If our discussion of Saussure earlier in the semester compared semiotics to the atomic structure of elements, then I would consider deconstruction to be a sort of alchemy. In deconstruction we are breaking down larger works and questioning the assumptions and contradictions we ordinarily do not consider, because these assumptions and contradictions are often necessary to make these works comprehensible. We could also use gravity as a metaphor. In everyday occurrences, gravity makes perfect sense and fits in an easy formula. However, our assumption that gravity works this way in all cases isn't perfect - gravity deforms at the smallest and biggest levels. Stars don't follow our rules for gravity and neither do subatomic particles. It's all about the context. It's pointing out that the Emperor has no clothes, which is what gives deconstruction it's delectable power. It's not Derrida's fault that when we deconstruct today, all we find is the absurd.
"Differance instigates the subversion of every kingdom. Which makes it obviously threatening and infallibly dreaded by everything within us that desires a kingdom." (Derrida, "Differance," 1982)

In a world where sequels, prequels and interquels get most of the funding, it is through deconstruction that we see the old ideas made new, to paraphrase Pound. Deconstruction goes back far further than that, obviously; take Aristophane's Clouds, which satirized Socrates and ended up, two decades later, being taken at face value in Socrates's trial. "If a man makes a new symbol, it is by thoughts involving concepts. So it is only out of symbols that a new symbol can grow." (Derrida, Of Grammatology, 1967) Again, not new - most of Shakespeare's greatest plays were created when he adapted and transfigured already existing works. He chose to give A Winter's Tale its happy ending and he was the one who killed Cordelia in King Lear, enhancing the romance of the first play and the tragedy of the second.

I have a number of examples I want to share, but I'm finding it difficult to decide what is relevant in the context of our classroom. I am struck by our conversation early in the semester about photographs of imaginary animals, where the artist plays with our preconceived notions of what is real and our blind trust in the veracity of a photographic image. So with that in mind I'll go to my very next point, which is, as always, hypocrisy in the Republican party. It's not my fault they make it so easy, but it does make good money, as the Daily Show and the Colbert Report can attest. The most recent controversy I'd like to address is the newest trend - mandating transvaginal ultrasounds prior to an abortion. Virginia recently scuttled its attempt to force women to undergo this procedure, but Alabama has taken up the slack. The underlying assumption that drives these laws is that women, upon seeing the "enhanced" image, will immediately give up their attempts to terminate the pregnancy. The reality is far more sinister - transvaginal ultrasounds are an unnecessary and expensive procedure designed to make abortions expensive and difficult for poor women. A transvaginal ultrasound will show an enhanced image of an embryo, which in the first trimester will not show anything resembling a human. There's also the underlying assumption that women wouldn't be able to figure out that they have a growing life inside them without a completely invasive procedure to let them know. And just recently, evidence has emerged that the Alabama senator that sponsored the bill making this procedure mandatory owns the company that sells the necessary equipment. So there's another level of hypocrisy that desperately needs subversion.

Jon Stewart nicely handles this one, so I'll post the clip.

-Tracy Carlin

Canon Fodder?
- the designation of orientation
- the western canon
- cultural subsumption and the illusion of the center = the Fountain

“Anything which determines something else (its interpretant) to refer to an object to which itself refers (its object) in the same way, this interpretant becoming in turn a sign, and so on ad infinitum” – Derrida, On Grammatology
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The Western canon is the embodiment of the center; representing presence and totality while instantaneously determining that which is “outside” as other or absent through the designation of orientation. The canon, particularly in literature and art, serves as the inherent “standard” for which we constitute the value of all external works. It provides the structural framework for which we compare and critique works that have been stalled or impeded by its delineated lines.

Derrida asserts that there must always be opposition when dealing with hierarchy from a deconstructive approach. The dominance held by either can be explored another time. However, it is their constant reification demonstrates their duality in nature. The canon embodies the duality of hierarchy (absent/present); the essential opposition, (0-1), a binary at the most elemental level.

That being said, my own experiences with hybridity and identity have made it very easy to me to pull back and observe both sides through a duality in thought. The illusion of a center, or canon, for this argument, is like a fountain, there appears to be an epicenter and even a structural apex, and yet the waters which give it shape cannot be distinguished or precisely valued. Similarly, western canon has been built upon classical ruins; empires such as Greece and Egypt, similar to our current civilization, constructed hierarchies through the subsumption of all that surrounds its delineated and imaginary borders.


-Metasebia Yoseph

In my view, there are two prominent factors (very relevant to the realms of Media and CR) which make Derrida a force to be contended with(especially by his critics): 1. That he proposes there is no single, structural understanding of written words because there are deep traces of the past, present and future within language (whereas theorists Saussure’s and Foucault’s explanations were neat and definitive in comparison) 2. That he challenges (perhaps because of his early exposure to Algeria and its non-Western philosophies) the hegemony of Western rationality and reason and its reflection in Greco-Latin etymology.

In the post world war Europe, Structuralism was taking root in the human sciences and especially in crafting a new world order for peace and security. Derrida’s “deconstruction” and its contrasting abstractness seemingly threatened the rationality and reason of the dominant Realist and Liberalist schools of thought within International Relations and CR, especially in addressing such things as Human Rights, Universal standards of justice and ethics, and the notion of a nation state. Yet, I find that Derrida humbly embraces their validity as theories and does not challenge their foundations but addresses the structures within them based on their relation to past history, present political realities and future foreign policy.

Take, for instance, how in CR's “agent-structure” issue of whether it is primarily the units of a system that influence the entire structure or the structure of the system itself that influences each unit, neorealists conclude that the system determines everything and that units are merely agents who cannot influence the overall structure. Derrida would instead ask the question: “what is the history behind the actual, created structure in which the agents are influenced and what is the past, present and future of the agents and their function as well as their relation to one another within the system and with other systems?” So rather than being preoccupied with “hierarchical” or “circular” models to explain the structure, Derrida would advocate an understanding of all components and question the whole and it’s individual constituents (agents) in terms of the past, present and future and in relation to each other. The reductionism of the realist or liberalist theory, thereby, would be an issue for him with their simplistic and causal constructions.

Political example: Below appears to be neo-liberal theory being espoused by a very neo-realist establishment! I chose this video to depict the use of visual Media to both communicate and embellish (with visual expressions, props etc) written speech in shaping our responses to Conflict. The words themselves carry heavy historical inferences, deep rooted present day struggle and suffering as well as the promise of hope. While the agenda is clearly neorealist and World Systems based, the depiction of striving for such things as universal justice, freedom, democracy etc are all neoliberal aspirations upon which the UN and most of Europe’s approach to peacekeeping and peacebuilding has increasingly been (clearly meant for a world audience focused on Human Needs for security, democracy, prosperity etc)
Q: Does this visual communication detract from the way the written version/speech is deconstructed since the visual has other sensory elements that influence our understanding of the message ie how differently would it be on paper? How much did Derrida take into account the information age and digital media’s influence on Deconstruction, or was he so taken aback by its inadvertent popularity that he hadn’t accounted for it and how intertwined written word would be with perceptions in the Media? How savvy are media consumers at deconstructing what is portrayed in popular mainstream media (literature, journalism etc) and how does Media Education or Media Reform lend to a more holistic approach (such as Deconstruction) to written or visual media?


Literary/Cultural example: Repeatedly the most popular poet in America is Jalaluddin Rumi . The below excerpt from the Masnavi is a depiction of Mysticism as a form of literature and how it translates from Farsi to English and manages to capture only a fraction of the essence within that translation. Yet with an Eastern philosophical base, it has a striking universality (theme of love, metaphors and cultural inferences that transcend boundaries), which lends to its popularity in the US (Rorty talks of this in his Essay on Derrida and how we look at philosophies and our notions of right/wrong in a universal sense).

Mathnawi VI: 255-260
Wealth has no permanence: it comes in the morning,and at night it is scattered to the winds.
Physical beauty too has no importance,for a rosy face is made pale by the scratch of a single thorn.
Noble birth also is of small account,for many become fools of money and horses.
Many a nobleman's son has disgraced his father by his wicked deeds.
Don't court a person full of talent either,even if he seems exquisite in that respect:take warning from the example of Iblis1
Iblis had knowledge, but since his love was not pure,he saw in Adam nothing but a figure of clay.

Version by Camille and Kabir Helminski"Rumi: Jewels of Remembrance"Threshold Books, 1996

~ Sarah

Jacque Derrida’s “deconstruction” is a concept to courage people to deconstruct the original social, cognitive, moral and other rules and structures and reorganize different sections with new structures. He thinks individuals are more important than the integrity and signs have its meaning originally. He also argues “center” is not already there, but could be constructed in different ways. This reminds me the famous painting, “Ceci n'est pas une pipe” created by Rene Magritte. In this painting, there is an image of pipe in the painting but of course, without the actual function of a real pipe. I think this painting could be an example of Derrida’s argument about “center”. People naturally connected the image of a pipe with a pipe in the real world and Magritte tries to use the sentence “this is not a pipe” to break the connection and the inherent thinking structure of people.

Since many people are really enjoy the deconstruction of their cognitive system, designers always use deconstruction to packing a product to make innovations. For example, the telephone on Lady Gaga’s head is hat or a telephone? I guess people will say, “look, she have a telephone on her hat!” However, we all know, it is not a real telephone. The function of that “telephone” is more like a hat. Another example could be the “paper cup”. Starbucks shapes people’s thinking of a paper cup and the product designer tries to break this inherent cognitive style.
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What are we always supervise about is always not new stuff, but breaking down the inherent cognitive structures. Last year, a Chinese song named Tan Te (Perturbed), sung by Gong Linna, was so popular in the Chinese Internet society. The lyrics don’t have meanings, but you can feel the emotions from the music and the singer’s exaggerate expressions. This is a deconstruction work because it breaks the original rule of music composition. The rhythms, tempos and emotions change irregularly. This song combined different voices and styles from different traditional Chinese operas and has very complicated emotions in it. While people are listening it, people will feel perturbed, not because they cannot understand it but the song deconstruct all meanings of symbols.

--Xindi Guo

As I struggled with this week's readings and designing my response, I fortuitously glanced up at my bookshelf to find not only my old college edition of James Joyce's Ulysses, but also Don Gifford's Ulysses Annotated, Harry Blamires's The New Bloomsday Book: A Guide Through Ulysses, Homer's Odyssey, and Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. It wasn't until later that I even noticed Dylan Thomas's Portrait of the Artist As A Young Dog. As I sat overwhelmed thinking about the class I took several years ago, I was reminded of Derrida's famous statement “il n'ya pas de hors-texte”, or “there is nothing outside the text”. In this statement, Derrida deconstructed my own notion of literary analysis – which had mostly come out of the American school of New Criticism from the 1940s and 1950s. Rather than a close reading of a text, in which everything you need to interpret should be contained within the very text, deconstruction stresses a more holistic approach to literary criticism.

In the wonderful seminar I took on Joyce, which was actually called Ulysses, we still had to engage with dozens of supplementary texts to aid our focus on the titular one. While we still focused on a close reading of the text, which can also be enjoyed as a brilliant work on its own, the companions and guides only helped us understand even more of its brilliance. I thought of Derrida's notion of differance, and how our understanding of meaning is always ultimately deferred. During that seminar at times my head would spin as I went from text to text to text, redefining and extrapolating each chapter, feeling like it would never end. From references to Homeric epics to traditional Irish literature to descriptions of his contemporary Dublin to even references to characters and events from his previous books and short stories, Joyce created the consummate text of différance.

- Jen