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The term 'deconstruction' is intimately associated with the French philosopher Jacques Derrida (born 1930). He made his name in 1967 with the publication of three influential books. For Derrida 'deconstruction' means exposing the metaphysical 'prior assumptions' of an author's thought. He did this by analysing the language used, and often sought radically alternative viewpoints to that explicitly adopted by the author. Many of these 'prior assumptions' were implicit binary dualisms and heirarchical relationships.

Derrida's methods produced much hostile reaction. His work can be considered as a reaction to French thinking of the time rather than a 'timeless' critical method. Nevertheless deconstruction was espoused by many young intellectuals in the 1970s and 80s. Some merged the ideas of Michel Foucault about expressions of textual and social power with Derrida's deconstruction approach. In America a group of literary critics at Yale University incorporated deconstruction into a sceptical, relativistic approach which was tagged the 'Yale School'.

The term 'deconstruction' is now often used much more loosely as a 'catch all' for a wide variety of critical approaches, including recognising master narratives, hegemony, and plurality of meanings.


copyright © Bob Trubshaw 2003


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