In my Saussure post, I unfairly presented my cat, Kringle, as a flesh eating monster. I now offer you his softer side, “Derrida Style.” Decentralizing that singular murderous aspect, allowing for supplemental information, you can now arrive at a more accurate truth. Kringle actually has many sides. I can assure you that “centered” he is not.
Jacques “Derrida” says in his very wordy “Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences:”
“… pardon me for being so elliptical in order to bring me more quickly to my principle theme” (“Derrida” 916).
Apology not accepted, “Derrida.” I flip you the bird.
THAT SAID, I bagged the handout and went for the cheap score. Chapter 3 of Barry’s Beginning Theory, was far easier to swallow. Most consoling was the comment on page 70,
“You will not find these pages of “Derrida” [emphasis mine] by any means easy, but they will repay some intensive work, ideally in group discussion.”
I must admit, I need to be spoon fed here. I found greater understanding of “decentralization” when Barry described it as an event in modern times where the norm was no longer taken for granted:
… thus ‘man,’ as the Rennaisance slogan had it, was the measure of all other things in the Universe: white Western norms of dress, behavior, architecture … provided a firm center against which deviations, aberrations, variations could be detected and identified as ‘Other’ and marginal (66-67).
This shift from center was caused by things like the end of WWI, the Holocaust, scientific theories of relativity and art movements. Because of these events, “in the resulting universe there are no fixed points or absolutes” and ‘all we have is free play'” (Barry 67).
With my cheat sheet in hand, its time to revisit the “Derrida” handout. Good night and good luck.
THE NEXT DAY (because I am SO obsessed with kicking “Derrida’s” ass.)
Derrida’s” theory is rooted in Philosophy, thus accounting for his discourse with philosopher Levi-Strauss. Using Levi’s example of incest-prohibition, “Derrida” argues that what seems to be “naturally” rooted in our core being is really a prohibition set up by cultural society.
The best example I can come up with to show that incest is not a “natural” prohibition is with Greek and Roman mythical gods. Incest was often a necessity as no mortals were equally worthy for marriage. In this context, we can accept the idea. Even throughout English rule, first cousins were often joined because common folk would dilute the royal bloodline, yet first cousin marriages are currently banned in our society. Perhaps this is why incest-prohibition is not considered an instinctual or “natural” phenomenon, but one constructed by culture.
“Derrida” uses the term “bricolage” to describe Levi-Strauss’ method of study. He likes that Levi, like a jack-of-all-trades, finds no central set of rules with which to study his myths but uses the known aspects at hand like tools. This system of study offers no concrete point of view from which to begin, no center, but instead “can always be completed or invalidated by new information” much like Levi’s essays themselves. (922) I get this idea as there are no absolutes. Truth in lit studies exists only until it is proven false, just like any other scientific method.
Ah “Derrida,” This is MY hypothesis, and it too will either be verified or invalidated by new information in class. What I hope more than anything is that we touch on all the things I didn’t here.
Off Topic Question: If Barthes was so key and so cool in bridging Saussure with “Derrida,” why did we skip him? I’m feeling no love here.