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Deconstruction and différance
By Lucie Guillemette and Josiane Cossette
Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières
Jacques Derrida's theory of the sign fits into the poststructuralist movement, which runs counter to Saussurean structuralism (the legacy of linguist Ferdinand de Saussure). Maintaining that the signifier (the form of a sign) refers directly to the signified (the content of a sign), structuralist theory has passed down a whole current of logocentric (speech-centred) thought that originated in the time of Plato. With writing as his basis (the written sign), Derrida has taken on the task of disrupting the entire stream of metaphysical thought predicated on oppositions. He has elaborated a theory of deconstruction (of discourse, and therefore of the world) that challenges the idea of a frozen structure and advances the notion that there is no structure or centre, no univocal meaning. The notion of a direct relationship between signifier and signified is no longer tenable, and instead we have infinite shifts in meaning relayed from one signifier to another This text may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes, provided the complete reference is given: Lucie Guillemette and Josiane Cossette (2006), « Deconstruction and différance », in Louis Hébert (dir.), Signo[online], Rimouski (Quebec), http://www.signosemio.com/derrida/deconstruction-and-differance.asp. 2. THEORY
2.1 CONTEXT AND PHILOSOPHY
The term "poststructuralism" refers to a critical perspective that emerged during the seventies which has dethroned structuralism as the dominant trend in language and textual theory. In order to understand poststructuralism, we need to examine it in relation to structuralism. Deconstructionist criticism subscribes to the poststructuralist vision of language, wherein the signifier (the form of a sign) does not refer to a definite signified (the content of a sign), but produces other signifiers instead. Derrida (1978, 278) takes issue with the centre inherent in the "structurality of structure". Turning to Claude Lévi-Strauss as a representative of structuralist theory, Derrida uses the prohibition of incest and the oppositions nature/culture and universal/prescriptive to show that this structure can no longer withstand scrutiny: "The incest prohibition is universal; in this sense one could call it natural. But it is also a prohibition, a system of norms and interdicts; in this sense one could call it cultural" (Derrida, 1978, 283). Derrida thus rejects all of metaphysical history with its hierarchies and dichotomies that have survived to this day, the foundation upon which all of logic (logos, which means language) was laid. Derrida has rejected structuralism, and as a result, the Saussurean schema (the signifier/signified relationship) has been rethought. NOTE: DERRIDA ON OPPOSITIONS
What Derrida rejects is binary structure, and this goes beyond the simple opposition signifier/signified. This structure in fact underpins the history of philosophy, which conceives the world in terms of a system of oppositions proliferating without end: logos/pathos, soul/body, self/other, good/evil, culture/nature, man/woman, understanding/perception, inside/outside, memory/oblivion, speech/writing, day/night, etc.) 2.2 CONCEPTS
In order to do justice to Derrida's theory, which applies to both philosophy and semiotics, we need to accurately define the concepts that shape it. Each section will include several concepts, given that many of them are tightly interwoven making it impossible to define one concept without considering the others. 2.2.1 SIGN, SIGNIFIER, SIGNIFIED
The relationship we find in structuralism between signifier and signified...
Cited: DERRIDA, Jacques, Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978.
DERRIDA, Jacques, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976.
DERRIDA, Jacques, Plato 's Pharmacy, in Dissemination, trans. Barbara Johnson, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981, p. 61-84.
HOTTOIS, Gilbert, De la Renaissance à la Postmodernité. Une histoire de la philosophie moderne et contemporaine, Paris and Brussels: De Boeck and Larcier, 1998.
JOYCE, James, Finnegans Wake, New York: Viking Press, 1976 .
POITRAS, Anique, La Deuxième vie, Montreal: Québec Amérique Jeunesse, "Titan", 1994.
NEWS AND ACTUALITY
09/12/2013 - CALL FOR PAPERS: (deadline: February, 1st, 2014): First International Association for Cognitive Semiotics (IACS) Conference (IACS-2014), September 25-27, Lund University (Sweden)
14/04/2013 - CALL FOR PAPERS: 38th Annual Meeting ("Why Semiotics"), Semiotic Society of America (SSA), October 24th-27th 2013, Dayton, Ohio (USA)
15/02/2013 - Publication of Revue SIGNATA 3 (2012)
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