Sunday, December 27, 2009

Feminist Crticism (Wisam's and Lina's presentation)

Feminist literary criticism is the product of the women's movement of the 1960s. This theory depends on the image of women in the literary work. It also defined as the discussion of female issues by male or female writers.

Some terms:
According to Toril Moi:
Feminist: political position
Female: matter of biology
Feminine: a set of culturally defined characteristic

The stages of this movement:

In 1970s critical attention was given to book by male writers in which typical images of women were constructed.

In 1980s, there were drastic changes related to feminism:

Feminist started to be eclectic. (Benefiting from a lot of fields such as Marxism, structuralism and linguistics.

Feminist started to pay attention to the nature of female ( her interests , and her thinking instead of criticizing men only )

Feminist started to found new principles of literature; by rereading and rewriting (novel, drama and poetry) that was written by men in a way that neglected women.

Feminist started to establish set of ideas and thoughts and to invent new terminology.
Starting to publish and spread " gynotexts" ( books written by women). In the late 1970s there was a shift of attention from androtexts to gynotexts.

Studying gynotexts called gynocriticism.
According to Elaine Showalter gynocriticism is the study of individual or collective female careers.

Feminist individualism: women have their own decision to achieve their identity and self-determination and it is related to freedom.
Feminist collectivism: women constrain by some standers.

Waves of feminism
ý First wave: women asked for the primitive needs (the right to vote and to choose their husband).

ý Second wave: women wanted equality with men (in education, and business, money). They wanted to have political position in the government.

ý Third wave (radical feminism): in this wave women asked for their own societies and some of them wanted to corrupt the notion by (lesbian communities).

Feminism and the role of theory
There are three schools:
i. Anglo _ American feminism ( America)
ii. Social Marxist ( England)
iii. French feminism (France)

Anglo _ American feminism
This school presents the second wave of feminism where they demand equality with men.
Main characteristics
1. They believe in close reading of the text (objectivity). They pay individual emphasis on the historical background and memories of the author to understand the text.
2. They present traditional themes, ideas and characterization.
3. They accept literary realism / logic.

Social Marxist in England
1. Believe in cultural materialism.
2. Conflict of classes.
3. They do not believe in reality.

French feminism
They are the followers of Freud & Derrida.
1. they believe in the unconscious
2. meanings are subjective
3. they do not believe in the notion of reality
4. They believe in the notion of death of the author.

Important books
v Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792)

The importance of this book arises from three factors:
1) The first emerged for feminist books.
2) It is purely the first book written by a female and disuses male writers like Milton and pop.
3) It describes the first wave of feminism.

v Virginia Woolf`s A Room of One's Own (1929)

This book portrays the unequal treatment given to women, seeking education and deciding their own marriage

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Psychoanalytical Criticism
Psychoanalytical criticism, which emerged in the first half of the nineteenth century, is a type of literary criticism which uses some of the techniques of psychoanalysis in the interpretation of literature. It is a type of literary criticism that explores and analyzes both literature in general and specific literary texts in term of mental processes. Psychological critics generally focus on the mental processes of the author, analyzes works with an eye to their authors’ personalities. Some psychological critics use literary works to reconstruct and understand the personalities of authors-or to understand their modes of consciousness and thinking.

It is a widely excepted notion that Sigmund Freud is the psychologist of the 19th and 20th century; you seldom hear the word "psychology" without people immediately thinking of Freud. His theories of psychosexual development; the stages, Oedipal crisis, and character, include some of the most renowned psychiatric research, as well as some of the most controversial. To Freud the sex drive is the most motivating force, not only for adults, but for children and infants as well.
Freud focused on the ambiguities of language as reflections of mental processes, particularly as they manifest themselves in dreams, symptoms, slips of the tongue, and puns.
Freud powerfully developed an old idea: that the human mind is essentially dual in nature, operating both consciously and unconsciously. He also identified three components of the human psyche. He called the predominantly passionate, irrational, unknown, and unconscious part of the psyche the ‘id,’ or ‘it.’ Freud viewed the id- insatiable and pleasure-seeking – as the source of our instinctual physical (especially libidinal) desires. Freud opposed the id to the superego, the part of the psyche that has internalized the norm and mores of society. Since the superego reflects social beliefs, behaviors, and even pressures, it almost seems to be outside the self, making moral judgments and telling us to make sacrifices even when such sacrifices may not be in our best interests. The third aspect of the psyche identified by Freud id the ego, or the ‘I,’ which is predominantly rational, logical, and conscious, the ego must constantly mediate between the often competing demands of the id and the superego; roughly speaking, it must choose between (or balance) liberation and self-gratification on one hand and censorship and conformity on the other.

Jacques-Marie-Émile Lacan (April 13, 1901 – September 9, 1981) was a French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist who made prominent contributions to psychoanalysis, philosophy, and literary theory. He gave yearly seminars, in Paris, from 1953 to 1981, mostly influencing France's intellectuals in the 1960s and the 1970s, especially the post-structuralist philosophers. His interdisciplinary work is Freudian, featuring the unconscious, the castration complex, the ego; identification; and language as subjective perception, and thus he figures in critical theory, literary studies, twentieth-century French philosophy, and clinical psychoanalysis.
The mirror stage (le stade du miroir):
Lacan's first official contribution to psychoanalysis was the mirror stage which he described " as formative of the function of the I as revealed in psychoanalytic experience". By the early fifties, he no longer considered the mirror stage as only a moment in the life of the infant, but as the permanent structure of subjectivity. In the paradigm of The Imaginary order, the subject is permanently caught and captivated by his own image. Lacan writes, "[T]he mirror stage is a phenomenon to which I assign a twofold value. In the first place, it has historical value as it marks a decisive turning-point in the mental development of the child. In the second place, it typifies an essential libidinal relationship with the body-image".
As he further develops the concept, the stress falls less on its historical value and more on its structural value. In his fourth Seminar, La relation d'objet, Lacan states that "the mirror stage is far from a mere phenomenon which occurs in the development of the child. It illustrates the conflictual nature of the dual relationship".
The mirror stage describes the formation of the Ego via the process of objectification, the Ego being the result of feeling dissension between one's perceived visual appearance and one's perceived emotional reality. This identification is what Lacan called alienation. At six months the baby still lacks coordination. However, he can recognize himself in the mirror before attaining control over his bodily movements. He sees his image as a whole, and the synthesis of this image produces a sense of contrast with the uncoordination of the body, which is perceived as a fragmented body. This contrast is first felt by the infant as a rivalry with his own image, because the wholeness of the image threatens him with fragmentation, and thus the mirror stage gives rise to an aggressive tension between the subject and the image. To resolve this aggressive tension, the subject identifies with the image: this primary identification with the counterpart is what forms the Ego. The moment of identification is to Lacan a moment of jubilation since it leads to an imaginary sense of mastery, yet the jubilation may also be accompanied by a depressive reaction, when the infant compares his own precarious sense of mastery with the omnipotence of the mother. This identification also involves the ideal ego which functions as a promise of future wholeness sustaining the Ego in anticipation.
In the Mirror stage a misunderstanding - "méconnaissance" - constitutes the Ego—the 'moi' becomes alienated from himself through the introduction of the Imaginary order subject. It must be said that the mirror stage has also a significant symbolic dimension. The Symbolic order is present in the figure of the adult who is carrying the infant: the moment after the subject has jubilantly assumed his image as his own, he turns his head towards this adult who represents the big Other, as if to call on him to ratify this image.

You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time---
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off the beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine,
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gypsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been sacred of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You----

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I'm finally through.
The black telephone's off at the root,
The voices just can't worm through.

If I've killed one man, I've killed two---
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There's a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Eliot's 'The Love song of J. Alfred Prufrock'

T.S. Eliot (1888–1965). Prufrock and Other Observations. 1917.

1. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.

LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats 5
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question … 10
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes, 15
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap, 20
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes; 25
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate; 30
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go 35
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair— 40
[They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
[They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”]
Do I dare 45
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:—
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons, 50
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all— 55
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways? 60
And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
It is perfume from a dress 65
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?
. . . . .
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets 70
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?…

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
. . . . .
And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully! 75
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis? 80
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker, 85
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while, 90
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”— 95
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say: “That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while, 100
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen: 105
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.”
. . . . . 110
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use, 115
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old … I grow old … 120
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me. 125

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown 130
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.


Postmodernism: a term referring to certain radically experimental works of literature and art produced after world War II. The postmodern era, with its potential or mass destruction and its shocking history of genocide, has evoked a continuing disillusionment similar to that widely experienced during the Modern Period. Much of postmodernist writing reveals and highlights the alienation of individuals and the meaninglessness of human existence. Postmodernists frequently stress that human desperately (and ultimately unsuccessfully) cling to illusions of security to conceal and forget the void over which their lives are perched.
Some Characteristics of Postmodernism
• There is no absolute truth - Postmodernists believe that the notion of truth is a contrived illusion, misused by people and special interest groups to gain power over others.
• Truth and error are synonymous - Facts, postmodernists claim, are too limiting to determine anything. Changing erratically, what is fact today can be false tomorrow.
• Self-conceptualization and rationalization - Traditional logic and objectivity are spurned by postmodernists. Preferring to rely on opinions rather than embrace facts, postmodernist spurn the scientific method.
• Traditional authority is false and corrupt - Postmodernists speak out against the constraints of religious morals and secular authority. They wage intellectual revolution to voice their concerns about traditional establishment.
• Ownership - They claim that collective ownership would most fairly administrate goods and services.
• Disillusionment with modernism - Postmodernists regret the unfulfilled promises of science, technology, government, and religion.
• Morality is personal - Believing ethics to be relative, postmodernists subject morality to personal opinion. They define morality as each person’s private code of ethics without the need to follow traditional values and rules.
• Globalization – Many postmodernists claim that national boundaries are a hindrance to human communication. Nationalism, they believe, causes wars. Therefore, postmodernists often propose internationalism and uniting separate countries.
• All religions are valid - Valuing inclusive faiths, postmodernists fall towards New Age religion. They denounce the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ as being the only way to God.
• Liberal ethics - Postmodernists defend the cause of feminists and homosexuals.


A revolutionary movement encompassing all of the creative arts that had its roots in the 1890s, a transitional period during which artists and writers sought to liberate themselves from constraints and polite conventions we associate with Victorianism. Modernism exploded onto the international scene in the aftermath of World War I, a traumatic transcontinental event that physical devastated and psychologically disillusioned the West in an entirely unprecedented way. A wide variety of new and experimental techniques arose in architecture, dance, literature, music, painting and sculpture.
As a literary movement, modernism gained prominence during and, especially, just after World War I; it subsequently flourished in Europe and America throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Modernist authors sought to break away from traditions and conventions through experimentation with new literary forms, devices, and styles. They incorporated the new psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud and Carl Young into their works and paid particular attention to language – both how it’s used and how they believed it could or ought to be used. Their works reflected the pervasive sense of lose, disillusionment, and even despair in the wake of the Great War, hence their emphasis on historical discontinuity and the alienation of humanity. Although modernist authors tended to perceive the world as fragmented, many- such as T. S. Eliot and James Joyce- believed they could help counter that disintegration through their works. Such writers viewed as a potentially integrating, restorative force, a remedy for uncertainty of the modern world. To this end, even while depicting disorder in their works, modernists also injected order by creating patterns of allusion, symbol, and myth. This rather exalted view of art fostered a certain elitism among modernism.
In literature, there was a rejection of traditional realism (chronological plots, continuous narratives relayed by omniscient narrators, ‘closed endings, etc.) in favor of experimental forms of various kinds.
Some Characteristics of Modernism
• new insights from the emerging fields of psychology and sociology
• anthropological studies of comparative religion
• a growing critique of British imperialism, and the rise of independence movements in the colonies
• the increasing threat of fascism and doctrines of racial superiority in Germany
• the escalation of warfare to a global level
• the extension of democracy, without discrimination as to race or sex
• the increasing dissemination, impact, and influence of non-white cultures
• the entrance of women into the broader work force, and the development of social feminism
• the emergence of a new "city consciousness"
• new information technologies such as radio and cinema
• the rise of mass communication, and the growth of newspapers and periodical literature

Major characteristics of Modernism in Literature:
o A new emphasis on impressionism and subjectivity, that is, on how we see rather than what we see.
o A movement (in novels) away from the apparent objectivity provided by features as: omniscient external narration, fixed narrative points of view and clear-cut moral positions.
o A blurring of the distinctions between genres, so that novels tend to become more lyrical and poetic, for instance, and poems more documentary and prose-like.
o A new liking for fragmented forms, discontinuous narrative, and random-seeming collages of disparate materials.
o A tendency towards ‘reflexivity’, so that poems, plays and novels raise issues concerning their own nature, status, and roles.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Roland Barthes

Roland Barthes (12 November 1915 – 25 March 1980) : was a French literary theorist, philosopher, critic, and semiotician. Barthes's work extended over many fields and he influenced the development of schools of theory including structuralism, semiotics, existentialism, social theory, Marxism and post-structuralism.
His famous essay ‘The Death of the Author’ is the ‘hinge’ round which Barthes turns from structuralism to post-structuralism. In that essay he announces the death of the author, which is a rhetorical way of asserting the independence of the literary text and its immunity to the possibility of being unified or limited by any notion of what the author might have intended, or ‘crafted’ into the work. Instead, the essay makes a declaration of radical textual independence: the work is not determined by intention, or context. Rather, the text is free by its very nature of all such restrains. Barthes says in this is essay that the corollary death of the author is the birth of the reader. This essay demonstrates a shift of attention from the text seen as a something produced by the author to the text seen as something produced by the reader, and, as it were, by language itself, for as Barthes also says, in the absence of an author, the claim to decipher a text becomes futile. Hence, this early phase of post-structuralism seems to license and revel in the endless free play of meanings and the escape from all forms of textual authority.


Post Structuralism
By the mid 20th century there were a number of structural theories of human existence. In the study of language, the structural linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913) suggested that meaning was to be found within the structure of a whole language rather than in the analysis of individual words. For Marxists, the truth of human existence could be understood by an analysis of economic structures. Psychoanalysts attempted to describe the structure of the psyche in terms of an unconscious.
In the 1960's, the structuralist movement, based in France, attempted to synthesise the ideas of Marx, Freud and Saussure. They disagreed with the existentialists' claim that each man is what he makes himself. For the structuralist the individual is shaped by sociological, psychological and linguistic structures over which he/she has no control, but which could be uncovered by using their methods of investigation.
Originally labelled a structuralist, the French philosopher and historian Michel Foucault came to be seen as the most important representative of the post-structuralist movement. He agreed that language and society were shaped by rule governed systems, but he disagreed with the structuralists on two counts. Firstly, he did not think that there were definite underlying structures that could explain the human condition and secondly he thought that it was impossible to step outside of discourse and survey the situation objectively.
Jacques Derrida (1930- ) developed deconstruction as a technique for uncovering the multiple interpretation of texts. Influenced by Heidegger and Nietzsche, Derrida suggests that all text has ambiguity and because of this the possibility of a final and complete interpretation is impossible.
Jacques Derrida: Deconstruction
For Derrida, language or 'texts' are not a natural reflection of the world. Text structures our interpretation of the world. Following Heidegger, Derrida thinks that language shapes us: texts create a clearing that we understand as reality. Derrida sees the history of western thought as based on opposition: good vs. evil mind vs. matter, man vs. woman, speech vs. writing. These oppositions are defined hierarchically: the second term is seen as a corruption of the first, the terms are not equal opposites.
Derrida thought that all text contained a legacy of these assumptions, and as a result of this, these texts could be re-interpreted with an awareness of the hierarchies implicit in language. Derrida does not think that we can reach an end point of interpretation, a truth. For Derrida all texts exhibit 'differance': they allow multiple interpretations. Meaning is diffuse, not settled. Textuality always gives us a surplus of possibilities, yet we cannot stand outside of textuality in an attempt to find objectivity.
One consequence of deconstruction is that certainty in textual analyses becomes impossible. There may be competing interpretations, but there is no uninterpreted way one could assess the validity of these competing interpretations. Rather than basing our philosophical understanding on undeniable truths, the deconstructionist turns the settled bedrock of rationalism into the shifting sands of a multiplicity of interpretations.
Post-structuralism is not a school, but a group of approaches motivated by some common understandings, not all of which will necessarily be shared by every practitioner. Post-structuralism is not a theory but a set of theoretical positions, which have at their core a self-reflexive discourse which is aware of the tentativeness, the slipperiness, the ambiguity and the complex interrelations of texts and meanings. Post-structuralism is, as the name suggests, consequent upon Structuralism, with which movement one should have some familiarity in order to understand post-structuralism.
There follow some of assumptions of post-structural thought.
I Post-structuralism is marked by a rejection of totalizing, essentialist, foundationalist concepts.
a totalizing concept puts all phenomena under one explanatory concept (e.g. it's the will of God)
an essentialist concept suggests that there is a reality which exists independent of, beneath or beyond, language and ideology -- that there is such a thing as 'the feminine', for instance, or 'truth' or 'beauty'
a foundationalist concept suggests that signifying systems are stable and unproblematic representations of a world of fact which is isomorphic with human thought.
II Post-structuralism contests the concept of 'man' as developed by enlightenment thought and idealist philosophy. Rather than holding as in the enlightenment view that 'individuals', are sacred, separate and intact, their minds the only true realm of meaning and value, their rights individual and inalienable, their value and nature rooted in a universal and transhistorical essence -- a metaphysical being, in short -- the post-structural view holds that persons are culturally and discursively structured, created in interaction as situated, symbolic beings. The common term for a person so conceived is a 'subject'.
Subjects are created, then, through their cultural meanings and practices, and occupy various culturally-based sites of meaning (as family members, as occupationally and economically and regionally defined, as gendered and of sexual orientation, as members of clubs or clients of psychotherapy or presidents of their school parents' organization, and on and on -- every site evoking a different configuration of the self, different language uses, different foci of value and energy, different social practices, and so forth).
Subjects are material beings, embodied and present in the physical world, entrenched in the material practices and structures of their society -- working, playing, procreating, living as parts of the material systems of society.
Subjects are social in their very origin: they take their meaning and value and self-image from their identity groups, from their activities in society, from their intimate relations, from the multiple pools of common meanings and symbols and practices which they share variously with their sub-cultural groups and with their society as a larger unit.
Post-structural understandings of persons are sometimes referred to as 'anti-humanist', because they are opposed to the Humanist idea that persons are isolate, unified, largely immaterial beings, and that humanity is transcendent, universal and unchangeable in its essence. To be anti-humanist is not to be anti-humane, however, but to have a different philosophical and ideological understanding of the nature of the person.
III Poststructuralism sees 'reality' as being much more fragmented, diverse, tenuous and culture-specific than does structuralism. Some consequences have been,
poststructuralism's greater attention to specific histories, to the details and local contextualizations of concrete instances;
a greater emphasis on the body, the actual insertion of the human into the texture of time and history;
a greater attention to the specifics of cultural working, to the arenas of discourse and cultural practice;
a greater attention to the role of language and textuality in our construction of reality and identity.
IV Post-structuralism derives in part from a sense that we live in a linguistic universe. This means, in the first instance, rejecting the traditional aesthetic, phenomenalist assumption that language is a 'transparent' medium which hands over experience whole and unproblematically; in a 'linguistic' universe 'reality' is only mediated reality, and what it is mediated by is governed by such things as:
the way language works, by difference for instance;
the world of discourse which governs our knowledge and way of speaking about the subject under discussion: we can imagine only what we can symbolize, speak of only what we have language for, speak only in the ways our rules of discourse allow us to;
the workings of the 'master tropes' (a trope is a way of saying something by saying something else) of metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche and irony;
the structure of ideology, which attempts to 'naturalize' power relations and our sense of how the world is configured;
the various cultural codes which govern our understandings of our selves, our place, our procedures;
the idea that any cultural construction of meaning will privilege some meanings or experiences and deprivilege others, but that there will be traces of the deprivileging or suppression of some experiences, and by looking at the cracks, the silences, the discontinuities which ideology attempts to smooth over, we can deconstruct or demystify the cultural meanings;
the idea that we think in terms of certain tropes, and construct meaning in terms of genres, so that meaning is pre-channeled in certain typified, identifiable ways, which ways reveal more about their construction of meaning than about any 'reality' beyond the rhetorical constructs.
To put this briefly, we live in a world of language, discourse and ideology, none of which are transparent, all of which structure our sense of being and meaning.
V All meaning is textual and intertextual: there is no "outside of the text," as Derrida remarked. Everything we can know is constructed through signs, governed by the rules of discourse for that area of knowledge, and related to other texts through filiation, allusion and repetition. Every text exists only in relation to other texts; meaning circulates in economies of discourse. This understanding does not mean that all reality is textual, only that what we can know of it, and how we can know, is textual, constructed through discourse, with all its rules; through symbols, linguistic and otherwise; through grammar(s).
VI Discourse is a material practice; the human is rooted in historicity and lives through the body. (Why 'historicity' instead of 'history'? Because the term 'history' suggests an objectively existing, cognitively available reality; 'historicity' implies that what we conceive of as history is tentative, situated, contingent.)
VII In Foucault's terms, the production of discourse, the (historical, material) way we know our world, is controlled, selected, organized and distributed by a certain number of procedures. Discourse is regulated by rules of exclusion, by internal systems of control and delineation, by conditions under which discourses can be employed, and by philosophical themes which elide the reality of discourse -- the themes of the founding subject, originating experience, and universal mediation. Discourses are multiple, discontinuous, originating and disappearing through chance; they do not hide the truth but constitute its temporary face. Foucault is post-structuralist in his insistence that there is no great causal flow or plan or evolution of history, that what happens is mainly by chance.
VIII The Derridean concept of différance links up with Freudian suppositions and marxist ideas to highlight concepts of repression, displacement, condensation, substitution and so forth, which, often by following metaphoric or metynomic links carefully, can be deconstructed or revealed; what is 'meant' is different from what appears to be meant. Meaning disguises itself. This is essentially structuralist, one of the reasons why 'post-structuralism' cannot be understood without structuralism.
IX Texts are marked by a surplus of meaning; the result of this is that differing readings are inevitable, indeed a condition of meaning at all. This surplus is located in the polysemous nature of both language and of rhetoric. It must be kept in mind that language is what is (for us as cognizant beings), that our sense of reality is linguistically constructed. Consequently the 'meaning of it all' is continually differing, overflowing, in flux.
X A 'text' exists as read. This 'reading' is formed, conducted, through certain mediating factors:
the present structures of discourse, hence understanding, including the present conceptions of the discourse structures of the time of the 'writing' of the text.
the traditions of reading, and the oppositions which those traditions have made possible, of that particular text,
the expectations dictated by the genre of the text and the tradition of genre of the reading,
the relations of meaning which are 'in' the text by virtue of its having been written at all, modified by the fact that these relations have a certain historical existence, a local, situated, and corporeal existence whose reality may or may not be imaginatively recoverable;
the understanding that these 'historical' relations of meaning will to some extent be mystifying and ideologizing relations,
the understanding that insofar as texts have a surplus of meaning they tend to reveal the flaws which the reigning discourse is attempting to mystify,
the conceptual distances between the historical discourse / ideology / cultural codes / genre-traditions of the past and the historical discourse / ideology / cultural codes / genre-traditions of the present, which distance opens up 'new' meanings which the work could not have, in a sense, had before. Post-structuralism is deeply aware of such hermeneutic reading and also suspicious of it, certain that meaning is historical, uncertain that it is recoverable as what it may have meant.
XI At the expense of repetition, let's go again over the sorts of conflict Culler notes deconstructionist criticism (which is a mode of or modes of post-structuralist criticism) may look for [On Deconstruction pp. 213-215]:
the asymetrical opposition or value-laden hierarchy
points of condensation, where a single term brings together different lines of argument or sets of values
the text's ecarte de soi or difference from itself -- anything in the text that counters an authoritative interpretation, including interpretations that the work appears to encourage (this was touched on earlier re: the cracks, silences, discontinuities, etc.)
self-reference, when the text applies to something else a description, image or figure that can be read as self-description, as a representation of its own operations; one can by applying these to the operations of the text read 'against the grain'
an interest in the way conflicts or dramas within the text are reproduced as conflicts in and between readings of the text -- Texts thematize, with varying degrees of explicitness, interpretive operations and their consequences and thus represent in advance the dramas that will give life to the tradition of their interpretation
attention to the marginal -- hierarchies depend on exclusions; the marginalized is what the text resists, and therefore can be identified by.
XII Post-structuralism is consequent on and a reaction to structuralism; it would not exist without structuralism. Macherey's points in his critique of structuralism (1965) lay out some of the groundwork for post-structural thought:
structuralism is a-historical; life and thought are historical -- they change, different relations with different elements at different times, and so forth
the transfer of knowledge from one area of knowledge (e.g. linguistics) to other areas of knowledge is questionable enterprise
structuralism assumes that a work has intrinsic meaning -- that is, it is 'already there' and always there, that the 'meaning' pre-exists its realization (it is already there -- we just identify it).
structural analysis is therefore the discovery of the rationality or 'secret coherence' of a text. But this coherence is a coherence that precedes the text, or it could not form the text. For there to be 'intrinsic meaning' there has to be a pattern or order or structure which governs and orders and regulates the production of meaning. The text is therefore in a sense a 'copy' of that order or structure which grounds the coherence of the text; analysis of a text is a copy of a copy, the text is just an intermediary between the reader and the structure of rationality, and so it 'disappears'.
structuralism presupposes the traditional and metaphysical notion of harmony and unity; a work is only a work, i.e. only has meaning as an entity, only insofar as it is is a whole. This notion negates the reality of the material conditions of production or reception, it makes the meaning itself unitary, is makes criticism commentary, a pointing out of the essential truth which is embodied not in but through the work.