Imagining Me

Post-Structuralism and Deconstruction

Post-structuralism is a form of development of structuralism approach. The reason behind the development to become a post-structuralism is because most post-structuralist accuse structuralist of not following through the implication of the views about language on which their intellectual system is based. Post-structuralism first emerged in France, and two main figures associated with its emerging are Roland Barthes and Jacques Derrida. Around this time, Barthes’s work begin to shift in character and move from structuralist phase to a post-structuralist phase. For Derrida, his method that he uses in his books is later adapted by post-structuralist. His method always involved highly detailed deconstructive reading of selected aspect, and this method is a method which known as a deconstruction and this method becomes the characteristic of post-structuralism critical method.

Post-structuralist literary critic is engaged in the task of deconstructing the text, and this process is given the name deconstruction, which can be defined as applied post-structuralism. It is often referred to as reading the text against itself, which mean that deconstructive reading uncovers the unconscious rather than the conscious dimension of the text, all the things which its obvious textuality glosses over, or fails to recognize. Derrida description of deconstructive reading is that, a deconstructive reading must always aim at a certain relationship, unperceived by the writer, between what he commands and what he does not command of the pattern of language he uses and it attempts to make the not-seen accessible to sight. Deconstructive reading committed to the rigorous analysis of the literal meaning of a text, and yet also finding a meaning, perhaps in the internal problems that actually point towards alternative meaning.

One of literary works that can be analyzed using deconstructive reading is William Blake’s poem entitled The Little Black Boy. This poem contains several clear binary oppositions, primarily: white/black, lighted/shaded and saved/unsaved. The speaker identifies the tension between all three of these issues in the opening quatrain. Light is clearly a privileged term as it is tied to God, while shade and black are clearly non-privileged. Privilege term is a vocabulary borrowed from the literary theory of structuralism, then again, deconstruction and Post-Structuralism perform a structuralist analysis first and then attempt to prove it wrong. However, the text undermines itself in multiple ways. The speaker is taught the poem’s ideological concept by his presumably black “mother” “underneath” the implied shade of “a tree”, so the truth about the soul needing to be freed from shade is learned while under shade, and the issue of color is addressed by a speaker of color. Furthermore, shade as a non-privileged term is undermined by the fact it is needed to “shade from the heat, till he can bear”, so in essence, both blackness and shade are necessary to save anyone. The poem cannot seem to decide that white is superior to black. The text’s own ambivalence and contradictions pull apart its proposed ideology, and this is exactly what deconstruction is supposed to do.


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