Derrida Interprets Interpreting Interpretation

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"Thus it has always been thought that the center, which is by definition unique, constituted that very thing within a structure which governs the structure, while escaping structurality. This is why classical thought concerning structure could say that the center is, paradoxically, within the structure and outside it. The center is at the center of the totality, and yet, since the center does not belong to the totality (is not part of the totality), the totality has its center elsewhere.The center is not the center" (Derrida 354).

My head was spinning after this article, even though I think I understood some of it. Derrida was interpreting the act of interpreting interpretation. A little confusing to say the least. I think Greta's explanation was helpful in pointing out that he is like us and looking at all his options and evaluating them. A lot of what he says makes sense, in that in order to criticize something, you have to have some knowledge of it and use that knowledge to make the critique. The quote above causes me to think just as Derrida claimed people think when discovering a center: here is the center, where did it come from or what created it? So, as he points out, its a never ending battle when thinking this way to try to determine what the "final center" is.

I started getting a little confused as the discussion progressed after introducing to us the idea of bricolage. I understand the original definition given of bricolage: "the necessity of borrowing one's concepts from the text of a heritage which is more orless coherent or ruined" (Derrida). I also understand the example given of the engineer. However, after this point is where things get a little complicated for me. I got lost when Derrida started talking more about history and about totalization. I think this is the area where my muddy point will be.

Even though I think I did understand some of what Derrida was discussing, I don't feel as if I could apply anything I am learning. I could look at a passage from Derrida and say what it means to me, as I did above, but I don't think I could apply the meaning to use it, not even to think up of an example from literature. So, although I feel as if I am able to understand these weekly essays more and more, something still isn't clicking. And, looking at our syllabus, my time to finally be able to understand how to apply what I'm learning is running out, especially before the final research paper.

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2 Comments

Greta Carroll said:

Katie, I’m glad my blog helped you some. I really like in your blog when you said, “The quote above causes me to think just as Derrida claimed people think when discovering a center: here is the center, where did it come from or what created it? So, as he points out, its a never ending battle when thinking this way to try to determine what the "final center" is.” I didn’t understand a lot of Derrida’s article either, but I think maybe the heart of it is this idea of there being no solid answer. After all, “the center is not the center.” Things are what they seem to be and are also not what they seem to be. Literature is full of this ambiguities and contradictions and that is what poststructuralism is all about. Now how exactly one is to come up with a thesis using this, I’m not really sure. I mean, we could say that a text is full of ambiguities, but so what? There are ambiguities everywhere (especially in Derrida’s article). There’s to be more to a thesis than this observation…

Katie and Greta, I think you both raise a great question: What's the point of all this deconstructing? I think the point is simply to be aware that it can always be done. Thus, when we adopt a critical approach, such as focusing reader response, we need to be aware of that critical school's weaknesses. While we can still search for that unreachable "truth" through the employment of these critical theories, we must also realize that when we present our arguments, we are not presenting the "truth" that we were seeking, but rather our interpretation of it (theory not fact) which can always be deconstructed to reveal it as merely that. I think Derrida fears that the more we become involved in our preferred school of critical thought, the more apt we are to base our arguments on assumptions and present these assumptions as fact. Through deconstruction, we can devalue these assumptions that threaten to taint our critical analyses and keep an open critical mind.

And Katie, if you're having trouble visualizing how to put post-structuralist theory into action, check out Erica's blog http://blogs.setonhill.edu/EricaGearhart/2009/03/understanding_poststructuralis.html where she and Greta successfully deconstruct the fairy tale of Snow White.

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