"Historismen er mest opptatt av den historiske bakgrunnen for det litterære verket, nykritikken av selve verket, mens marxismen vender sin interesse både mot verket og den betydning det har for leserne. Historismen og marxismen ser altså verket i sammenheng med en utenomlitterær virkelighet, mens nykritikken begrenser perspektivet til den indre virkelighet i teksten.
Historismen har sitt opphav i forrige århundre (1800-tallet), i en tid da impulser fra naturvitenskapene fikk innvirkning på kunsten og humanistiske fag. Omfattende innsamling av empiriske data inngår i historismens metode, og formålet er å kaste lyst over årsaksforhold i åndslivet. Især rettes søkelyset mot deres tilblivelse, deres genesis. Historismens forskere undersøker de mange former for påvirkning og stimulans som møtes i forfatteren og slår ut i produksjon av verket. Ofte er det forfatterens private opplevelser som kartlegges: famile-, vennskaps- og kjærlighetsforhold, personlige kriser, osv. Men også impulser og påvirkning fra idestrømninger og litterære strømninger i fortid og samtid studeres, og noen forskere tar dessuten for seg sosiale forhold i det miljøet forfatteren kommer fra, og sosiale og politiske konflikter i samtiden.
Det veksler altså hvilke sider av bakgrunnen for verket som især studeres. Felles for de fleste av historismens forskere er imidlertid at de tegner et bredt og allsidig bilde av forfatterens samtid, og at de arbeider ut fra et romslig litteraturbegrep, som inkluderer både saklitteratur og fiksjonslitteratur, både de "store" og berømte forfattere, og de "små" som fort blir glemt.
Studiet av selve de litterære tekstene går historismen vanligvis lett over. Verkets meningsinnhold oppfattes som uproblematisk; budskapet er tilgjengelig for enhver som leser det, og det trenger ikke mange kommentarer.
For nykritikken, derimot, er studiet av verket hovedsaken. Historiske opplysninger om verkets samtid kan være nødvendig for å forstå en del utvendige trekk ved verket, men det er først når et slikt klargjørende forarbeid er gjort, at det egentlige tekststudiet begynner. Verkets kjerne er allmennmenneskelig og tidløs, og verket har en autonom eksistens, hevet over historiens foranderlighet.
Nykritikkens tekststudium sikter følgelig mot å avdekke den tidløse kjernen i verket, grunntemaet. Verket kan nok ta opp samtidspregete – f.eks. sosiale og politiske – problemer, men i det gode diktverk vil det finnes et dypereliggende eksistensielt tema under de tidsbestemte motivene. Verkets tema har en utstråling som virker inn på alle bestanddelene i teksten. I et godt diktverk peker alle elementer inn mot temaet, og alt er støpt sammen til en fast kunstnerisk helhet. Denne helheten utelukker ikke indre motsetninger og ambivalens; nykritikken har et skarpt blikk for slike drag i teksten og vurderer dem ofte høyt, men forutsetningen er at motsetningene er innordnet i helheten, og at de harmoniseres i ly av temaet.
Verkets budskap er ikke alltid umiddelbart tilgjengelig ved første gangs lesning. Nykritikken måtte derfor utvikle metoder for å trenge inn i tekstens dypere mening, analysemåter som kunne avdekke verkets struktur, den organiserte helheten som alle deler og alle virkemidler inngår i. Strukturbegrepet står sentralt innen nykritikkens metodikk, som det gjør innenfor strukturalistisk teori, men de to retningene bruker begrepet forskjellig. For nykritikerne er strukturen i det gode diktverk en sammenhengende helhet, den er bestemt av temaet og tjener det.
Form og innhold er ett, slår nykritikerne fast. Blant de formdrag som inngår i verkets struktur, er f.eks. kontraster og paralleller, bildespråk, symbolikk, synsvinkel og fortelleteknikk. Gjennom studiet av disse og en lang rekke andre virkemidler i teksten arbeider nykritikerne seg fram til en inngående og nyansert tekstbeskrivelse og en tolkning av de immanente budskapet, dvs. Det budskapet som er nedfelt i teksten, og som kan oppfanges gjennom innlevelse og aktiv oppmerksomhet."
Svensen, Åsfrid (1997). Tekstens mønstre(s. 19-21). Oslo, Universitetsforlaget
"En forløper for strukturalismen er den østeuropeiske formalismen, som oppsto og utviklet seg i årene under og etter første verdenskrig. Formalistene er ikke opptatt av sammenhengen mellom litteraturen og dens sosiale bakgrunn, men tvert i mot av hva som skiller litteraturen ut fra andre fenomener og aktiviteter, hva som er litteraturens spesifikke egenskaper, hva som er litteraritet. Litterariteten finner de i diktningens formspråk, de språklige, metriske og kompositoriske virkemidlene som preger poetiske tekster til forskjell fra sakprosatekster og dagligspråk.
Dagligspråket leder oppmerksomheten mot en ikke-språklig virkelighet som språket referer til, og språket i seg sjøl kan virke usynlig som ei glassrute. Det poetiske språket derimot handler i langt større grad om seg sjøl, og så vel det enkelte språktegnet som samspillet mellom tegnene fanger oppmerksomheten på en helt annen måte enn i dagligspråket. Midlet til å synliggjøre språket er især normbrudd – brudd med dagligspråkets normer, og dessuten brudd med etablerte litterære normer. Gjennom normbruddene skjer en underliggjøring av det språklige utsagnet og samtidig av det virkelighetsbildet som ligger i språket, og leserne opplever en av-automatisering av sin språkfølelse og erkjennelse.
Vestlig strukturalisme er på mange måter en videreføring av formalismen; bl.a. kom enkelte formalistiske teoretikere til å stå sentralt også innenfor de seinere stadiene av strukturalistisk teoriutvikling. Strukturalismen liksom formalismen legger sterk vekt på litteraturens formspråk. En viktig forskjell på denne seinere strukturalismen og formalismen er imidlertid at strukturalismen ikke utelukkende er opptatt av hva som særmerker litterære tekster; den interesserer seg i større grad for formspråket i alle slags teksttyper."
Svensen, Åsfrid (1997). Tekstens mønstre(s. 22-23). Oslo, Universitetsforlaget
"Både nykritikerne og strukturalistene vurderer teksten som et isolert studieobjekt. Strukturalistene retter sitt fokus mot tekstens struktur, dvs. strukturen i språket og strukturen i det fortalte. Strukturalistene påstår at fortellingene våre er ordnet eller strukturert etter bestemte mønstre, og disse mønstrene er ikke noe vi skaper selv. Mer eller mindre bevisst følger vi bestemte konvensjoner når vi skal komponere en fortelling. Strukturalistene er opptatt av det som er felles for mange tekster, og mener at det finnes mønstre i enhver tekst som gir uttrykk for underliggende strukturer som vi mennesker har felles. De er følgelig ikke så opptatt av tekstens meningsinnhold, derimot ønsker de å avdekke underliggende mønstre i det vi kan kalle tekstens dypstruktur. Strukturalistene var også opptatt av å finne strukturer i språket, og med sin teori om språket som tegnsystem utviklet Ferdinand de Saussure en lingvistisk strukturalisme. Saussure mente at ordene kan oppfattes som tegn. Våre tegn er arbitrære eller tilfeldige, ordene ligner ikke på betydningen. Det er f.eks. ingen likhet mellom ordet kjole og den kjolen jeg har på meg. Betydningen er basert på en konvensjon. Vi kan si at ordet har en tosidighet; tegnet kjole har et innhold eller en betydning, det vil si tanken om en reell kjole. Samtidig har ordet et uttrykk, det vil si ordet kjole slik jeg hører eller ser det.....
Vi snakker i dag om et utvidet teksbegrep, og synet på språk som tegnsystem har også blitt overført til andre områder og andre språk. Alt vi foretar oss, alt vi skaper, våre ulike kulturfenomen kan oppfattes som system av tegn og kan følgelig avleses som tegn. I tillegg til ordenes denotative innhold har de også tilleggsbetydninger, konnotasjoner.
De enkelte tegnene hører altså hjemme i et tegnsystem - et språk - og ifølge strukturalistene er språket et system av tegnelementer som blir definert og forstått i forhold til hverandre. Det betyr at forfatter og leser må beherske det samme språket - eller tegnsystemet - dersom målet er at leseren skal forstå forfatterens hensikt."
Moslet, Inge (red.) (1999). Norsk didaktikk - ei grunnbok (s. 212-213). Oslo, Universitetsforlaget
Et godt eksempel på strukturalistenes arbeid med å finne faste mønstre i beslektede tekster er Vladimir Propps strukturalistiske tilnærming til eventyrsjangeren, og Greimas' fortellingsgrammatikk, som består av ulike modeller. Den kanskje mest kjente er aktantmodellen, som benyttes i forbindelse med eventyr. To andre slike modeller er kontraktmodellen og S-modellen.
The exerpts below are taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
Utdragene nedenfor er hentet fra Wikipedia, det frie nettleksikonet:
For the benefit of myself - and perhaps some of my fellow students - I have put together some articles from Wikipedia to try to give a much needed overview of difficult terms.
The term structuralism is used in many contexts in different disciplines in the 20th century. Structuralism proposes the idea that many phenomena do not occur in isolation, but instead occur in relation to each other, and that all related phenomena are part of a whole with a definite, but not necessarily defined, structure. Structuralists, in any area of knowledge, attempt to perceive that structure and the changes that it may undergo with the goal of furthering the development of that system of phenomena or ideas.
In film and literary theory and criticism, the term refers to a line of thought stemming from the structural linguistics usually identified with Ferdinand de Saussure. The generalization of linguistic models by the French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss inspired others to apply their versions of structuralist ideas to a wide range of subjects. Thus, Levi-Strauss' views affected the social sciences from the 1960s and onward.
As with any cultural movement, the influences and developments are complex; other linguists besides Saussure were important. Roman Jakobson, in particular, worked on specifically literary problems long before structuralism became a general trend. For a description of structuralist principles, Levi-Strauss is an adequate representative of the approach; trained in both philosophy and social science, he states his views methodically.
Also, other major figures in structuralism have written a good deal of work in which other influences dominate. Both Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault have been called both structuralists and post-structuralists. Louis Althusser's chief concern was to enlarge Marxist theory. In America, the work of Leonard Bloomfield, who was inspired by Saussure, represents a more specific sense of structuralism, which is now thought to be too restrictive. In the fifties, Noam Chomsky rigorously criticized many aspects of structuralism, while at the same time he contributed to it as it is perceived today.
(But Levi-Strauss was an anthropologist, a point to remember in searches for further information. He uses certain terms, including "structuralism," in the way his field uses them, even though they have other meanings elsewhere. He repeatedly contrasts structural anthropology with the work of "functionalists" while relying on two linguistic authorities, Roman Jakobson and Nicolas Troubetzkoy, who are functionalists as far as many linguists are concerned. Indeed, the purpose of calling them functionalists, along with other members of the Prague School, is to distinguish their work from the structural linguistics of Saussure. Even more confusingly, the Prague School is occasionally referred to as "functional-structuralist", while there is a well-known position in the social sciences, deriving from Talcott Parsons, which is sometimes called "structural functionalism." A Google search on any of these terms can be exasperating.)
Post-Structuralism is a body of work that is a response to structuralism; it rejects structuralism yet for various reasons still defines itself in relation to it. So the best way to understand post-structuralism is to understand structuralism.
There are many definitions. Most broadly, structuralism is any theory that follows Immanuel Kant's notion that the mind actively structures perceptions (Jean Piaget and Noam Chomsky are structuralists in this sense), or any theory that follows Durkheim's attention to social structure (e.g. classifying societies as mechanical or organic). More narrowly, structuralism is inspired by the work of the linguists Roman Jakobson and Ferdinand de Saussure. Their main point is that language is not just a set of words (abstract) that refer to things (concrete). In other words, the word "rock" does not have sense, or meaning, simply because we identify it with real rocks. Rather, language consists of a system of meaning; that is, the meaning of any one word is determined by its relationship with other words (thus, a dictionary doesn't juxtapose words with pictures of things; rather, it defines words in terms of other words). When looking solely at language or systems of meaning that function linguistically, this approach is called semiotics. When looking at other phenomena, it is structuralism. In short, any approach that sees the meaning of something as subordinate to its place within a system is structuralism. The most important structuralists were French scholars who tried to adapt these principles to other fields of study: the psychoanalyst Lacan, the philosopher Louis Althusser, and the anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss.
Note: structuralism is in many ways opposed to humanism, because it privileges "structures" and "systems" rather than the specific parts of these systems (e.g. actual humans).
Note: structuralism requires some space between the "system" and the person studying the system -- in other words, structuralism is a way of studying structures "objectively."
"Post"-structuralists are quite simply all people who take structuralism very seriously and recognize its importance, yet on some level profoundly disagree with or even actively reject it. This ambivalence echoes a deeper ambivalence towards the whole Enlightenment project (not surprising, given the importance of Kant). Like Kant and his contemporaries and successors, they believe in the importance of critical thinking (the philosopher Jurgen Habermas is probably the most important heir to Kant today -- not that he is strictly speaking a "Kantian", but in a more general sense that he believes that through reason we can understand the world and achieve enlightenment). Unlike Kant and his successors, they are highly skeptical of progress. You might say they take Kant's critical approach one step further by turning it against itself, and thus criticizing the Enlightenment assumptions that objectivity is possible and good, and that the positive accumulation of objective knowledge is possible and good. They are so true to this critical spirit that, unlike post-modernists, they do not whole-heartedly celebrate the demise of the Enlightenment project. (In this ambivalent turn they are something like contemporary heirs to Nietzsche, and many explicitly refer to Nietzsche for inspiration, even if they do not agree with everything he wrote.)
Other than a disagreement with the tenets of structualism, many post-structuralists are sharply critical of one another. This is one reason why a group with such divergent views are called "post-structuralists" and not something else - once you get beyond their debt to structuralism and the fact that they nevertheless are not structuralists, there is nothing else to define them as a group. The most famous post-structuralists - although they express often fundamentally divergent views - are the philosopher Jacques Derrida, the historian Michel Foucault, and the sociologists Pierre Bourdieu and Bruno Latour.
The term postmodernism refers to a philosophical and cultural movement that is notoriously difficult to define, but distinguished largely by its rejection of modernism. The term is hard to define precisely due to one of its central premises: the rejection of "meta-narratives", ways of thinking that unite knowledge and experience to seek to provide a definitive, universal truth. Also adding confusion to the debate surrounding its definition and significance is the fact that modernity and modernism are not easy to define.
Postmodernists claim that modernity was characterised by a monolithic mindset impossible to maintain in the culturally diverse and fragmented world (which is sometimes referred to as postmodernity) that we live in today. Postmodernism, instead, embraces fluid and multiple perspectives, typically refusing to privilege any one 'truth claim' over another. Ideals of universally applicable truths give way to provisional, decentered, local petit recits which, rather than referencing some underlying universal reality, point only to other ideas and cultural artefacts, themselves subject to interpretation and re-interpretation.
The role of individuals (and especially the individual body) and action is emphasised over standardized or canonical forms of knowledge. Knowledge is interpreted according to our own "local" experiences, not measured against all encompassing universal structures. In this sense, postmodernity owes much to its allied school of thought, post-structuralism (or deconstruction) which sought to destabilise the relationship between language and the objects to which it referred.
Postmodernists often express a profound skepticism regarding the Enlightenment quest to uncover the nature of truth and reality. Perhaps the most striking examples of this skepticism are to be found in the works of French cultural theorist, Jean Baudrillard. In his book Simulations, he contends that social 'reality' no longer exists in the conventional sense, but has been supplanted by an endless procession of simulacra. The mass media, and other forms of mass cultural production, generate constant re-appropriation and re-contextualisation of familiar cultural symbols and images, fundamentally shifting our experience away from 'reality', to 'hyper-reality'.
Postmodernism has applications in many modern academic and non-academic disciplines; philosophy, art, architecture, film, television, music, sociology, fashion, technology, literature, and communications are all heavily influenced by postmodern trends and ideas, and are rigorously scrutinised from postmodern perspectives.
Postmodern culture is ubiquitous and permeates every aspect of our daily lives. From film and television programs to political personas and our daily clothes, postmodernity, it has been stated, "is the very air we breathe". (Steven Shaviro, Doom Patrols).
Note: It may be helpful to distinguish between postmodernism in its philosophical, theoretic sense, and as a cultural phenomenon that can be observed in daily life — often referred to as 'Postmodernity'. Examples of postmodernity in action abound in Western society; in fact, Wikipedia is a good example of a postmodern project.
Also note: "post-modern" tends to be used by critics, "postmodern" by supporters.
Jeg snublet over en artikkel på nettet som jeg fant oversiktlig og grei. Den er skrevet av en teolog, og dermed ganske subjektiv. Men - jeg synes forfatteren rydder opp i noen for meg svevende begreper på en ok måte.
Artikkelen heter: "The Real Issue - Discerning and Defining the essentials of Postmodernism" (Stan Wallace)
or semiology, discipline deriving from the American logician C. S. Peirce and the French linguist Ferdinand de Saussure. It has come to mean generally the study of any cultural product (e.g., a text) as a formal system of signs. Saussure’s key notion of the arbitrary nature of the sign means that the relation of words to things is not natural but conventional; thus a language is essentially a self-contained system of signs, wherein each element is meaningless by itself and meaningful only by its differentiation from the other elements. This linguistic model has influenced recent literary criticism, leading away from the study of an author’s biography or a work’s social setting and toward the internal structure of the text itself (see structuralism). Semiotics is not limited to linguistics, however, since virtually anything (e.g., gesture, clothing, toys) can function as a sign.
Deconstruction was a tool of postmodernism that was itself constructed by the philosopher and textual artist Jacques Derrida. He played with words, putting them together with unique combinations of punctuation to make points about, in essence, how meaningless words are and the ways in which we give them meaning. The term deconstruction itself is Destruct + Construct. By analyzing an idea and breaking it into pieces, you are simultaneously asserting its existence. If it did not exist and was not of importance, you would not be analyzing it. Also, you are in the process of defining it and reifying its existence as you name its pieces. Most people use deconstruction simply to mean the analysis of the binaries within an idea. Understanding that this analysis recreates the binaries is more difficult to grasp.
Se også den ganske greie artikkelen "Dekonstruktion" av Anders Grove (dansk)
In literary criticism and Continental philosophy, deconstruction refers to to a post-structuralist philosophical movement initiated by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida, and more broadly to the critical reading of texts in a manner similar to Derrida's. In everyday use, deconstruction is a synonym for criticism, analysis, debunking, or commentary with an overtone of questioning motives, conscious or otherwise, for producing a work; occasionally it is simply a synonym for "destruction." The latter, everyday, meaning has a tenuous relation, if any, to the former, philosophical, meaning. The rest of this article focuses on the former, more narrowly philosophical sense of the term.
(A terminological note: Practicing philosophers and literary scholars with Derridean or deconstructive points of view describe themselves, or more often their work, as "deconstructive." In contrast, the more dogmatic-sounding adjective "deconstructionist," which along with related "-ism" and "-istic" forms is sometimes found in journalism, is rarely used by knowledgeable writers. "Deconstructor" is occasionally used as an alternative way of referring to a deconstructive thinker.)
The project of deconstruction
Jacques Derrida described his post-structuralist philosophical project using the term "deconstruction." Other well-known scholars and critics who have worked in deconstruction include Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Paul de Man, Jonathan Culler, Barbara Johnson, and J. Hillis Miller.
A precise and simple definition of deconstruction is impossible: the relevant philosophical texts amount to hundreds, if not thousands, of pages. Most of the texts of deconstruction are difficult reading, and resistant to summary, by their nature. The writing's difficulty and idiosyncratic style is claimed by sympathetic readers to be essential to a proper treatment of its subject (but many unsympathetic readers have called it everything from obscurantism to outright nonsense). In addition, deconstruction is based on a close reading of difficult founding texts by such philosophers as Plato, Rousseau, and Husserl. Derrida's ideas have also been applied to many other sorts of texts, especially to literature. Derrida's work, and deconstruction, have had a profound effect on literary theory and continental philosophy.
Deconstruction's central concern is a radical critique of the Enlightenment project and of metaphysics. Deconstruction identifies in the Western philosophical tradition a metaphysics of presence (also known as logocentrism) which holds that perfect communication is possible, that absolute truth or self-identity exist as grounds for meaning.
An early translator of Derrida (the philosopher David B. Allison) explained the term "deconstruction" as follows:
It signifies a project of critical thought whose task is to locate and "take apart" those concepts which serve as the axioms or rules for a period of thought, those concepts which command the unfolding of an entire epoch of metaphysics. "Deconstruction" is somewhat less negative than the Heideggerian or Nietzschean terms "destruction" or "reversal"; it suggests that certain foundational concepts of metaphysics will never be entirely eliminated...There is no simple "overcoming" of metaphysics or the language of metaphysics. (Introduction to Speech and Phenomena, p. xxxii, n. 1)
Against the metaphysics of presence, deconstruction brings an idea called différance. This French neologism is, on the deconstructive argument, properly neither a word nor a concept; it names the non-coincidence of meaning both synchronically (one French homonym means "differing") and diachronically (another means "deferring", unlike in English; this is why différance is written as a French word rather than rendered "differance" in English translation).
In simple terms, this means that rather than privileging commonality and simplicity and seeking unifying principles (or grand teleological narratives, or overarching concepts, etc.) deconstruction empasizes difference, complexity, and non-self-identity. A deconstructive reading of a text, or a deconstructive interpretation of philosophy (for deconstruction tends to ellide any difference between the two), often seeks to demonstrate how a seemingly unitary idea or concept contains different or opposing meanings within itself. The ellision of difference in philosophical concepts is even referred to in deconstruction as a kind of violence, the idea being that theory's willful misdescription or simplification of reality always does violence to the true richness and complexity of the world. This criticism can be taken as a rejection of the philosophical law of the excluded middle, arguing that the simple oppositions of Aristotelian logic force a false appearance of simplicity onto a recalcitrant world.
One typical procedure of deconstruction is its critique of binary oppositions. A central deconstructive argument holds that, in all the classic dualities of Western thought, one term is privileged over the other. Examples include:
Derrida argues in Of Grammatology (translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and published in English in 1976) that, in each such case, the first term is classically conceived as original, authentic, and superior, while the second is thought of as secondary, derivative, or even "parasitic." These binary oppositions, and others of their form, he argues, must be deconstructed.
- speech over writing
- presence over absence
- identity over difference
- fullness over emptiness
- meaning over meaninglessness
- mastery over submission
- life over death
This deconstruction is effected in stages. First, Derrida suggests, the opposition must be inverted, and the second, traditionally subordinate term must be privileged. He argues that these oppositions cannot be simply transcended; given the thousands of years of philosophical history behind them, it would be disingenuous to attempt to move directly to a domain of thought beyond these distinctions. So deconstruction attempts to compensate for these historical power imbalances, undertaking the difficult project of thinking through the philosophical implications of reversing them.
Only after this task is undertaken (if not completed, which may be impossible), Derrida argues, can philosophy begin to conceive a conceptual terrain outside these oppositions: the next project of deconstruction would be to develop concepts which fall under neither one term of these oppositions nor the other. Much of the philosophical work of deconstruction has been devoted to developing such ideas and their implications, of which différance may be the prototype (as it denotes neither simple identity nor simple difference). Derrida spoke in an interview (first published in French in 1967) about such "concepts," which he called merely "marks" in order to distinguish them from proper philosophical concepts:
...[I]t has been necessary to analyze, to set to work, within the text of the history of philosophy, as well as within the so-called literary text,..., certain marks, shall we say,... that by analogy (I underline) I have called undecidables, that is, unities of simulacrum, "false" verbal properties (nominal or semantic) that can no longer be included within philosophical (binary) opposition, resisting and disorganizing it, without ever constituting a third term, without ever leaving room for a solution in the form of speculative dialectics. (Positions, trans. Alan Bass, pp. 42-43)
As can be seen in this discussion of its terms' undecidable, unresolvable complexity, deconstruction requires a high level of comfort with suspended, deferred decision; a deconstructive thinker must be willing to work with terms whose precise meaning has not been, and perhaps cannot be, established. (This is often given as a major reason for the difficult writing style of deconstructive texts.) Critics of deconstruction find this unacceptable as philosophy; many feel that, by working in this manner with unspecified terms, deconstruction ignores the primary task of philosophy, which they say is the creation and elucidation of concepts. This deep criticism is a result of a fundamental difference of opinion about the nature of philosophy, and is unlikely to be resolved simply.
An illustration: Derrida's reading of Lévi-Strauss
A more concrete example, drawn from one of Derrida's most famous works, may help to clarify the typical manner in which deconstruction works.
Structuralist analysis generally relies on the search for underlying binary oppositions as an explanatory device. The structuralist anthropology of Claude Lévi-Strauss argued that such oppositions are found in all cultures, not only in Western culture, and thus that the device of binary opposition was fundamental to meaning.
Deconstruction challenges the explanatory value of these oppositions. This method has three steps. The first step is to reveal an asymmetry in the binary opposition, suggesting an implied hierarchy. The second step is to reverse the hierarchy. The third step is to displace one of the terms of the opposition, often in the form of a new and expanded definition.
In his book Of Grammatology, Derrida offers one example of deconstruction applied to a theory of Lévi-Strauss. Following many other Western thinkers, Lévi-Strauss distinguished between "savage" societies lacking writing and "civilized" societies that have writing. This distinction implies that human beings developed verbal communication (speech) before some human cultures developed writing, and that speech is thus conceptually as well as chronologically prior to writing (thus speech would be more authentic, closer to truth and meaning, and more immediate than writing).
Although the development of writing is generally considered to be an advance, after an encounter with the Nambikwara Indians of Brazil, Lévi-Strauss suggested that societies without writing were also lacking violence and domination (in other words, savages are truly noble savages). He further argued that the primary function of writing is to facilitate slavery (or social inequality, exploitation, and domination in general). (This claim has been rejected by most later historians and anthropologists as incorrect. There is abundant historical evidence that both hunter-gatherer societies and later non-literate tribes had significant amounts of violence and warfare in their cultures.)
Derrida's interpretation begins with taking Lévi-Strauss's discussion of writing at its word: what is important in writing for Lévi-Strauss is not the use of markings on a piece of paper to communicate information, but rather their use in domination and violence. Derrida further observes that, based on Lévi-Strauss's own ethnography, the Nambikwara really do use language for domination and violence. Derrida thus concludes that writing, in fact, is prior to speech. That is, he reverses the opposition between speech and writing.
Derrida was not making fun of Lévi-Strauss, nor did he mean to supersede, replace, or proclaim himself superior to Lévi-Strauss. (A common theme of deconstruction is the desire to be critical without assuming a posture of superiority.) He was using his deconstruction of Lévi-Strauss to question a common belief in Western culture, dating back at least to Plato: that speech is prior to, more authentic than, and closer to "true meaning" than writing.
Post-Modernism vs. Post-Structuralism
In terms of frequently cited works, postmodernism and post-structuralism overlaps quite significantly. Some philosophers, such as Francois Lyotard, can legitimately be classified into both groups. This is partly due to the fact that both modernism and structuralism owe much to the Enlightenment project.
Structuralism has a strong tendency to be scientific and seeking out stable patterns in observed phenomena - an epistemological attitude which is quite compatible with Enlightenment thinking, and incompatible with postmodernists. At the same time, findings from the structural analysis carried a somewhat anti-Enlightenment message, revealing that rationality can be found in the minds of "savage" people, just in different forms than people from "civilized" societies are used to seeing. Implicit here is a critique of the practice of colonialism, which was partly justified as a 'civilizing' process by which wealthier societies bring knowledge, manners, and reason to less 'civilized' ones.
Post-structuralism, emerging as a response to the structuralists' scientific orientation, has kept the cultural relativism in structuralism, while discarding the scientific orientations.
One clear difference between postmodernism and poststructuralism is found in their respective attitudes towards the demise of the projects of the enlightenment and modernity: post-structuralism is fundamentally ambivalent, while post-modernism is decidedly celebratory.
Another difference is the nature of the two positions. While post-structuralism is a position in philosophy, encompassing on views on human being, language, body, society, and many other issues, it is not a name of an era. Post-modernism, on the other hand, is closely associated with "post-modern" era, a period in the history coming after modern age.