfully used the process of mimesis on the image of the female. If successful, then a new image of a woman has been created by a woman for a woman, therefore it is not a biased opinion created by men. Along with Luce Irigaray and Julia Kristeva, Hélène Cixous is considered one of the mothers of poststructuralist feminist theory. Since the 1990s, these three together with Bracha Ettinger have considerably influenced French feminism and feminist psychoanalysis.

Gadamer–Derrida debate

The Gadamer–Derrida debate is an encounter between Hans-Georg Gadamer and Jacques Derrida in April 1981 in a Sorbonne conference in Paris on "Text and Interpretation". Before this debate, there had not been any confrontation or dialogue between hermeneutics in Germany and post-structuralism in France.

Gaze

In critical theory, sociology, and psychoanalysis, the philosophic term the gaze (French le regard) describes the act of seeing and the act of being seen. The concept and the social applications of the gaze have been defined and explained by existentialist and phenomenologist philosophers; Jean-Paul Sartre, in Being and Nothingness (1943); Michel Foucault in Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1975) developed the concept of the gaze to illustrate the dynamics of socio-political power relations and the social dynamics of society's mechanisms of discipline; and Jacques Derrida, in The Animal that Therefore I Am (More to Come) (1997) elaborated upon the inter-species relations that exist among animals and human beings, which are established by way of the gaze.

Intertextuality

Intertextuality is the shaping of a text's meaning by another text. It is the interconnection between similar or related works of literature that reflect and influence an audience's interpretation of the text. Intertextual figures include: allusion, quotation, calque, plagiarism, translation, pastiche and parody. Intertextuality is a literary device that creates an 'interrelationship between texts' and generates related understanding in separate works. These references are made to influence the reader and add layers of depth to a text, based on the readers' prior knowledge and understanding. Intertextuality is a literary discourse strategy utilised by writers in novels, poetry, theatre and even in non-written texts (such as performances and digital media). Examples of intertextuality are an author's borrowing and transformation of a prior text, and a reader's referencing of one text in reading another.

Intertextuality does not require citing or referencing punctuation (such as quotation marks) and is often mistaken for plagiarism. Intertextuality can be produced in texts using a variety of functions including allusion, quotation and referencing. However, intertextuality is not always intentional and can be utilised inadvertently.

As philosopher William Irwin wrote, the term "has come to have almost as many meanings as users, from those faithful to Julia Kristeva's original vision to those who simply use it as a stylish way of talking about allusion and influence".

Post-anarchism

Post-anarchism or postanarchism is an anarchist philosophy that employs post-structuralist and postmodernist approaches (the term post-structuralist anarchism is used as well, so as not to suggest having moved beyond anarchism). 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.

Post-structural feminism

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."

Postmodern theology

Postmodern theology—also known as the continental philosophy of religion—is a philosophical and theological movement that interprets theology in light of post-Heideggerian continental philosophy, including phenomenology, post-structuralism, and deconstruction.

Subaltern (postcolonialism)

In post-colonial studies and in critical theory, the term subaltern designates the colonial populations who are socially, politically, and geographically outside the hierarchy of power of a colony, and of the empire's metropolitan homeland. In describing cultural hegemony as popular history, Antonio Gramsci coined the term subaltern to identify the social groups excluded and displaced from the socio-economic institutions of society in order to deny their political voices. The terms subaltern and subaltern studies entered the vocabulary of post-colonialism through the works of the Subaltern Studies Group of historians who explored the political-actor role of the men and women who constitute the mass population, rather than re-explore the political-actor roles of the social and economic elites in the history of India. As a method of investigation and analysis of the political role of subaltern populations, Marx's theory of history presents colonial history from the perspective of the proletariat; that the who and what of social class are determined through the economic relations among the social classes of a society. Since the 1970s, the term subaltern denoted the colonized peoples of the Indian subcontinent, imperial history told from below, from the perspective of the colonised peoples, rather than from the perspective of the colonisers from Western Europe; by the 1980s, the Subaltern Studies method of historical enquiry was applied to South Asian historiography. As a method of intellectual discourse, the concept of the subaltern originated as a Eurocentric method of historical enquiry for the study of non-Western peoples (of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East) and their relation to Western Europe as the centre of world history, thus subaltern studies became the model for historical research of the subaltern's experience of colonialism in the Indian Subcontinent.

The Real

In philosophy, the Real is that which is the authentic, unchangeable truth. It may be considered a primordial, external dimension of experience, referred to as the infinite, absolute or noumenal, as opposed to a reality contingent on sense perception and the material order. The Real is often considered irreducible to the symbolic order of lived experience, but may be gestured to in certain cases, such as the experience of the sublime.

Women's studies

Women's studies is an academic field that draws on feminist and interdisciplinary methods in order to place women’s lives and experiences at the center of study, while examining social and cultural constructs of gender; systems of privilege and oppression; and the relationships between power and gender as they intersect with other identities and social locations such as race, sexual orientation, socio-economic class, and disability.Popular theories within the field of women's studies include feminist theory, standpoint theory, intersectionality, multiculturalism, transnational feminism, social justice, affect studies, agency, biopolitics, materialisms, and embodiment. Research practices and methodologies associated with women's studies include ethnography, autoethnography, focus groups, surveys, community-based research, discourse analysis, and reading practices associated with critical theory, post-structuralism, and queer theory. The field researches and critiques societal norms of gender, race, class, sexuality, and other social inequalities.

Women's studies is closely related to the fields of gender studies, feminist studies, and sexuality studies, and more broadly related to the fields of cultural studies, ethnic studies, and African-American studies. Women's studies courses are offered in over seven hundred institutions in the United States, and globally in more than forty countries.

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