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date: 26 June 2022

Poststructuralism and Its Discontentslocked

Poststructuralism and Its Discontentslocked

  • Paul ArdoinPaul ArdoinDepartment of Philosophy and Classics, University of Texas at San Antonio

Summary

Deconstruction and poststructuralism have profoundly shaped popular and academic thought, while also drawing both popular and academic resistance, and doing so (strangely) consistently over decades. In particular, deconstruction and poststructuralism (and their synecdoche—the capital-T “Theory”) are viewed as sources of existential peril to English studies, where their impact has been indelibly tied to a canon expansion that takes seriously—and particularly—the contributions of women, people of color, queer people, and others. Detractors often reduce poststructuralism to its -ism—making of it a stagnant force of destabilizing chaos or a hopelessly unproductive and apolitical form of theoretical play. Dogmatic enthusiasts often become similarly reductive. Thinkers like Barbara Johnson and fiction writers like Percival Everett exemplify and advocate for a brand of deconstructive self-critique in which we: avoid allowing our enthusiasm or opinions to harden into any -ism (even when the enthusiasm is for, say, undecidability); embrace (in fact, seek) opportunities of confrontation with ignorance in our own thought; and recognize the potential value of upheaval in our real-world practices. Such self-critique is far from an existential peril to central values of English studies; it is, in fact, something not unlike the “critical thinking” valued and marketed by the Humanities.

Subjects

  • Fiction
  • 20th and 21st Century (1900-present)
  • Literary Theory

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