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Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444333275.2013.x


The term denotes a particular kind of practice in reading and, thereby, a method of criticism and mode of analytical inquiry. Its origin lies partly in the philosopher Martin Heidegger's concepts of destruktion (destruction) and abbau (dismantling). In her book The Critical Difference (1981), Barbara Johnson clarifies the meaning of deconstruction: Deconstruction is not synonymous with ‘destruction’, however. It is in fact much closer to the original meaning of the word ‘analysis’ itself, which etymologically means ‘to undo’ – a virtual synonym for ‘to de-construct’. The deconstruction of a text does not proceed by random doubt or arbitrary subversion, but by the careful teasing out of warring forces of signification within the text itself [emphasis added]. If anything is destroyed in a deconstructive reading, it is not the text, but the claim to unequivocal domination of one mode of signifying over another. A deconstructive reading is a reading which analyses the specificity of a text's critical difference from itself. One could say that while poststructuralism ( q.v. ) develops as a response to, and displacement of, structuralism (a European phenomenon largely), deconstruction focuses on rhetoric and reflexivity (i.e. the self-referential aspects of language) in a way that the American New Critics ( see new criticism ) had encouraged earlier in the century. Deconstruction ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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