Post-structuralism in France

Post-structuralist movement in France; peculiarities of it: emergence, meaning, comparison with structuralism. Major works and concepts: Derrida’s Deconstruction; Roland Barthes – "The Death of the Author"; Michel Foucault and post-structuralism.

Рубрика Иностранные языки и языкознание
Вид эссе
Язык английский
Дата добавления 29.03.2012
Размер файла 31,3 K

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4. Structuralism questions our way of structuring and categorising reality, and inspires us to break free of habitual modes of categorisation, but it believes that we can thereby attain a more reliable view of things. Post-structuralism distrusts the very notion of reason, and the idea of the human being as an independent entity, preferring the notion of the `constructed' subject, whereby what we may think of as the individual is really a product of social and linguistic forces.

The key figures of post-structuralist movement were French philosophers Jacques Derrida, Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault. In his book `Of Grammatology' (1967) Jacques Derrida introduced the term `deconstruction', when discussing the implications of understanding language as writing rather than speech. Deconstruction is the process of showing, through close textual and conceptual analysis, how such oppositions are contradicted by the very effort to formulate and employ them. Deconstruction generally tries to demonstrate that any text is not a discrete whole but contains several contradictory meanings; that any text therefore has more than one interpretation; that the text itself links these interpretations inextricably; that the incompatibility of these interpretations is irreducible; and thus that an interpretative reading cannot go beyond a certain point.

In 1968 Roland Barthes wrote what is largely considered to be his best-known work, the essay `The Death of the Author'. In his essay, Barthes criticizes the method of reading and criticism that relies on aspects of the author's identity -- his or her political views, historical context, religion, ethnicity, psychology, or other biographical or personal attributes -- to distill meaning from the author's work. In this type of criticism, the experiences and biases of the author serve as a definitive `explanation' of the text. Readers must thus separate a literary work from its creator in order to liberate the text from interpretive tyranny. The unity of a text is in its destination - the reader; though the reader too is inscribed, not personal. Hence, the birth of reader begins with the death of the author.

Michel Foucault always insisted that he was not a post-structuralist critic but rather a genealogist. But a lot of scholars consider him to be one of the founders of post-structuralism. Foucault shows how discourses regulate what can be said, what can be thought, and what is considered true or correct. However, there were many other propositions that were neither true nor false but fell outside the discursive system altogether. Discourse is thus the medium through which power is expressed and people and practices are governed. Foucault also argued that `the history of thought' is a misnomer, as it implied a continuous evolution of ideas. Rather, he used the terms genealogy or archeology of knowledge, focusing on the breaks between one era's discourse and another's.

In the end, it is worthy saying that post-structuralism has had an enormous significance. It has left important marks on the development of literary theory and criticism. Moreover, it has led to the rise and the development of various schools of literary thought and criticism: Yale Deconstructionism, Psychoanalysis, Feminism and post-modernism.


1. Barry, P. Beginning theory: an introduction to literary and cultural theory/ P. Barry. - Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002. - 286 p.

2. Barthes `The Death of the Author' and Foucault `What is an Author?' [Electronic resource]. - Mode of access: - Date of access: 15.10.2011.

3. Craig, E. The shorter routledge encyclopedia of philosophy/ E. Craig. - London and New York: Routledge, 2005. - 1077 p.

4. Deconstruction [Electronic resource]. - Mode of access: - Date of access: 21.10.2011

5. Eagleton, T. Literary theory: an introduction/ T. Eagleton. - Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1996. - 234 p.

6. Foucault, M. Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the Collиge de France, 1975-1976/ M. Foucault. - N.Y.: Picador, 2003. - 148 p.

7. Introduction to post-structuralism [Electronic resource]. - Mode of access: - Date of access: 17.10.2011.

8. Newton, K.M. Twentieth-century literary theory: a reader/ K.M. Newton. - Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1988. - 282 p.

9. Ormeci, O. Michel Foucault and post-structuralism [Electronic resource]. - Mode of access: - Date of access: 20.10.2011.

10. Peters, M. Poststructuralism and educational research/ M. Peters, N. Burbules. - Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1992. - 125 p.

11. Post-structuralism [Electronic resource]. - Mode of access: - Date of access: 14.10.2011.

12. Structuralism, Post Structuralism, Deconstruction and Super Structuralism [Electronic resource]. - Mode of access: - Date of access: 20.10.2011.

13. The basis of philosophy. Post-structuralism [Electronic resource]. - Mode of access: poststructuralism.html. - Date of access: 17.10.2011.

14. What is post-structuralism? [Electronic resource]. - Mode of access: - Date of access: 15.10.2011.

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