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Deconstruction: Theory or Not?

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chizisqueen
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This came across while I continued reading and responding to several other deconstruction threads. We've come to know several literary theories very well. All of these theories (except deconstruction) have one common goal: unify some aspect of literature or help us understand the true meaning of literature. Yet, when we look at deconstruction, all it does is literally attacks every single one of these literary theories. Chisnell has highlighted this point that it confuses rather than clarifies. So the question is, can deconstruction be truly considered a literary theory?

My personal take on this is that not really and I like to see it rather as a very elaborate counterargument in simple terms. In fact, even Derrida himself doesn't even consider his work to be full-fledged theory. I'm curious to hear other responses to this. 


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wildsalmon
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I mean, if a literary theory's goal is to locate where meaning is, isn't deconstruction still answering that by saying it's not there? Sure it's attacking the basis for all the other theories, but I suppose it all comes down to what exactly a literary theory is trying to accomplish. It does do the opposite of everything we've come across so far, I wouldn't say that makes not "not a theory" or anything like that. Hell, what even is a theory? You get into some really meta analysis there, but based simply on the surface level understanding of deconstruction, I have to disagree with you here.


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Conster
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I think that it is a theory on literature, but not necessarily a literary theory. It is a theory that has literature and the meaning, or supposed lack thereof, of language in its sights. If there is to be a label put on it, literary theory is certainly not one of them as it completely misses the category of idea that all other literary theories we have studied so far (as you pointed out). I also do not think that it can go unlabeled completely out of the realm of literary theory, as it is a theory, and it is about language. So, I would conclude that it is not a literary theory based on the references we currently have to help define the term. 


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TheBoulder
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I agree with @salmon. It is not traditional in that locates where the meaning comes from, it found that literature is incapable of holding meaning. So it is, but it doesn't adhere to the same framework that all the other theories have. It does go against all the other theories, but they go against each other too. I don't think that makes it unique. It may take it to a different level.


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xwing37
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@salmon, I agree, like you said, it's still locating the meaning, it's just saying there isn't any. So I think it's unfair to remove this idea from the concept of literary theory without more analysis. Just because it doesn't follow all of ideas from other literary theories doesn't mean it should be disregarded as one. I think this needs a lot more analysis because it's definitely unique compared to the other concepts that we have come across.


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SnowyYeti
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@salmon I had started out disagreeing with the point you have made when I first read it but as I start to think about it I suppose you have a point.  I am still having a bit of a hard time accepting the fact that a theory saying a text has no meaning has the same energy as a theory trying to help find meaning but I think that makes enough sense.  I think what is stopping me from buying into this theory completely is that I cant wrap my head around it, I am hoping this forum will help straighten that out a bit. 


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savhoisington
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@snowyyeti I agree with @salmon that a literary theory's main goal is to define the meaning, defining it as there being none would count. But, I agree that there is still a lot with this theory I would like to unravel and go into more depth with so that I can better have an opinion on this


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aplitstudent123
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@salmon I agree that it is possible for this concept to be a literacy theory. Yes, it is much different than the others in the fact that the others tell ways to find meaning and this theory states that there is no meaning, but technically that is still discussing meaning. I would like ot learn more about this topic before I ultimately decide where I stand, but for now I don't want to count this out from being considered a literacy theory.


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klynnph
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Posted by: @conster

I think that it is a theory on literature, but not necessarily a literary theory. It is a theory that has literature and the meaning, or supposed lack thereof, of language in its sights. If there is to be a label put on it, literary theory is certainly not one of them as it completely misses the category of idea that all other literary theories we have studied so far (as you pointed out). I also do not think that it can go unlabeled completely out of the realm of literary theory, as it is a theory, and it is about language. So, I would conclude that it is not a literary theory based on the references we currently have to help define the term. 

I ~respectfully~ disagree. You say that Deconstruction can't be a literary theory due to it "missing the category of idea" that other studied lit theories have. However, Deconstruction has DOES said category of idea- multiple even because deconstruction majorly involves close reading of a piece of work and showing its contradicting meanings. I feel it more than qualifies as a suitable literary theory.


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xwing37
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@aplitstudent123, I agree, I too am stuck in the middle and I don't want to count it out before I learn more about it. As of now I think it would be unfair to count it out just because it is different. If we counted out everything that was different we wouldn't have any of the amazing things that we have in general. So as of now I'm not going to count it out as being theory just because I want to give it a chance since I'm still learning more about it through forums and readings.


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Persephone
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Posted by: @salmon

I mean, if a literary theory's goal is to locate where meaning is, isn't deconstruction still answering that by saying it's not there?

I wholeheartedly agree with this response. While other theories try to help locate a meaning within literature, deconstruction actively goes against all of them saying that this meaning doesn't exist in the first place. In all honesty, while it is easily the most confusing theory we've discussed, I think I agree with this one more than any of the others, because it recognizes meaning is subjective and something can be overall meaningless like words and letters, but to an individual it can be incredibly meaningful.


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abuzz
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@salmon It's almost as if deconstruction has its own abstract unification of literature and meaning by saying it isn't meaningful at all. Even this question itself uses aspects of deconstruction to answer it, for who cares if it's considered a theory or not since novels are meaningless. It's funny that you ask what a theory even is because your post could be considered a theory about a literary theory. I am not entirely convinced as of yet that I would consider deconstruction a literary theory, but I am most certainly not ruling it out.


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MangoMan
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@abuzz I think it's funny we are taking the time to deconstruct whether or not deconstruction is theory.  I think it shows right here that it's a personal preference but when when it boils down, my personal preference is that it is because we are breaking down something we aren't sure on yet so it's still a theory and up to debate.


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octavia
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@mangoman This irony is for sure interesting. I like how you said its personal preference but when we really look at it, its still a theory if were breaking it down. It makes you start to wonder what truly constitutes if something is a theory or not.


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Gil
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What do you guys think we can use deconstruction for? I have read some of the debate on whether or not it is a literary theory or what it is really about, but I am curious whether or not it is not a literary theory, what do are the uses of it? I feel that this theory could apply to many things! It could be like a counterargument towards sexism and racism. We have created these ideas when really they are meaningless. Just becasuse something is repeated doesn't mean it's true! 

Anyways, I think it can be used in literature as well. 

I think that it is a literary theory for it helps us to break down symbols and meanings. Take for example when we were interpreting the meaning of the rose in the two poems. We take some symbols as definite things that everyone knows like rose=love, no quesitons asked. However, when we start to break it down and question wait how can the rose respresnt a love that is beautiful in and in another poem love full of lust and hurt? How can it be both? This leads us to carefully and more thoroughly examine language and meaning within literature.


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