Poststructuralism-Is It Really Its Own School?

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-From Donald Keesey’s Contexts in Criticism, Chapter 6 “Poststructuralism: Language as Context,” page 349-350


“Deconstructive criticism, then, is poststructural in at least three senses: it comes after structuralism; it deconstructs the central concept of ‘structure’; yet at the same time it continues many of the key ideas of structuralism, among them the ideas that humans are signifying creatures, that human culture is a system of sign systems, and that the source and pattern for these systems is language.”


After Reading Eagleton’s chapter on Poststructuralism, I thought I understood it; however, now that I have read Keesey’s chapter, I am thoroughly confused.  It seems to me that Keesey does not ever really present a description of Poststructuralism to the reader.  The quote I have above is the only line from the chapter that actually helped me.  Most of it seemed like a summary of the other types of criticism.  Did anyone else feel this way?


The above quote is interesting, though.  I did not realize that deconstructive criticism was the same as Poststructuralism.  I do understand now how they are the same.  The only problem I have with the quote is that Keesey writes that Deconstructive criticism is Poststructuralism because “it comes after structuralism” (349).  If one assigns titles this way, then all of them would be Post-Formalism or something like that.  Perhaps this is because Poststructuralism has not yet defined itself much from Structuralism or the other forms of criticism.  In fact, I think it might need to be explained to me exactly how Post-structuralism is at all different from Structuralism.


See what other have to say about Keesey's introduction to Poststructuralism.


Greta Carroll said:

Erica, for once I too thought that Eagleton explained something better than Keesey (which is unusual). However, I understand why Keesey focused so much on other schools of criticism. He was trying to help us to understand poststructuralism by explaining how it is different from and similar to other schools of criticism. Since one of Keesey’s goals is for us to compare and contrast the different schools and decide which ones work best for us, he wants to encourage us to see poststructuralism in relation to the other schools we have already studied.

As for deconstructionism and poststructuralism, I thought that they were two different things and I actually wrote my blog on that…I’m not saying I’m right, just that I’m confused. You can read what I said; maybe you can provide some enlightenment for me:

As for the difference between postructuralism and structuralism, how I look at it is that a structuralist analyzes all the parts of the work of literature and then tries to relate them together into one whole to find some sort of “truth” or “message” in the text. In other words, they try to relate all the parts together or to find similarities between all the parts that help them to fit together into a harmonious whole. Poststructuralists analyze all these parts, just as structuralists do, but they look at these parts to find the ambiguity and disparities of the text that prevent it from having one solid meaning.

Erica Gearhart said:

Greta, I understand your point, but I guess I'm just the kind of person who needs a definition before I can compare something to other ideas. Also, thanks for the link to your blog. I agree with what you say on it. Maybe Keesey should have been more specific in the quote above. Maybe he could have called it Literary Poststructuralism or something like this. If he would have specified at bit more as I suggest here, however, I do not see the difference between Poststructuralism and Deconstructive criticism.

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