GENERAL: Structuralist <-> Deconstructivist.

From: IN%"[email protected]" "Discussion group for those interested in s
iotics, verbal and" 3-SEP-1992 11:43:03.05
To: Howard Lawrencee <[email protected]>
Subj: Center and Structure

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From: "[email protected]" <[email protected]>
Subject: Center and Structure
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To: Howard Lawrencee <[email protected]>
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Comments: Originally-From: [email protected]

I wonder if anyone would be interested in contributing some thoughts on the
relationship of structuralist and deconstructionist viewpoints. To prime
the pumps, I'm forwarding a message from another list that points some of
the concepts of Jaques Derrida. It seems interesting to me that if one thinks
of the 'slippage' or 'play' that is the hallmark of deconstruction, one can
find analogies to concepts such as 'semic markers'. The structuralist view
of the marker is rather rigid, while Derrida's is flexible. Notwithstanding
the difficulties that decon poses for logic and classical reasoning, I wonder
if there is not a resemblance in the two schemes.

Why not see the deconstructionist view as a kind of flexible semic marker,
sliding around, but still adaquate for defining a territory? MR's post
mentions the 'play of signifiers' creating that which is signified - cannot
that play itself be thought of in structuralist terms as easily as
structuralist concepts can be deconstructed? I'm sorry if I'm not being
clear here, let me try another approach:

Consider Hurricane Andrew.

If one thinks of the hurricane as slashing winds and a deluge of rain,
then the EYE of the storm is certainly not the storm. And yet when the
storm is tracked on radar, the eye is inevitably given as the 'location'.
The first situation is the deconstructionist view - an emphasis on the
swirling winds, the 'absence' of a center, the 'play' of the activity
around a center. The latter view is a structuralist interpretation; it
uses the center as a point of reference, even while acknowledging the
lie that it is a storm (the eye being a place of calm).

Looked at this way, what sense does it make to speak of a transcendental
signified? There is one if you want there to be one, or if it suits
your purposes (it certainly would suit the purposes of those in the
path of the eye). On the other hand, you can all agree that the
transcendental signified - the center - is not a fixed entity, much
less an actual part of the 'storminess'.

I'm trying to have my cake and eat it too. I like the creativity of
deconstructivist interpretations, but i find certain structuralist
mechanisms so daggone useful that I'm loath to abandon them.
Instead, I think of models that reconcile opposites.
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Reply-To: A discussion of Jacques Derrida and Deconstruction
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Sender: A discussion of Jacques Derrida and Deconstruction
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Subject: Center and Structure
To: steven skaggs <[email protected]>

I like the phrase origin or opening better than center. Derrida make
s the strong claim that the origin of a discourse is both its corner
stone and its blind spot. the origin or opening of the discourse
contains everything which the discourse as a system of signifiers
cannot allow to be said which at the same time must go without
saying in order for the discourse to hang together as a system.
Structuralists believe in a transcendental signified which is
described by the ensemble of the relationships of the signifiers
which refer to it. This ensemble of relationships is only sable
and thus the presence of the signified is only firmly established
on condition that some origin serves as a still point stabilising
the relationships between the signifiers. To decenter the discourse
by forcing the system to speak its origin is to absent the
transcendental signified which the discourse is supposedly about.
In this view, the play of signifiers creates that which is signified
rather than the signifiers drawing their meaning from their relation
to that which is signified. Decenter this play and the signified
becomes absence.
Michael Roberts
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