Literary and Critical Theory Post-Structuralism
by
Andrea Hurst
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 July 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190221911-0008

Introduction

Post-structuralism denotes a way of theorizing that emerged around the 1950s, predominantly in France, among otherwise extremely diverse intellectuals (although many question this label). Most thinkers termed post-structuralist, as well as the legitimating struggles and heated debates, were prominent until about the 1980s. Beyond this date, the debates died down and many once radical post-structuralist ideas were subsequently absorbed into mainstream disciplines. As the name suggests, a post-structuralist way of thinking is rooted in structuralism, but it also represents a retrospective critique of certain structuralist commitments. Like structuralism, post-structuralism identifies a way of theorizing that belongs equally to literary theory (the systematic study of literary texts), philosophy (especially the study of how thought works, insofar as thinking is carried out in language), and critical theory (emancipatory social science via discourse analysis and ideology critique). The starting points for a post-structural theoretical vision within this enormous terrain of interdisciplinary scholarship are language, signification, and semiotics. Most post-structuralist thinkers first sought to establish new concepts in this domain to describe their novel way of thinking. Most later turned their attention to philosophical and ethical themes and, consequently, to emancipatory social critique. Of the figures commonly named post-structuralist, some are more closely aligned than others with structuralism. Together, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Roland Barthes, Jacques Lacan, and Michel Foucault have been named structuralism’s “Gang of Four.” However, the latter three, across their diverse domains of concern, ultimately shifted from structuralist to post-structuralist thinking. Lacan, in particular, remains difficult to place since he published “work in progress” that was subject to revision over a span of fifty years, and his texts generate opposing structuralist and post-structuralist readings. The selection of more clearly post-structuralist figures (Umberto Eco, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, and Julia Kristeva) follows the overall flow from concerns with signification, through philosophical and ethical issues, to social critique. A great deal of overlap is found, however, since this trend is also evident in the course of thinking specific to each figure. The “ethical turn” in post-structuralism is marked by an emphasis on subjectivity, authorship, and identity (particularly feminine). This emphasis reflects both an important critique of structuralism (which threatens subjectivity) and the overall shift toward philosophical and ethical concerns that culminates in critical theory. Disagreements among post-structuralists, as well as criticisms of post-structuralism, concern the degree to which “chaos concepts” (such as instability, chance, and ambiguity) should be accommodated when considering issues of meaning, knowledge, subjectivity, and ethics. Although the border between post-structuralism and postmodernism is not clearly drawn, postmodernism can be characterized as an extremist response, which celebrates “chaos” as a replacement for structuralist rigidity. Such extremism has elicited strong criticism. A more rigorously post-structural approach is to resist extremes and adopt a theoretical attitude that accommodates complexity.

Overviews

The starting point for a post-structural theoretical vision is language and signification. Classic introductions to literary theory, therefore, such as Culler 2011 and Eagleton 2008, provide essential groundwork for understanding post-structuralism. Along with these two overviews, Belsey 2002, which focuses particularly on post-structuralism, completes a trio of popular and accessible introductions. Written with the insight gained from personal acquaintance, Roudinesco 2008 supplements these more general works with a detailed, particularized account of the intellectual context that gave birth to post-structuralist thinking. More depth and detail for advanced researchers is offered by the selection of essays by major and interesting figures provided in Young 1981. As these texts show, most post-structuralists first sought to establish new linguistic concepts to describe their novel way of thinking and turned later toward articulating a consequent emancipatory critical theory. Norris 1996 examines this link, criticizing extreme forms of post-structuralism that produce a “textualism” leading to overblown skepticism and cultural relativism. In the process, the text provides lucid explanations of structuralism, post-structuralism, and postmodernism, and defends deconstruction as a mode of thinking. Dillet, et al. 2013, an edited collection of essays written by diverse contemporary experts, offers an up-to-date survey of major post-structuralist thinkers and ideas. A similarly contemporary overview and assessment of post-structuralism is provided in Williams 2005, which explains key post-structuralist concepts and considers the extent to which they apply to contemporary issues. Harland 2010 offers an overview that takes the further step of coining a new term, “superstructuralism,” first to coordinate structuralist and post-structuralist theories as the complex components of a larger paradigm and, second, to indicate that this is grounded on a neo-Marxist inversion that prioritizes the superstructure.

  • Belsey, Catherine. Poststructuralism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

    DOI: 10.1093/actrade/9780192801807.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Chapters engage with “difference,” a major theme linking post-structuralist authors. A philosophically orientated text, focusing on how post-structural thinking unsettles traditional understandings of human existence. Sound advice is offered concerning who and what to read among post-structuralist authors and texts. Suitable for both undergraduate teaching and more advanced research.

    Find this resource:

  • Culler, Jonathan. Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction. 2d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1093/actrade/9780199691340.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A popular introduction, offering a lucid overview of what literature is and does, and why this matters. Provides welcome examples to elucidate complex theories. The second edition improves on the first, adding reflections on critical, cultural theory and diverse contemporary concerns. Suitable for both undergraduate teaching and more advanced research.

    Find this resource:

  • Dillet, Benoit, Robert Porter, and Iain Mackenzie, eds. The Edinburgh Companion to Poststructuralism. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A substantial compilation of twenty-three essays by diverse experts, offering a comprehensive survey of post-structuralist ideas. The text covers the history of post-structuralism’s emergence, major methodologies, thinkers and themes, and the turn toward cultural critique, as well as its reception and criticism. Excellent text for cross-disciplinary research at all levels.

    Find this resource:

  • Eagleton, T. Literary Theory: An Introduction. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Anniversary edition with a new preface. An accessible introduction to ideas in literary theory and beyond. First published twenty-five years ago and enjoying enduring popularity, the text has benefited from revisions that reflect on the turn to critical theory and contemporary cynicism in notions of “anti-theory” and institutionalization. Suitable for undergraduate teaching and more advanced research.

    Find this resource:

  • Harland, Richard. Superstructuralism: The Philosophy of Structuralism and Post-structuralism. London: Routledge, 2010.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An accessible, clearly written overview that links structuralist and post-structuralist thinkers according to a common insistence on the priority of “culture,” within which constructs such as “nature” and “the individual” are produced. Challenges an Anglo-Saxon tendency to take such culturally produced notions to be basic common sense.

    Find this resource:

  • Norris, Christopher. Reclaiming Truth: Contribution to a Critique of Cultural Relativism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Anthology of essays representing Norris’s effort to preserve genuinely critical resources, Derrida’s deconstruction included, from extreme post-structuralisms. These, he argues, draw selectively from Saussure, producing a “textualism” that reduces knowledge, reality, meaning, value, and subjectivity to internal constructs of language games, between which we cannot adjudicate. Suitable for philosophically sophisticated researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Roudinesco, Élisabeth. Philosophy in Turbulent Times: Canguilhem, Sartre, Foucault, Althusser, Deleuze, Derrida. Translated by William McCuaig. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Philosophes dans la tourmente: Canguilhem, Sartre, Foucault, Althusser, Deleuze, Derrida (Paris: Fayard, 2005). A particularly interesting read for more senior students and researchers who accept that lived experience inspires and nourishes theory.

    Find this resource:

  • Williams, James. Understanding Poststructuralism. Understanding Movements in Modern Thought. Durham, NC: Acumen, 2005.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An excellent, text-focused account of the main post-structuralist thinkers, texts, and arguments. Particularly valuable for researchers interested in the more specialized details of post-structuralist ways of thinking. Also offers a balanced engagement with critics of post-structuralist methods.

    Find this resource:

  • Young, Robert, ed. Untying the Text: A Post-structuralist Reader. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A usefully concise introduction to post-structuralism by Young and a judicious selection of essays by major figures as well as unusual, albeit important, thinkers. This text moves beyond the introductory and offers an interesting overview suitable for more senior students and researchers.

    Find this resource:

The Tel Quel Group and the Historical Context of Post-structuralism

Tel Quel (“as it is” in English) is the name of a highly controversial and influential quarterly literary review published in Paris between 1960 and 1982, a time of significant cultural, political, and intellectual ferment. The Tel Quel group included a volatile, somewhat acrimonious, association of intellectuals and writers held together by Philippe Sollers (the name most associated with Tel Quel). Most of the prominent post-structuralist figures were associated in some way with Tel Quel, participating in conferences, seminars, and group discussions organized under its umbrella and contributing both theoretical and creative works for publication. Jameson 1996 provides a concise critical summary of Tel Quel’s antagonistic history, and raises the contentious issue of intellectual avant-gardism in the author’s review of three texts on the history of the Tel Quel group: ffrench 1995, Kauppi 1994, and Forest 1995. ffrench 1995 examines how the Tel Quel group drew from Marx, Freud, and Saussure, as relayed and reevaluated by figures such as Althusser, Lacan, Barthes, Derrida, and Kristeva, to produce theoretical works styled as self-conscious analyses of and play on political, theoretical, and literary rhetoric, with the avant-gardist aim of perpetually disrupting commonplaces. It also shows how the group maintained a transgressive approach to literature and art, variously intermixing theoretical readings with poetry and innovative textual experiments. ffrench suggests that the approach to textual productivity was not theoretical (Marxian, deconstructive, or psychoanalytic) but embraced an excessiveness more aligned with Bataille. Kauppi 1994 examines the Tel Quel group’s struggles against hegemonic discourses by means of which it displaced itself to the point of intersection between literature and politics and shifted ideologically from Soviet communism to Maoism to Americanism, and from Marxism to religion. This text is productively read together with Marx-Scouras 1996, which offers a detailed, highly readable critical account of the complexities and ironies associated with the objective among the Tel Quel group, contra Sartre, to free literature from institutional control and political engagement. Forest 1995 has not been translated into English, but it is included here as one of the texts on the history of the Tel Quel group reviewed in Jameson 1996. Jameson describes it as a “richly anecdotal . . . narrative history” (p. 5). The historical overviews of the Tel Quel group are usefully supplemented by the selection of key essays by members of the Tel Quel group gathered together in ffrench and Lack 1998.

  • ffrench, Patrick. The Time of Theory: A History of Tel Quel, 1960–1983. Oxford: Clarendon, 1995.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A full-length history of the Tel Quel phenomenon, laying out in careful detail the competing theoretical positions taken up within the Tel Quel group and over time. Suitable for advanced students and researchers interested in the historical, theoretical, and political milieu associated with the emergence of post-structuralism.

    Find this resource:

  • ffrench, Patrick, and Roland-François Lack, eds. The Tel Quel Reader. London: Routledge, 1998.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A collection of material from Tel Quel divided into sections on “science” (theory), literature (creative writing,) and art. Contains useful bibliographies of English translations of some of the articles or books originally published in or by Tel Quel and of material in English that refers to Tel Quel. Suitable for advanced students and researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Forest, Philippe. Histoire de Tel quell, 1960–1982. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1995.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This text has not been translated into English. It is included here since it is among the three texts on the history of the Tel Quel group reviewed by Fredric Jameson. Jameson describes it as a “richly anecdotal . . . narrative history” (p. 5).

    Find this resource:

  • Jameson, Fredric. “Après the Avant Garde.” London Review of Books 18.24 (December 1996): 5–7.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A lengthy, critical review of three texts on the history of the Tel Quel group by ffrench, Forest, and Kauppi by a well-known critical theorist. The review takes for granted familiarity with a sophisticated intellectual lexicon; it is valuable for advanced students and researchers as an introduction to the works discussed.

    Find this resource:

  • Kauppi, Niilo. The Making of an Avant Garde: “Tel Quel.” Translated by Anne R. Epstein. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1994.

    DOI: 10.1515/9783110883763Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Tel Quel, la constitution sociale d’une avant-garde (Commentationes scientiarum socialium) (Helsinki: Societa Scientarum Fennica, 1990). Examines Tel Quel’s positioning as an avant-garde in terms of “social reproduction.” Contains useful, comprehensive lists of authors and texts published in Tel Quel from 1960 to 1982. Suitable for advanced students and researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Marx-Scouras, Danielle. The Cultural Politics of Tel Quel: Literature and the Left in the Wake of Engagement. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Deeply insightful treatment of the complex cultural milieu that saw the meteoric, but ambivalent, success of a small self-consciously dissident literary review, founded by a band of privileged “enfants terribles” and supported by the best of French intellectuals. Suitable for advanced students and researchers.

    Find this resource:

Structuralism as a Precursor to Post-structuralism

Saussure 2006, compiled posthumously from Saussure’s notes on his 1906 and 1911 lectures at the University of Geneva, is the definitive version of Saussure’s famous Course in General Linguistics, which gave currency to the seminal view that language is essential to constitute and articulate a world, rather than merely offering labels for an already given order of things. Although details of Saussure’s linguistic theories have been challenged, this text remains historically and technically important as the source from whose matrix structuralist and post-structuralist ideas emerged. Harris 1987 provides a thoroughly useful guide to the first edition of the Course, whose ambiguities inspired numerous critical and creative responses. Culler 2002 is a classic resource for scholars interested in a detailed theoretical and practical grasp of structuralist “poetics.” This involves an effort to understand the strategies, devices, and conventions that underpin attested meanings or effects, as distinct from “hermeneutics,” which seeks to discover what a text means. Roman Jakobson is often cited alongside Saussure as a major influence on structuralist and post-structuralist thinkers who adapted the notion of structural analysis and generalized it to disciplines such as anthropology and literary theory. Jakobson 1995 offers convenient access to basic works, showcases Jakobson’s innovative contributions to linguistics and semiotics, and covers his later engagement in the kind of interdisciplinary work that is the hallmark of post-structuralist scholarship. Lévi-Strauss had a profound formative influence on the major structuralist and post-structuralist thinkers, and familiarity with his works helps in understanding important texts that take them for granted as a reference point. Lévi-Strauss 1983–1990 is a series of four texts linked by the endeavor to uncover the unconscious operation of myths that structure human thinking about the world and our place in it. Deliège 2004 offers an overview of Lévi-Strauss’s monumental project that has the benefit of a retrospective reappraisal. Kurzweil 1996 is regularly cited as the essential resource for a contextualized overview of the major figures responding directly to Lévi-Strauss’s project, which used structuralist ideas from Saussurean linguistics or semiotics to ground the view that the cultural world consists of relationships between created structures rather than objective realities. Althusser and Balibar 2016 contains the classic structuralist reading of Marx that established Althusser as one of the pivotal figures extending the reach of structuralist thinking into critical literary theory. Althusser argues that capital does not give readers “Marx’s philosophy, but the means to construct it. This places responsibility on readers to engage in a double reading, which applies the essence of Marx’s philosophy to construct it from the workings of the text.

  • Althusser, Louis, and Étienne Balibar. Reading Capital: The Complete Edition. New York: Verso, 2016.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Lire le Capital (Paris: F. Maspero, 1965). The 1970 abridged English translation included only contributions by Althusser and Balibar. Includes all original contributions and Balibar’s retrospective reflection on the book’s reception. See particularly Althusser’s contribution for an insistence on more than attentive, literal reading. Suitable for advanced researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Culler, Jonathan D. Structuralist Poetics: Structuralism, Linguistics, and the Study of Literature. London: Routledge Classics, 2002.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Founds a study of literature that accepts attested meanings and seeks to understand the rules, conventions, and procedures according to which meaning is produced. Culler’s preface to the 2002 edition contextualizes this structuralist enterprise and defends a structuralist poetics against certain post-structuralist extremes.

    Find this resource:

  • Deliège, Robert. Lévi-Strauss Today: An Introduction to Structural Anthropology. Translated by Nora Scott. Oxford: Berg, 2004.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A concise overview and useful companion to the Mythologiques series and other main texts by Lévi-Strauss. Includes an interesting biography, synopses of major works, and retrospective reflections on responses to Levi-Strauss’s work. A useful starting point for both undergraduate students and more advanced researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Harris, Roy. Reading Saussure: A Critical Commentary on the Cours de linguistique générale. La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1987.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    For researchers who wish to understand the structuralist and post-structuralist responses to Saussure, the Course should be read together with the writings. This useful commentary benefits from the intimate acquaintance gained from translation of the Course and preserves the terminology that influenced subsequent structuralist and post-structuralist thinkers.

    Find this resource:

  • Jakobson, Roman. On Language. Edited by Linda R. Waugh and Monique Onville-Burston. Harvard University Press, 1995.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A broad overview of works, lucidly introduced and cross-referenced, from the more basic through the innovative works on phonology and semantics into the interdisciplinary realms of linguistic anthropology and the semiotics of culture. Useful for advanced, interdisciplinary research.

    Find this resource:

  • Kurzweil, Edith. The Age of Structuralism: Levi-Strauss to Foucault. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1996.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    With a new introduction by the author. Suitable, as the author suggests, for senior students and researchers already familiar with specific figures who wish to extend their grasp of the broader context of the debates that profoundly influenced post-structuralist thinkers.

    Find this resource:

  • Lévi-Strauss, Claude. Mythologiques. 4 vols. Translated by John and Doreen Weightman. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983–1990.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Mythologiques, 4 vols. (Paris: Plon, 1964–1971). The four volumes are translated into English as The Raw and the Cooked, From Honey to Ashes, The Origin of Table Manners, and The Naked Man. Seminal texts that profoundly influenced thinkers across multiple disciplines; essential reading for advanced, interdisciplinary researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Saussure, Ferdinand de. Writings in General Linguistics. Edited by Simon Bouquet and Rudolf Engler. Translated and introduced by Carol Sanders and Matthew Pires. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Écrits de linguistique générale (Paris: Gallimard, 2002), final version of Cours de linguistique générale (Paris: Payot, 1916), translated as Course in General Linguistics (New York: Philosophic Society, 1959); a compilation of student notes from Saussure’s Geneva lectures. Saussure’s original notes, found in 1996, are published as the definitive writings. Includes a bibliography of work on Saussure.

    Find this resource:

From Structuralism to Post-structuralism

“Structuralism” initiated a meta-theoretical reversal, that is, a reversal in our understanding of the way we theorize (often named “the linguistic turn”). Structuralists challenged the assumption that to represent events and things, we should develop precise concepts and then find appropriate words to label them. Structuralists neatly reverse the order, arguing that for sensory events even to be perceived as meaningful phenomena, they must already have been processed by implicit and explicit cognitive and conceptual structures. In turn, drawing from Ferdinand de Saussure’s insight that words are not merely post-factum labels for preestablished meanings, they argue that concept formation depends on linguistic systems. Therefore, to understand an event, we should try to uncover the conceptual structures, produced within a signifying system, that are used, often tacitly, to shape how things appear to us. Post-structuralists accept this reversal, but they argue that structuralist conceptions of language, signification, system, structure, and discourse are limited by a tendency to privilege concepts that reflect metaphysical “cosmos” (order), such as “center,” “hierarchy,” “closure,” “stability,” “binary opposition,” “foundation,” “linearity,” and “economy.” Post-structuralists argue that the opposing concepts indicating a degree of “chaos,” and inviting emancipatory notions, such as “multiplicity,” “open systems,” “complexity,” “disruption,” “instability,” and “ambiguity,” cannot be ignored if one aims for accurate theoretical insight into phenomena. Ordered in terms of a shift in focus from language to ethics and critical theory, Roland Barthes, Jacques Lacan, and Michel Foucault are key figures in the shift from structuralism to post-structuralism. Roland Barthes was a prominent literary critic whose shift from structuralist to post-structuralist thinking is particularly clear in his considerations of the relationships between authorship and textuality. Jacques Lacan was a psychoanalytic theorist and practitioner whose initial efforts to tie human subjectivity to subject positions in the symbolic order shifts with the emergence in the 1950s of his concept of the traumatic Real. Foucault was a philosopher whose call for political activism required him to rethink earlier work, which tended toward discursive determinism.

Roland Barthes

Allen 2003 offers a clear introduction to nine key ideas ordered by the shifts in Barthes’s thinking, from structuralism through textualism to subjective complexity. This introductory text is best supplemented by Barthes 1985, a collection of interviews, which places his thinking within the framework of literary and critical theory famously underwritten by Sartre’s insistence that a writer’s vocation is to serve an ethical, social commitment to liberate consciousness. The best entry into Barthes’s writing is Barthes 2013, one of his most accessible and influential books. In this text Barthes seeks to demythologize cultural systems of meaning, from wrestling to travel guides, by highlighting and thereby alienating a cultural tendency to portray artificial, contingent, and ideological objects and values as indisputably natural and obvious. This work adumbrates Barthes’s concept of “écriture,” which he adds to Sartre’s categories of “language” and “style.” “Écriture,” or “form,” is similar to Foucault’s “discourse.” Structuralist demythologization entails explicating this underlying, often unconsciously adopted, formal and forming component of meaning making for emancipatory purposes. Barthes 1989 contains the seminal essays that indicate Barthes’s shift to post-structuralism, and the insistence that, given the pervasiveness of power, theorizing should be about actively transforming “myths”/discourses and their naturalized, bourgeois-ideological content by the practice of a writing that escapes old, repressive hermeneutic regimes and formulaic structuralism, eschews the notions of organic unity, authorial control that characterizes a “work,” and experiments with an open-ended free play of signification, plurality of meaning, and unlimited textuality. Barthes 1975 pushes experimentation with active transformation through writing practice to its extremes. Barthes offers an encounter with Balzac’s Sarrasine not as a work by a single author but as a text—a field opened up for active intervention by the reader. Barthes 1975 is a key work that indicates a shift by Barthes from a structuralist concern with demythologizing critique to a post-structuralist openness to poetics and enjoyment. An increasing sensitivity to complexity and ethical concerns characterizes Barthes’s later works. Barthes 1979 and Barthes 2010 particularly explore the possibility of freedom and subjective autonomy. Some argue that this shift contradicts his post-structuralist emphasis on textuality. Others insist that it is in line with a persistent pattern in post-structuralist thinking that resists the strictures of structuralism, experiments with the extent to which free play can be pushed, and returns to a complex negotiation of an uncomfortable position between extremes.

  • Allen, Graham. Roland Barthes. London: Routledge, 2003.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A clearly written, comprehensive introductory text, useful for undergraduates and graduates alike, which contains an extremely useful, detailed annotated list of texts for further reading.

    Find this resource:

  • Barthes, Roland. S/Z: An Essay. Translated by Richard Miller with a preface by Richard Howard. New York: Hill and Wang, 1974.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of S/Z (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1970). A challenging text, suitable for in-depth researchers interested in early post-structuralist experimentation with the notion of reader response. Barthes experiments with the reader’s capacity to add to the meanings of a text, not by changing words but through such devices as unique, nonlinear patterns of reading and alternative emphases.

    Find this resource:

  • Barthes, Roland. The Pleasure of the Text. Translated by Richard Miller. New York: Hill and Wang, 1975.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Le plaisir du texte (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1973). A key text demonstrating Barthes’s transition to post-structuralism. Barthes experiments with the idea of giving oneself up as demythologizing master in pursuit of knowledge and reconstituting the relation between subject and text as an erotic play in which the poetic fragments of a text are encountered as moments of enjoyment (jouissance).

    Find this resource:

  • Barthes, Roland. A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments. Translated by Richard Howard. New York: Hill and Wang, 1979.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Fragments d’un discours amoureux (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1977). A popular and widely read text. Confirms a renewed interest in the author’s subjective voice. Barthes does not disavow the author’s role entirely but highlights its complexity by assuming numerous interrelated subject positions. Suitable for researchers on subjectivity in literary theory.

    Find this resource:

  • Barthes, Roland. The Grain of the Voice: Interviews, 1962–1980. Translated by Linda Coverdale. New York: Hill and Wang, 1985.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A valuable companion to the more technical, theoretical texts suitable for graduate students and researchers. Offers a wide collection of interviews from 1962 onward, conducted by publications as diverse as Tel Quel (journal for avant-garde cultural critique) and Playboy (lifestyle magazine for men).

    Find this resource:

  • Barthes, Roland. Barthes, Selected Writings. Edited by Susan Sontag. Oxford: Fontana, 1989.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Excellent introduction to a judicious selection of key essays. A more extensive compilation than the popular Image-Music-Text, tracing Barthes’s shift from structural analysis to post-structuralist ideas, particularly in “From Work to Text” and “The Death of the Author.” Includes the ethical turn adumbrated in the “Inaugural Lecture.”

    Find this resource:

  • Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. Translated by Richard Howard. Foreword by Geoff Dyer. New York: Hill and Wang, 2010.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of La chambre claire: Note sur la photographie (Paris: Gallimard, 1980). An experiment with the interface between the theoretical study of photography, offering general, shareable meanings, and the particular, personal experience of encountering photographs in the aftermath of loss. Suitable for senior students and researchers interested in complex subjective experience.

    Find this resource:

  • Barthes, Roland. Mythologies: The Complete Edition, in a New Translation. Translated by Richard Howard and Annette Lavers. New York: Hill and Wang, 2013.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Mythologies (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1957). Accessible anthology of diverse articles written monthly for Les lettres nouvelles (1954–1956). All demonstrate that meaningful phenomena are produced by a never innocent reduction of open-ended signification systems to myth. Hence Barthes’s project of demythologization is explained theoretically at the end of the book.

    Find this resource:

Jacques Lacan

As the “talking cure,” psychoanalysis was always a complex encounter with language. Lacan’s texts immerse readers in the multiple complexities of signification as he strives to render Freudian concepts in the terms of structural and post-structural linguistics. The Lacanian theoretical intervention is overwhelmingly diverse, engendering multiple effects and competing responses that make it particularly difficult to establish a point of entry. Roudinesco 1997 offers an excellent biographical introduction suitable for a more general readership, while Fink 1999 provides the best all-round introduction for those interested in psychoanalytic practice. Emphasizing Lacan’s role as a practicing psychoanalyst, Fink offers a clear, practical account of Lacanian therapy and simultaneously introduces important concepts. This text retains the structuralist insight that psychological structures (e.g., “the fundamental fantasy,” “the four discourses”) do not merely reflect but actively shape our encounters and produce the objects of our attention, obsession and desire. Fink 1999 is productively read together with Evans 1996, which aims to elucidate Lacanian concepts based on the view that such concepts, as part of a language formulated to discuss treatment, develop by slow accretion rather than sudden mutation. However, Lacan’s writings and seminars also lend themselves to more post-structuralist and literary readings, where the value of Lacan’s writings and seminars is to be found in its power to produce novel ways of interpreting literary texts. Lacan 2006 gathers together three decades worth of work, much of which intentionally creates obstacles to disrupt the reader’s desire to reach any final truths, arguing that claims to truth instead produce ideological fantasy. They are best read, without any expectation of acquiring a comprehensive grasp of every nuance, as a rich source of inspiration for thinking. Borch-Jacobsen 1991 offers an excellent example of such a reading, which traces the intricate ways in which Lacan’s account of the subject draws from Kojève’s reading of Hegel. The seminars for which Lacan has become famous, initially presented orally, have been transcribed and published as a series named The Seminar of Jacques Lacan. They are published as individual texts, and they do not have to be read chronologically. Lacan 1992 is interesting as an indication of a complex engagement with ethical questions, and Lacan 1998 is one of the more accessible seminars since Lacan addresses a larger, less specialist audience and discusses fundamental concepts. Homer 2005 focuses on Lacan’s “return to Freud” (away from domesticating revisions of psychoanalytic theory), indicating how key Lacanian ideas revitalized psychoanalytic literary criticism and social critique by shifting the focus from individuals to texts. For those interested in critical theory, Žižek 2006 offers a lively application of Lacanian ideas to ideology critique, and Grosz 1990 provides a clear account of the feminist encounter with Lacan, which simultaneously offers a patient explanation of basic ideas.

  • Borch-Jacobsen, Mikkel. Lacan: The Absolute Master. Translated by Douglas Brick. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Lacan: Le maître absolu (Paris: Flammarion, 1995). Insightful portrait of Lacan’s eclectic, multiple, and, above all, provocative style. The text offers an extended treatment of Lacan’s engagement with Kojève’s reading of Hegel. Suitable for advanced researchers across a wide variety of disciplines, although it assumes familiarity with the philosophical sources that infuse the Lacanian discourse.

    Find this resource:

  • Evans, Dylan. An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis. London: Routledge, 1996.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A useful introduction to Lacan’s concepts. Strives for clarification in order to provide the basis for wider critical engagement. Entries include etymologies, accounts of a concept’s development, and its meanings in various contexts. Suitable for advanced students and researchers as a companion to other texts by and on Lacan.

    Find this resource:

  • Fink, Bruce. A Clinical Introduction to Lacanian Psychoanalysis: Theory and Technique. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Clear, practical account of Lacanian concepts, from an analyst’s perspective, whose priority is application. Explanations are elucidated through four case studies. While the text might play down the less structured side of the Lacanian project, it offers a welcome introduction that is accessible to newcomers without compromising on depth.

    Find this resource:

  • Grosz, Elizabeth. Jacques Lacan: A Feminist Introduction. New York: Routledge, 1990.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203330029Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Excellent critical introduction to basic Lacanian ideas, with interesting discussions of the divergent ways in which feminists have taken them up. Although familiarity with Freud would help, it is not essential, and the book is suitable for both students and advanced researchers across the disciplines.

    Find this resource:

  • Homer, Sean. Jacques Lacan. New York: Routledge, 2005.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203347232Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Clearly explains key Lacanan ideas and indicates how they provide new impetus to criticism in diverse fields. Shows how Lacan’s “mirror stage” informs the dynamics of specular and identification in film studies, and how Lacanian ideas apply to gender studies and, through Žižek’s readings, the social and political unconscious.

    Find this resource:

  • Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan VII: The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, 1959–1960. Translated with notes by Dennis Porter. Edited by Jacques-Alain Miller. New York: W. W. Norton, 1992.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Le séminaire du Jacques Lacan, livre VII: L’éthique de la psychanalyse, 1959–1960 (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1986). Addresses ethics in psychoanalysis, through discussions of Freudian concepts such as sublimation. Extends the discussions into new territory, addressing concepts of desire, jouissance, tragedy, and transgression. Suitable for senior students and researchers in diverse disciplines.

    Find this resource:

  • Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. Translated by Alan Sheridan. Edited by Jacques-Alain Miller. New York: W. W. Norton, 1998.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Le séminaire de Jacques Lacan, livre 11: Les quatre concepts fondamentaux de la psychoanalyse (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1973). Addresses a nonspecialist audience, but requires extensive intellectual background. Discusses “the unconscious,” “repetition,” “the transference,” and “the drive.” Includes a discussion of diverse topics, including the relationships among psychoanalysis, linguistics, science, and religion.

    Find this resource:

  • Lacan, Jacques. Écrits: The First Complete Edition in English. Translated by Bruce Fink in collaboration with Héloïse Fink and Russell Grigg. New York: W. W. Norton, 2006.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Écrits (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1966). This newer edition, including all thirty-five of the essays Lacan published in the complete French edition, replaces the older English title Écrits: A Selection. As a careful, scholarly translation, it is an essential text for advanced researchers in the field.

    Find this resource:

  • Roudinesco, Élisabeth. Jacques Lacan: An Outline of a Life and History of a System of Thought. Translated by Barbara Bray. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Jacques Lacan: Esquisse d’une vie, histoire d’un système de pensée (Paris: Fayard, 1993). Classic biography that ties Lacan’s thinking to the French intellectual and cultural world from which emerged many other prominent theorists, writers, and artists. Suitable for researchers interested in links between French psychoanalysis and critical literary theory.

    Find this resource:

  • Žižek, Slavoj. How to Read Lacan. London: Granta, 2006.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Some argue that with Žižek one reads Žižek disguised as Lacan. Perhaps this is as it should be. This text is accessible at multiple levels, with the caveat that it is not an instruction manual on reading Lacan but puts into practice a reading strategy endorsed by Lacanian theory.

    Find this resource:

Michel Foucault

Foucault 1984 is a classic Foucault reader due to Rabinow’s judicious selection of excerpts from the major works of Foucault’s structuralist, genealogical, and ethical phases. This text respects the post-structuralist tolerance for shifts in thinking on grounds that theoretical writing serves best to open up problematics for reflection rather than note down pre-made discoveries. An excellent companion to this reader is Dreyfus and Rabinow 1983, which offers a full-length analysis of Foucault’s work. For literary theorists, a good companion volume to these is During 1992. During also introduces Foucault’s works roughly chronologically but ties his argument to a major cleft in Foucault’s thinking concerning what it means to write. Foucault 1981 is a good place to start for a clear articulation of his central concept of discourse. Foucault 2006, the central text of Foucault’s genealogical phase, marks a definite shift from structuralism to post-structuralism. At this stage Foucault famously insists that “war” (power-relations), rather than “language” (relations of meaning) is the better metaphor for discursive determination. Foucault 1988–1990 ushers in Foucault’s ethical phase characterized by a call for intellectual activism that surpasses disinterested explanatory theory or demythologization. Foucault immediately faces the question of how such activism can be possible if there is no escape from discursive constitution via micro-disciplinary techniques. Drawing from Nietzsche, Foucault takes recourse to a kind of aesthetic self-fashioning. Foucault 1988, published posthumously, collects works by and on Foucault’s deepening concern to articulate how a person may regain subjectivity in face of objectification through powerful disciplinary technologies. The essays in Bernauer and Rasmussen 1988 offer a detailed treatment of Foucault’s return to the complex problematic of subjectivity and autonomy, particularly his attempt to find a way of construing the self as something more complex than either an “anthropological constant” or a “chronological variation.”

  • Bernauer, James, and David Rasmussen, eds. The Final Foucault. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1988.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Collection of essays predominantly focused on the ethical turn in Foucault’s later thinking. Includes a translation one of the last interviews he gave, a detailed bibliography, and a useful chronological account of his life. Suitable for senior students and researchers interested in critical theory and ethics.

    Find this resource:

  • Dreyfus, Hubert, and Paul Rabinow. Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Afterword by and an interview with Michel Foucault. Offers a full-length study of Foucault’s work beginning from the point of view that Foucault’s relationship with structuralism, and likewise hermeneutics, was always ambivalent. Foucault himself endorsed the analysis and exposition of his ideas. Suitable for senior students and researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • During, Simon. Foucault and Literature: Towards a Genealogy of Writing. London: Routledge, 1992.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203358917Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Alternative account of Foucault’s trajectory, from the perspective of literary theory. Shows in detail how Foucault’s initial admiration for avant-garde, transgressive writing that dispersed the authorial subject shifts to concern with the problematic status of the writer’s productive, activist, political role. Suitable for senior students and more advanced researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Foucault, Michel. “The Order of Discourse.” In Untying the Text: A Post-structuralist Reader. Edited by Robert Young, 48–78. Translated by Ian McLeod. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Updated, corrected English translation of L’ordre du discours (Paris: Gallimard, 1971). This is the text of Foucault’s inaugural lecture at the Collège de France in 1970. It offers a succinct overview of his central concept of discourse. Useful introductory text for students and researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Foucault, Michel. The Foucault Reader. Edited by Paul Rabinow. New York: Pantheon, 1984.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Contains judicious selections that capture shifts in thinking from each area of Foucault’s work, as well as interviews that offer insight into Foucault’s own assessment of his work. A good starting point for senior students and researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Foucault, Michel. Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault. Edited by Luther H. Martin, Huck Gutman, and Patrick H. Hutton. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1988.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An accessible collection of essays based on Foucault’s seminar at the University of Vermont, entitled “Technologies of the Self,” in 1982. While published posthumously as an incomplete project, the text is a rich source of insight concerning the central question of the self, and an important indication of the ethical turn in Foucault’s later thinking. Suitable for both students and more advanced researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality. 3 vols. Translated by Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage, 1988–1990.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Historie de la sexualité (Paris: Gallimard, 1976–1984). Three volumes translated as An Introduction/The Will to Knowledge, The Use of Pleasure, and The Care of the Self. The last explores the use of hypomnema (personal notes) in antiquity; written records of observations and thoughts used for exercises in self-discipline.

    Find this resource:

  • Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Vintage, 2006.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Surveiller et punir: Naissance de la prison (Paris: Gallimard, 1975). Examines the complicity between truth and the disciplinary and institutional contexts of its production. Shows that power is vested less in subjugating authorities than micro-disciplinary techniques that condition subjects. Suitable for senior students and researchers across multiple disciplines.

    Find this resource:

Post-structuralist Figures and Themes

It is extremely difficult to make a representative selection of figures and themes in post-structuralist literary and critical theory for two reasons. First, many thinkers of the period from about 1950 to 1980 contributed to the series of theoretical mutations initiated by structuralism and opening out to free play postmodernism at its extreme. Second, disciplinary boundaries among literary theory, continental philosophy, and critical theory are unclear, and most thinkers of the period evince a shift in concerns from language and signification, via philosophy and ethics, to emancipatory social critique. Notwithstanding overlaps, which leave this positioning permanently open to contestation, the selection is made here on the following grounds. Unlike Roland Barthes, Jacques Lacan, and Michel Foucault, who represent key figures in the shift from structuralism to post-structuralism, and unlike Jean-François Lyotard and Jean Baudrillard, who tend to be associated with postmodernism, and, again, unlike other figures who may be placed more squarely within continental philosophy and/or critical theory, Umberto Eco, Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, and Julia Kristeva are most regularly included in lists of clearly post-structuralist thinkers whose association with literary theory is at least strong. The aim here is to select representative figures and themes, without claiming to be comprehensive. Eco is the figure most clearly placed within literary theory. His work elaborates the semiotic theories initiated by Barthes, developing the unambiguously post-structuralist concept of “the open work” and examining what this implies regarding the roles of author and reader. Derrida is less easily placed since the overlap with continental philosophy is almost total. However “deconstruction,” unambiguously associated with post-structuralist thinking from the start, emerged from a deep engagement with language and signification as a strategy of close reading that shows up the self-undermining nature of any closed system of thought. Deleuze is similarly difficult to place, since much of his early work was devoted to close readings of specific philosophers. However, it is very difficult to draw a precise line between interpretation and creative appropriation in these readings because they are tied to his underlying project, initiated as a literary theory, of articulating a post-structuralist “image of thought” that supports productive, rather than merely representative, reading. Kristeva defies disciplinary categorization, exemplifying an “intertextuality” that follows a theoretical trajectory (typical of post-structuralist thinkers), from earlier works focused on linguistics and semiotics to a broader multidisciplinary engagement with psychoanalysis, aesthetics, and critical theory.

Umberto Eco and Post-structuralist Semiotics

Eco elaborates and deepens theories initiated by Barthes, and his theoretical enterprise is primarily associated with semiotics as a discipline. Bondanella 1997 serves as an excellent, detailed companion to Eco’s theoretical texts and a good starting point for reading them. Eco 1989 offers the unambiguously post-structuralist thesis that some works are intentionally produced to have an undefined meaning that intrinsically require an interpreter or reader to complete them. This idea was strongly opposed by structuralists such as Lévi-Strauss. The text includes an important part of Eco’s critical response, developed in Eco’s La struttura assente (The absent structure). Eco 1979, first written in English, represents an early attempt to develop a formal semiotic theory, by creating new concepts to reflect post-structural innovations. Eco 1984a gathers together useful excerpts from previous works. Eco 1984b, which explicitly equates “general semiotics” and “philosophy of language,” remains a key resource for understanding the recourse to language that underpins all post-structuralist philosophy. Perhaps to deflect charges of promoting textual interpretations in which “anything goes,” Eco begins to focus on the limits of interpretation, insisting that authors and texts do have rights and aberrant interpretations are possible. Eco, et al. 1992 is a collaborative work reflecting debates concerning the limits of interpretation stemming from Eco’s three 1999 Tanner Lectures and responses to them by Rorty, Culler, and Brooke-Rose. Eco’s later works reflect his turn toward critical theory and an increasing emphasis on the political and ethical duties of the intellectual as citizen. Eco and Martini 2012 defends the post-structuralist resistance to the idea of absolute truth, to whose terrifying underside belong notions such as blasphemy (thought crime) and inquisition. Eco 2002 offers an accessibly written compilation of five occasional essays that deal with contemporary ethical concerns, tied together by the theme of “otherness.”

  • Bondanella, Peter. Umberto Eco and the Open Text: Semiotics, Fiction, Popular Culture. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511581755Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A lucid, comprehensive overview of Eco’s theoretical works and how they play into his fiction, paying detailed attention to all of Eco’s texts. An excellent resource for undergraduate students and advanced researchers alike.

    Find this resource:

  • Eco, Umberto. A Theory of Semiotics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Rewritten directly in English and then translated back into Italian as Trattato di semiotica generale (Milan: Bompiani, 1975). An important text for specialized research since it represents Eco’s revision and formalization of his ideas in an attempt, later abandoned, to provide a systematic theory of semiotics. Suitable for senior students and researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Eco, Umberto. The Role of the Reader: Explorations in the Semiotics of Texts. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984a.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Useful anthology of essays selected from other works. Elaborates on Eco’s theory of textual cooperation, explicating the notion of the model reader created by the text who can engage with an open text to actualize various meanings associated with different possible worlds. Suitable for senior students and researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Eco, Umberto. Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984b.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-1-349-17338-9Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Semiotica e filosofia del linguaggio (Turin, Italy: G. Einaudi, 1984). A comprehensive and detailed explication of the interface between general semiotics and philosophy of language. Sections offer intricate explications of seven fundamental concepts: “sign,” “encyclopaedia” “metaphor,” “symbol,” “code,” “isotopy,” and “mirror.” Essential reading for advanced researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Eco, Umberto. The Open Work. Translated by Anna Cangogni. Introduction by David Robey. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Opera aperta (Milan: Bompiani, 1962). Collection of Eco’s early essays, edited for an English readership with a contextualizing introduction by David Robey. Discusses concepts of “openness,” “plurality of interpretation,” and “reader response.” An engaging, popular text, suitable for students and more advanced researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Eco, Umberto. Five Moral Pieces. Translated by Alastair McEwen. London: Vintage, 2002.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Cinque scritti morali (Milan: Bompiani, 1997). A compilation of five occasional essays: “Reflections on War,” “When the Other Appears on the Scene,” “On the Press,” “Ur-Fascism,” and “Migration, Tolerance, and the Intolerable.” Accessible style of argument that is easy to follow. Suitable for undergraduate teaching.

    Find this resource:

  • Eco, Umberto, and Carlo Maria Martini. Belief or Non-Belief? A Confrontation. Introduction by Harvey Cox. Translated by Minna Proctor. New York: Arcade, 2012.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of In cosa crede chi non crede? (Rome: Liberal Atlantide, 1997). Intelligent, respectful exchange between erudite intellectuals opposed in the matter of belief and nonbelief. Suitable for advanced researchers because of the formalized format of the exchange and elevated pitch of the discourse.

    Find this resource:

  • Eco, Umberto, Rorty Richard, Jonathan Culler, and Christine Brooke-Rose. Interpretation and Overinterpretation. Edited and introduced by Stefan Collini. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511627408Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Contains revised versions of Eco’s three 1999 Tanner Lectures. Also includes revised versions of the papers by Rorty, Culler, and Brooke-Rose, and a revised version of Eco’s reply to these. Contains a useful contextualizing introduction by Stefan Collini. Suitable for specialized research by senior students and researchers.

    Find this resource:

Jacques Derrida and Deconstruction

Jacques Derrida, unambiguously associated with post-structuralist thinking from the start, is best known for devising “deconstruction” as a strategy of close reading that shows up the self-undermining nature of any closed system of thought. His body of texts is large, diverse, and notoriously difficult, not only because of the inherent complexity of his thinking, but also because he assumes, without concession, familiarity with a particular literary and philosophical milieu. Derrida and Caputo 1997, which transcribes a roundtable discussion with Derrida supplemented by commentary, provides an engaging and accessible overview of deconstruction. Despite requiring some familiarity with philosophical terms, the book maintains a conversational tone and shows sensitivity to a didactic responsibility in the elucidation and repetition of key points. Without oversimplifying the challenges, Norris 2002 provides a readable, concise, and authoritative guide to deconstruction in literary theory. Derrida 1976 provides the theoretical matrix that underpins deconstruction as a reading strategy. The essays collected in Derrida 1978 are particularly important for literary theorists interested in the genesis of post-structuralism and the attempt to develop a critical strategy applicable for approaching all texts. These represent some of the earliest attempts to move beyond the theoretical limitations of structuralism. Derrida 1982 contains the important essay “Différance,” which outlines more briefly than Derrida 1976 the underlying strategy involved in deconstructive reading. Bennington and Derrida 1993 offers a demonstration of deconstruction at work. In the proposed contract for writing the text, Bennington sought to capture “Derrida” as a thinking subject in a system labelled with the proper name Jacques Derrida, whereas, having read the work, Derrida sought to demonstrate that surprise was possible. Arac, et al. 1983 is an anthology of essays about the main figures of the “Yale School,” a loose association of literary critics who adopted deconstruction as a critical strategy. Johnson 1985 offers examples of how literary criticism may work as nuanced deconstructive readings. Critchley 1999 is an invaluable resource for an introduction to the “ethical turn” in Derrida’s later work.

  • Arac, Jonathan, Wlad Godzich, and Wallace Martin, eds. The Yale Critics: Deconstruction in America. Theory and History of Literature 6. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1983.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An anthology of essays on the four thinkers, Harold Bloom, Geoffrey Hartman, Paul de Man, and J. Hillis Miller, considered to be the main figures in the so-called Yale School and linked, despite strong avowals of individual differences, by their association with the advent of deconstruction in literary theory.

    Find this resource:

  • Bennington, Geoffrey, and Jacques Derrida. Jacques Derrida. Translated by Geoffrey Bennington. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Jacques Derrida (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1991). Bennington’s analysis, entitled “Derridabase,” is subtended on each page by Derrida’s “Circumfession,” which challenges its superimposition. This challenge notwithstanding, Bennington’s text offers an excellent overview with detailed references to Derrida’s texts. Suitable for advanced researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Critchley, Simon. The Ethics of Deconstruction: Derrida and Levinas. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 1999.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Within the context of Derrida’s engagement with Levinas, this text offers a persuasive demonstration that deconstruction is a valuable resource for thinking through diverse questions concerning political and ethical issues. Excellent resource for senior students and researchers across the disciplines.

    Find this resource:

  • Derrida, Jacques. Of Grammatology. Translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of De la grammatologie (Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1967). The first part of the text is a detailed explication of the theoretical matrix underlying deconstruction. The second tests the matrix through an extended analysis of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Suitable for advanced students and researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Derrida, Jacques. Writing and Difference. Translated, with an introduction and additional notes, by Alan Bass. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of L’écriture et la différence (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1967). Collection of essays emphasizing language. Includes the seminal essay “Structure Sign and Play,” which has been called the first post-structuralist text. An important collection for senior students and researchers in literary theory.

    Find this resource:

  • Derrida, Jacques. Margins of Philosophy. Translated, with additional notes, by Alan Bass. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Marges de la philosophie (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1972). Essential for advanced researchers. The essay “Différance” offers an important account of deconstruction, which discusses the interdependent economic and “aneconomic” terms of a deconstructive reading and shows that prioritizing one side is necessarily self-undermining. While difficult, the text benefits from Bass’s excellent annotation.

    Find this resource:

  • Derrida, Jacques, and John D. Caputo. Deconstruction in a Nutshell: A Conversation with Jacques Derrida. Edited and with a commentary by John D. Caputo. New York: Fordham University Press, 1997.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A clear and engaging introduction, following the format of a roundtable discussion in which Derrida addresses diverse questions regarding the nature of deconstruction. John Caputo offers excellent, more detailed critical commentaries regarding issues raised at the round table. Suitable for students and researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Johnson, Barbara. The Critical Difference: Essays in the Contemporary Rhetoric of Reading. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A collection of essays, tied together by the theme of difference, that are exemplary indications of how a deconstructive reading of literary texts might work. Suitable for senior students and researchers in multiple fields.

    Find this resource:

  • Norris, Christopher. Deconstruction: Theory and Practice. New York: Routledge, 2002.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses deconstruction’s philosophical contexts and provides useful summaries of Derrida’s texts and the Yale School thinkers who have drawn from these, such as Paul de Man, Geoffrey Hartman, J. Hillis Miller, and Harold Bloom. He also addresses some of deconstruction’s critics and includes an extensive list of recommended reading.

    Find this resource:

Gilles Deleuze’s Post-structuralist “Image of Thought”

Deleuze 2004a collects texts and interviews that offer a useful overview of Deleuze’s account of a post-structuralist “image of thought,” beginning with the early essays in literary theory. It is recommended here predominantly for its inclusion of the essay “How Do We Recognise Structuralism?” an English translation of À quoi reconnaît-on le structuralisme?, originally written in 1967 and published in 1972. Williams 2005 offers a useful interpretation of this essay as a draft of the more detailed and difficult Difference and Repetition. This provides an excellent segue into Deleuze 2004b, which examines, in detail, the argument that bodies are determined “solutions” that begin to carry the repressive weight of dead repetition (the same over, or merely different cases of the same) and investigates the condition for living repetition as that which introduces difference. Patton and Protevi 2003 offers a mutually illuminating comparative account of Deleuze and Derrida, focusing on their shared critical responses to structuralism. Moving beyond a critique of structuralism, Deleuze 2009 presents a detailed post-structuralist engagement with the problem of sense and nonsense. The broadening of Deleuze’s theoretical concerns toward the ethical is marked by Deleuze and Guattari 2004, which lends itself to multiple approaches. It can be read as an extended experiment in the subjectivity of readers and writers. Instead of looking at a book as a container of meanings or signifiers, it becomes one of the cogs that, together with the subject, among other things, constitute a larger, open system of productive machinery. For a trustworthy companion to Deleuze and Guattari 2004, Buchanan 2008 offers a clear and readable guide. Smith 2012 offers seminal essays, usefully collected into a single volume, that both introduce specific topics and provide valuable clarification after one has begun the struggle of working through Deleuze’s own texts.

  • Buchanan, Ian. Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus: A Reader’s Guide. London: Continuum, 2008.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Lucid guide to Deleuze and Guattari 2004 that contextualizes its genesis, clarifies key themes using illuminating examples, traces out its influences, and answers critics. This book can be read before and after approaching Deleuze’s own texts, since it is both an excellent introduction and a useful resource for advanced research.

    Find this resource:

  • Deleuze, Gilles. Desert Islands and Other Texts, 1953–1974. Translated by David Lapoujade. Edited by Michael Taormina. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2004a.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of L’île déserte et autres textes (Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 2002). Contains “How Do We Recognise Structuralism?” In offering criteria for recognizing (repeating and rethinking) structuralism, Deleuze redefines structures in post-structural terms as complex, open-ended, virtual assemblages. This significantly alters the aims of reading and writing. Suitable for senior students and researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Deleuze, Gilles. Difference and Repetition. London: Continuum, 2004b.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Différence et Répétition (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1968). Important as the first book in which Deleuze shifts from writing as the interpretation and critique of ideas to writing as productive and creative. Suitable for advanced researchers interested in the interface between literary theory and continental philosophy.

    Find this resource:

  • Deleuze, Gilles. The Logic of Sense. Translated by Mark Lester with Charles Stivale. Edited by Constantin V. Boundas. London: Continuum, 2009.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Logique du sens (Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1969). The text is divided into thirty-four fragments, each addressing effects in language and signification that derail any strict border between sense and nonsense. Includes five essays by Deleuze that develop points touched on in the preceding fragments. Suitable for advanced researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. London: Continuum, 2004.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Capitalisme et schizophrénie: L’anti-Oedipe (Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1972). Contains a preface by Foucault, situating it in the field of ethics. Suggests that Anti-Oedipus should not be read as an intellectual search for meaning, but an affective encounter that provides life-changing insight, rather than theoretical knowledge. A challenging text suitable for advanced researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Patton, Paul, and John Protevi, eds. Between Deleuze and Derrida. London: Continuum, 2003.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A useful anthology demonstrating that, differences in style aside, both Deleuze and Derrida sought theoretical means to elide the repressive apparatus of canonical texts, not through absolute denial of them, but from within, via transformative or deforming practices of reading and writing. Suitable for advanced multidisciplinary research.

    Find this resource:

  • Smith, Daniel W. Essays on Deleuze. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This text usefully gathers together both classic and new essays from a renowned Deleuze scholar. Although the focus is primarily philosophical, the text is of interest to senior students and researchers across a wide variety of disciplines.

    Find this resource:

  • Williams, James. “Poststructuralism as Philosophy of Difference: Gilles Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition.” In Understanding Poststructuralism. By James Williams, pp. 53–78. Understanding Movements in Modern Thought 3. Durham, NC: Acumen, 2005.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Williams offers a clear, detailed account of the sense in which Deleuze’s ideas are inherently post-structuralist in that “structures,” now called “virtual ideas,” mark problematic fields that provide the occasion for inventive elaboration and encounters that affectively change us.

    Find this resource:

Julia Kristeva and “Intertextuality”

Julia Kristeva’s work defies summary since it spans multiple terrains in philosophy, theology, linguistics, literature, art, politics, and psychoanalysis. Lechte 2012 and Beardsworth 2004 make excellent introductory partners, both offering systematic and critical overviews that cover the theoretical trajectory (typical of post-structuralist thinkers), from earlier works focused on linguistics and semiotics to a broader multidisciplinary engagement with psychoanalysis, aesthetics, and critical theory. Becker-Leckrone 2005 offers a more specialized discussion of Kristeva’s thinking from the perspective of literary theory. Kristeva 1980 is a historically important collection of early essays emerging from the complex intellectual background that enabled her to subvert the rigid scientism that limits structuralist analysis. Kristeva 1984 articulates, in detail, her innovative ideas concerning language, which is persistently concerned with addressing an element beyond language, the speaking body. Guberman and Kristeva 1996 consists of accessible interviews covering a broad range of diverse topics, spanning the shift in Kristeva’s intellectual interests from linguistic and semiotic work toward problems of lived experience. Kristeva 2000 focuses on issues in ethics and critical theory and addresses the viability of countercultural rebellion and autonomy in a contemporary “entertainment” culture. Nikolchina 2004 offers an interesting example of the application of Kristeva’s ideas to produce critical literary theory.

  • Beardsworth, Sara. Julia Kristeva: Psychoanalysis and Modernity. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2004.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A clear, comprehensive account of Kristeva’s thought, incorporating the ethical and political turn in the later works. Includes a productive re-reading of concepts such as “abjection,” “the sacred,” and “melancholy” that takes the book beyond the introductory.

    Find this resource:

  • Becker-Leckrone, Megan. Julia Kristeva and Literary Theory. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A discussion of Kristeva’s relevance for literary theory, particularly emphasizing “borderline discourses,” such as abjection, melancholia, and love, that are situated on the edge of normalized understandings and disrupt subjective experiences. Suitable for advanced specialist researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Guberman, Ross Mitchell, and Julia Kristeva. Julia Kristeva, Interviews. Edited by Ross Mitchell Guberman. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Includes twenty-two interviews, useful to senior students and researchers for their clarification of the many new concepts and ideas developed by Kristeva.

    Find this resource:

  • Kristeva, Julia. Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art. Edited by Leon S. Roudiez. Translated by Alice Jardine, Thomas A. Gora, and Leon S. Roudiez. New York: Columbia University Press, 1980.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of essays from Polylogue (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1977) and Semeiotiké: Recherches pour une sémoanalyse (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1979). Indicates Kristeva’s post-structuralist attention to the subject as a speaking being, ignored in pure structuralist analysis. Includes discussions of individual subjectivity, the unconscious, embodiment, and a desire for art and literature. Suitable for advanced researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Kristeva, Julia. Revolution in Poetic Language. Translated by Margaret Waller. Introduced by Leon S. Roudiez. New York: Columbia University Press, 1984.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation and abridgment of La révolution du langage poétique (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1974). Detailed account of Kristeva’s on language. Argues for the revolutionary potential of the semiotic, as a space of vocal and kinetic rhythm that confronts the symbolic dialectic of meaning and structure. Suitable for advanced researchers in diverse fields.

    Find this resource:

  • Kristeva, Julia. The Sense and Non-sense of Revolt. Translated by Jeanine Herman. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Sens et non-sens de la révolte (Paris: Fayard, 1996). Indicates Kristeva’s turn toward multidisciplinary critical theory. Elaborates on concepts of revolt, rebellion, and rebel culture through analysis of exemplary figures in revolutionary movements in art, literature, and politics. Suitable for senior students and researchers across the disciplines.

    Find this resource:

  • Lechte, John. Julia Kristeva. New York: Routledge, 2012.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A systematic survey of Kristeva’s intellectual development, including lucid accounts of her influential theories of the “symbolic” and the “semiotic” as well as their later application in analyses of cultural gestures such as horror, love, melancholy, and cosmopolitanism. Suitable for students and researchers across the disciplines.

    Find this resource:

  • Nikolchina, Miglena. Matricide in Language: Writing Theory in Kristeva and Woolf. New York: Other Press, 2004.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The argument of the book is that despite advanced made by feminism, an underlying condition of “matricide” is still operative that silences the female voice in contemporary cultural production. Suitable for senior students and researchers.

    Find this resource:

The “Ethical Turn” in Post-structuralism

The “ethical turn” in poststructuralism is most evident in the responses to the structuralist insistence that the individualized, autonomous human subject is merely a recent discursive construct. The response among post-structuralists is typically diverse, with some initially celebrating the demise of the individual subject, others insisting (along with psychoanalytic theorists) on its necessity, and both having to contend ultimately with its complexity. Questions concerning subjectivity are fundamental to literary theory, and all post-structuralist theorists involved themselves in experimentations with literary subjectivity, raising questions concerning the status of authors and readers, those who sign and countersign, as well as the borderlines among biography, autobiography, and fiction. Following the trajectory of the ethical turn in post-structuralism, the question of a gendered subject (and specifically the notion of a subversive feminine subject) preoccupies post-structuralist feminists. This ethical concern with relations of power is broadened out to encompass the problematics of subjective identity, ideological domination, and communication between subjects in the highly charged interstices between cultures.

Subjectivity in Post-structuralist Thinking

“Subjectivity” refers broadly to the means by which people are able (or otherwise) to identify themselves as selves, establish their place in the world and among other people. As a problematic taken up in different ways by every post-structuralist thinker, and referred to in almost every text, the field is extensive, and the selection here inescapably idiosyncratic. A good place to begin is Cadava, et al. 1991, which collects essays that elaborate on the most important consequence of the structuralist insistence that the individualized, autonomous human subject is merely a recent discursive construct. Copjec 1994, on the other hand, offers an anthology of essays that engage with the notion of “subjectivity” from a broadly psychoanalytic framework, which resists the announcement of the subject’s demise in many contemporary, post-structuralist discourses. Robinson 2014 offers an interesting extended reflection on the notion that translation is the “postrationalist” practice of a subject who submits to the text. This may be read productively in comparison and contrast with Cixous 1976, which articulates a notion of an indefinable woman’s writing in which “woman” actively puts herself into a text as the subversion of phallocentric discourse. Miller 1991 offers an elaboration of Cixous’s stance that ties autobiography to the rhetorical practices associated with academic events. Bennington and Derrida 1993 (cited under Jacques Derrida and Deconstruction) records a collaborative experiment with intersubjectivity, which questions the extent to which a reader may capture a subject under the heading of his or her proper name. Howarth 2013 provides an intellectually rigorous, systematic assessment of post-structural theorizing from the perspective of the social subject. Frank 1998 offers a critical engagement with post-structuralist thinking, particularly insofar as it emphasizes the subversion of the subject due to the fact that language, upon which so much cognition depends, is external to the self.

  • Cadava, Eduardo, Peter Connor, and Jean-Luc Nancy, eds. Who Comes after the Subject? London: Routledge, 1991.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Anthology of essays predominantly by French post-structuralists, facing the challenge of theorizing subjectivity in relation to the claim that personal identity is fully constituted in terms of the discourse of neo-liberal consumerism. Offers rich insight to advanced researchers interested in the question of the subject.

    Find this resource:

  • Cixous, Hélène. “The Laugh of the Medusa.” Translated by Keith and Paula Cohen. Signs 1.4 (1976): 875–893.

    DOI: 10.1086/493306Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation and revised version of “Le Rire de la Méduse” 1975. Cixous articulates a notion of “woman’s writing” as part of an active effort to restore subjectivity.

    Find this resource:

  • Copjec, Joan, ed. Supposing the Subject. New York: Verso, 1994.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An anthology of essays on “the subject” from well-known experts in the field. A challenging but extremely interesting read for senior students and researchers interested in developing a sophisticated and nuanced approach to the topic.

    Find this resource:

  • Frank, Manfred. The Subject and the Text: Essays on Literary Theory and Philosophy. Edited with an introduction by Andrew Bowie. Translated by Helen Atkins. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of essays from Das Sagbare und das Unsagbare: Studien zur deutsche-franzosischen Hermeneutik und Text-theorie (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1980). Challenges extremist post-structuralist thinking that embraces the death of the author. Careful exposition and critique, suitable for advanced researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Howarth, David R. Poststructuralism and After: Structure, Subjectivity and Power. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

    DOI: 10.1057/9781137266989Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Careful assessment of how post-structural theories have succeeded of failed in their consideration of the fleet of problems that arise in our attempts to theorize the social subject, such as structure versus agency, theories of identity and difference, and power dynamics. Suitable for students and researchers in multidisciplinary critical theory.

    Find this resource:

  • Miller, Nancy K. Getting Personal: Feminist Occasions and Other Autobiographical Acts. New York: Routledge, 1991.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Concentrating on the diverse kinds of events at which academics must perform, Miller articulates a rhetorical strategy of theoretical engagement she calls “narrative criticism,” which takes account of the way in which autobiography and theory work together to open up space for the unpredictable.

    Find this resource:

  • Robinson, Douglas. Who Translates? Translator Subjectivities Beyond Reason. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2014.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Offers an interesting extended reflection on the notion that translation is a “postrationalist” practice. This is understood in terms of the translator’s surrender of agency (one sense of subjectivity), becoming subject to forces beyond his or her rational control. Suitable for both students and more advanced researchers across the disciplines.

    Find this resource:

Post-structuralist Biography and Autobiography

Most post-structuralist thinkers involved themselves in experimentations with subjectivity, and biography (including autobiography) is an area of major interest among them. Although the distinction between biography and fiction is put into question, biography is not replaced by fiction and remains a legitimate and interesting area of research. Jolly 2001 provides a comprehensive overview of the field in an encyclopedic structure, which allows for selective reading. The anthology of essays on autobiography in the edited volume Olney 1980 collects more detailed readings in the field. It includes the oft-cited essay by Sprinker, which details autobiography’s encounter with an extremist post-structuralism that threatens the very existence of the genre. A more complex post-structuralist stance, such as that represented in Barthes 1994, acknowledges both autobiography’s power to represent the self to some degree and the necessity of its failure. De Man 1984 questions the assumption that autobiography depends on reference in the same sense that a photograph or realistic painting captures a model. Macey 1995 acknowledges the complexity involved in writing about a self in this biography of Foucault, which turns on the irony that the most public of figures was also in many respects the most secret. Similarly, in the title of this Lacan biography Clément 1983 alludes to post-structuralist arguments concerning the multiplicity of selves and stories. Bennington and Derrida 1993 (cited under Jacques Derrida and Deconstruction) represents an illuminating effort to put into practice a complex post-structuralist biographical/autobiographical experiment.

  • Barthes, Roland. Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes. Translated by Richard Howard. Foreword by Adam Philips. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Roland Barthes par Roland Barthes (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1975). While Barthes experiments at the interface between autobiography and fiction, it remains clear that it is he who is writing the autobiography, and he does not let his readers neglect to read it as such. Suitable for senior students and researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Clément, Catherine. The Lives and Legends of Jacques Lacan. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer. New York: Columbia University Press, 1983.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Vies et légendes de Jacques Lacan (Paris: Grasset, 1981). The text offers an engaging portrait, telling the truth with humor and sympathy, but learning from Lacan that it will necessarily never tell the whole truth, since this is a structural impossibility. Suitable for interested students and researchers at all levels.

    Find this resource:

  • de Man, Paul. “Autobiography as De-facement.” In The Rhetoric of Romanticism. By Paul de Man, 67–82. New York: Columbia University Press, 1984.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The chapter poses the question of reversal. We assume that an interesting life produces the subject of an autobiography. But what if it is the technical demands of self-portraiture that produces the subject? Suitable for advanced researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Derrida, Jacques. The Ear of the Other: Otobiography, Transference, Translation: Texts and Discussions with Jacques Derrida. Edited by Christie McDonald. Translated by Peggy Kamuf. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of L’oreille de l’autre (Montreal: VLB Éditeur, 1982). Derrida’s reflections on biography and autobiography upon reading Nietzsche, followed by a roundtable discussion. Successful format for engagement with Derrida, whose impromptu responses often clarify ideas. Finally, an interview concerning how “woman” figures in Derrida’s thought. Essential reading for advanced researchers interested in subjectivity.

    Find this resource:

  • Jolly, Margaretta, ed. Encyclopedia of Life Writing: Autobiographical and Biographical Forms. London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2001.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Those interested in post-structuralist approaches to autobiography should consult Jay Prosser’s entry, “Criticism and Theory since the 1950’s,” as well as those on structuralism and post-structuralism. There is an interesting entry on feminism, which includes a useful list for further reading, and on postcolonialism. Specific post-structuralist authors are also covered.

    Find this resource:

  • Macey, David. The Lives of Michel Foucault. New York: Vintage, 1995.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Well-researched biography, despite Foucault’s destruction of personal documents. Guided by post-structuralist sentiments, the text describes multiple aspects of Foucault’s character rather than imposing a unifying interpretation. Readers find a public image and many public roles, which mask a shadowy figure. Suitable for senior students and researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Olney, James, ed. Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Includes Michael Sprinker’s essay “Fictions of the Self: The End of Autobiography,” which should be read circumspectly as an extreme view that one-sidedly characterizes an individual as a set of signs, a product of discourse, and an array of not necessarily compatible fictions with no substratum to connect them.

    Find this resource:

  • Peeters, Benoît. Derrida: A Biography. Translated by Andrew Brown. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2013.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Derrida (Paris: Flammarion, 2010). Based on detailed research that deals equally patiently with the intellectual difficulty of Derrida’s texts and the ambiguities of his multifaceted character. Suitable for senior students and researchers.

    Find this resource:

Post-structuralism and the Feminist Subject

Weedon 1997 offers a solid introduction to issues of language, subjectivity, and power and discusses how a post-structuralist account of these notions, which emphasizes the contingent, discursive nature of all identities, is useful for understanding gender and identity, ultimately for the sake of dismantling patriarchal societies. Moi 2002 offers an accessible critical overview of the contributions made by major French feminists, Cixous, Irigaray, and Kristeva, as well as an interesting comparison with the Anglo-American strand of feminist literary criticism. The French feminists provide the main source of influence for post-structuralist feminism. Irigaray 1985 remains a challenging, but seminal collection of essays in which an attempt is made to support the critical content with an equally subversive writing practice that might be called feminine. Cixous and Sellers 2009 is a collection of selected interviews in which Cixous clarifies her views on diverse topics and her work on the writing process as a subversive performance. Although Kristeva’s relationship to feminism is ambivalent, both in her treatment of it and in its reception, she is regularly cited as one of the major post-structuralist feminists. Oliver 1993 provides a thorough and engaging feminist interpretation of Kristeva’s work. Butler 2006 similarly connects power, subjectification, and language as performance but challenges the persistent recourse to sex in some forms of feminism, and, with this, the still confining fiction of a stable core gender identity. Felski 2003 offers a well-written and clearly argued reflection on the powers of feminist literary criticism and timely deflation of popular misconceptions concerning what such criticism does. York 2002 offers an overview of collaborative writing among women, a practice that is implicitly endorsed by post-structuralist literary theory, but that is often left out of account.

  • Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. Routledge Classics. New York: Routledge, 2006.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Although the prose is dense, the text has become a provocative and highly influential classic in gender studies. It remains suitable for undergraduate teaching and an essential starting point for advanced research.

    Find this resource:

  • Cixous, Hélène, and Susan Sellers. White Ink: Interviews on Sex, Text, and Politics. Edited by Susan Sellers. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Selected interviews with Cixous, spanning thirty years, invaluable to advanced researchers for understanding and contextualizing the notion, explored in her well-known essay “The Laugh of the Medusa,” that subversive writing is crucial to the construction of the feminine subject.

    Find this resource:

  • Felski, Rita. Literature after Feminism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Clear, incisive commentary structured around key questions concerning gendered readers, the female author, the link between plot and gender, and literary and political value. Suitable for interested undergraduates and senior students. Contains detailed bibliographical references for further reading.

    Find this resource:

  • Irigaray, Luce. This Sex Which Is Not One. Translated by Catherine Porter and Carolyn Burke. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Ce Sexe qui n’en est pas un (Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1977). Elaborates on themes from Irigaray’s Speculum of the Other Woman. Essays aim to displace patriarchal structures in writing practice, requiring patience and a shift in attitude toward reading. More suitable for advanced research than for those seeking an introduction.

    Find this resource:

  • Moi, Toril. Sexual/Textual Politics: Feminist Literary Theory. 2d ed. London: Routledge, 2002.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A critical overview of two main areas of feminist literary theory relating fundamental questions concerning literary production and politics. An excellent introductory text, suitable for nonspecialists and undergraduate teaching.

    Find this resource:

  • Oliver, Kelly. Reading Kristeva: Unraveling the Double-Bind. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An excellent guide to Kristeva’s thinking that explains the influence of linguistics and psychoanalysis in its formation and offers a thorough, detailed, and critical feminist analysis of Kristeva’s ideas. Suitable for senior students and researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Weedon, Chris. Feminist Practice and Poststructuralist Theory. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 1997.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A clearly written introduction that draws from the work of main post-structuralist theorists. The second edition is an updated revision with additional material on contemporary debates. An introductory work suitable for undergraduate teaching.

    Find this resource:

  • York, Lorraine Mary. Rethinking Women’s Collaborative Writing: Power, Difference, Property. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An accessible account of collaborative writing, focusing on women writers, and an interesting defense of this form of writing against common prejudices and criticisms. Includes an insightful discussion of the effect of power dynamics as well as multiple differences (culture, race, gender) between collaborators. Suitable for advanced students and researchers.

    Find this resource:

Post-structuralism and Critical Theory

The link between literary and critical theory is made when the notion of a text is broadened to become synonymous with the notion of “signifying networks,” which means that the tools of textual interpretation can be applied to a wide range of diverse cultural events. Schrift 2014 provides a reliable and up-to-date overview. Dews 2007 is usefully read in conjunction with Schrift 2014 as a more critical overview, perhaps somewhat uncharitable, of the major representatives of post-structuralism from the standpoint of critical theory. Hiddleston 2010, which analyzes the postcolonial discourses of major post-structuralist theorists, is more explicitly situated in the domain of critical literary theory. Spivak 2010 explores the multiple problematics related to communication in all of its forms (reading, writing, translating, and speaking) that the seminal essay “Can the Subaltern Speak?” continues to perform, thematize, theorize, and engender. Hooks 2012 offers a collection of essays linked by an effort to lay bare a perversity in contemporary discourse—written and spoken—whereby race, class, and gender become mere objects of discussion discourses that tacitly reinscribe ideologies of domination. The edited anthology Bassnett and Trivedi 1999 demonstrates that translation cannot be considered to be innocent or transparent in the wake of the radicalizing path travelled by literary and cultural studies, but operates in highly charged interstices among cultures, disciplines, and texts, where issues of power, ideology, and domination must be faced. Harrison 2003 provides a clear introduction to the notion of postcolonial literary criticism. Backed by illuminating examples, it examines key assumptions concerning the relationship between literature and colonialism. Davis 2003 critically addresses the “end of theory” debates.

  • Bassnett, Susan, and Hanish Trivedi, eds. Post-colonial Translation: Theory and Practice. London: Routledge, 1999.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Nine essays with an introduction that explore the multiple problematics and adventures of intertextuality and intercultural communication that arise for the notion of translation in the wake of postcolonial discourses. Suitable for senior students and more advanced researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Davis, Colin. After Poststructuralism: Reading, Stories, and Theory. New York: Routledge, 2003.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Offers a detailed treatment of the question concerning the end of theory. Accessible, clearly written text that gives a balanced treatment to arguments for and against theory and offers a way forward. Suitable for undergraduate teaching as well as more advanced researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Dews, Peter. Logics of Disintegration: Post-structuralist Thought and the Claims of Critical Theory. Verso, 2007.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Critical essays focusing on major post-structuralist thinkers. Critique of what the author sees as basic philosophical assumptions of post-structuralist thinking. Assessment of post-structuralism’s compatibility with the political orientation suggested by the “first generation” critical theorists, those of the Frankfurt School. Suitable for advanced researchers across the disciplines.

    Find this resource:

  • Harrison, Nicholas. Postcolonial Criticism: History, Theory and the Work of Fiction. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2003.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Offers an excellent exposition of what postcolonial literary criticism amounts to, backed by examples from important texts, such as Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Camus’s The Outsider. Suitable for undergraduate teaching and more advanced researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Hiddleston, Jane. Poststructuralism and Postcoloniality: The Anxiety of Theory. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.5949/UPO9781846316166Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In the postcolonial discourses of major post-structuralist figures the book identifies a shared anxiety related to the question of how to write theoretically about the issues of lived experience. Suitable for senior students and more advanced researchers in a multidisciplinary context.

    Find this resource:

  • Hooks, bell. Writing beyond Race: Living Theory and Practice. London: Routledge, 2012.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Collection of hook’s major writings on various topics. Serves as a valuable introduction to hook’s style of critical discourse analysis, which insists on the complex convergence of interlocking forces in the constitution of any hegemonic discourse. Suitable for undergraduate teaching as well as more advanced research.

    Find this resource:

  • Schrift, Alan D. Poststructuralism and Critical Theory’s Second Generation. New York: Taylor and Francis, 2014.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Treatment of major figures and themes in the interface between post-structuralist theory and “second generation” critical theory, which also draws the link between continental philosophy and literary theory. Suitable for senior students and more advanced researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorti. Can the Subaltern Speak? Reflections on the History of an Idea. Edited by Rosalind Morris. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Arising from a conference on Spivak’s seminal essay, the book contains the original and revised versions of “Can the Subaltern Speak?”—essays reflecting on the question by various authors—and a retrospective response by Spivak. An extremely interesting read for senior students and researchers in diverse disciplines.

    Find this resource:

Post-structuralism and Postmodernism

Post-structuralism is often conflated with postmodernism and many of the same thinkers and themes are regularly listed under both labels. Whether a distinction actually exists largely depends on what one means by these labels, and this is notoriously vague and contested. The following selection is based on two possible modes of differentiation between postmodernism and post-structuralism. The first is that postmodernism names the broader cultural condition, within which a post-structural mode of theorizing gains credence. Lyotard 1984 is a seminal work that portrays the postmodern as a cultural condition characterized by its suspicion of the grand metanarratives used in the past to make sense of our place in the world. This text is productively read together with two texts: Hutcheon 1988, which offers a detailed study of the cultural phenomenon named postmodernism, and Jameson 1991, which offers a critical account of postmodern culture influenced by the Marxist focus on economics. The second mode of differentiation pertains to the theoretical enterprise as such. As a mode of theorizing, “postmodern extremism” privileges “chaos concepts,” such as ambiguity, particularity, contingency, and indeterminacy, as direct replacements for closure, unity, order, and rationality. In this case, post-structuralist thinking is differentiated by its insistence on negotiating a complex relation between the two poles of “chaos” and “cosmos.” Natoli and Hutcheon 1993 consists of a wide collection of readings, including excerpts from the classic texts, that suggest that a divide can be made along these lines. By contrast, the broad selection of key postmodernist figures in Bertens and Natoli 2002 suggests that it remains problematic to distinguish the post-structural from the postmodern. Turning to the application of postmodern ideas concerning literary practices, Hassan 1982 offers one of the first extended attempts to characterize postmodernist attitudes and practices in literature. Further Rorty 1982 is the collection of the author’s essays that span his famous turn to postmodernist pragmatism and explain his contention that philosophy is a kind of writing. The collection of essays in White 1990 offers an accessible introduction to White’s application of the postmodern notion of historiography as narrative fiction.

  • Bertens, Hans, and Joseph Natoli, eds. Postmodernism: The Key Figures. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 2002.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A collection of fifty-three short essays, covering diverse figures from literature, philosophy, and cultural criticism, all of whom may or may not eschew the label postmodernist. Indispensable resource for undergraduate study and excellent starting point for more advanced research.

    Find this resource:

  • Hassan, Ihab. The Dismemberment of Orpheus. 2d ed. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that postmodernist attitudes and practices, emphasizing play, dispersal, and anarchy, are the inevitable regenerative reaction to a crushing modernist obsession with structure, form, and meaning. While criticized for risking the reductive binary thinking it seeks to escape, a nevertheless valuable study of postmodernist theory at work for interested researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Hutcheon, Linda. A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction. London: Routledge, 1988.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203358856Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A detailed study of the cultural phenomenon of postmodernism from the starting point that contradiction, historicity, and the political are inescapably discernible in contemporary forms of art and many currents of thought. Suitable for undergraduate teaching as well as more advanced research.

    Find this resource:

  • Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    From a Marxist base, argues that the commodification of cultural production means that every theoretical position on postmodernism in culture—whether celebratory or stigmatizing—is simultaneously and necessarily an implicitly or explicitly politico-economic stance on the nature of multinational capitalism today. Suitable for advanced researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Lyotard, Jean-François. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Translated by Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi. Foreword by Fredric Jameson. Theory and History of Literature 10. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1984.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of La condition postmoderne: Rapport sur le savoir (Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1979). Describes contemporary culture in terms of a crisis of legitimation pertaining to the large metanarratives, which have hitherto supported a certain self-understanding among mainstream theorists. A philosophical text suitable for senior students and researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Natoli, Joseph, and Linda Hutcheon, eds. A Postmodern Reader. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An excellent companion text to Hutcheon’s theoretical work, cited above, containing essays and excerpts by a wide range of postmodernist thinkers, including the classics. A valuable resource for undergraduate teaching and excellent starting point for advanced research.

    Find this resource:

  • Rorty, Richard. Consequences of Pragmatism: Essays, 1972–1980. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An excellent resource for understanding how Rorty’s pragmatism contrasts with the presuppositions of the tradition he left behind. One should read these with a caveat concerning his caricature of Derrida’s arguments to serve his own agenda. The essays are clearly written, humorous, and accessible for senior students and researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • White, Hayden. The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A more accessible introduction than his more famous Metahistory. Explains White’s thesis that the gap is narrow between historical and literary writing, both of which derive meaning from our narrative imagination rather than objective, neutral observation, collection, and analysis of facts.

    Find this resource:

Post-structuralism and Complexity

Morin 2005 and Morin 2008 together offer an excellent, accessible introduction to some of the basic ideas in complexity thinking that may be applied in humanities research. Of particular interest is Morin’s distinction between the more scientifically orientated “restricted complexity” and “general complexity,” which points to a logic or a way of thinking that parallels post-structuralism and has wide application in the humanities. Cilliers 1998 spells out the relevance of Morin’s version of complexity thinking for theorizing in a cultural condition characterized by postmodernism. Hurst 2008 offers an account of how one may read Derrida’s deconstructive strategy productively as a version of complexity thinking, which, in turn provides a key for reading other post-structuralist thinkers, such as Lacan, in similar terms. Castells 1996 brings complexity thinking to bear on social reality, providing critical theory with the illuminating metaphor of the networked society. Swirski 2007, while somewhat uncharitable in its criticism of post-structuralism and postmodernism, offers an original and interesting application of complexity thinking to literary criticism. Stonum 1989 similarly offers an interesting account of how complexity thinking might apply in understanding theories of reading. Hayles 1990 draws the link between scientific attitudes toward chaos and the complex thinking that underlies interpretive strategies employed by post-structuralist literary critics such as Derrida, Barthes, and Serres. Leven 2007 offers a detailed reading of the concept of “technics” (akin to Derrida’s différance) to account for the productive/destructive interrelations that hold together and pull apart things, systems of writing, and institutions. The implication is that no thing can hold together permanently.

  • Castells, Manuel. “The Rise of the Network Society.” In The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture. Vol. 1. By Manuel Castells, pp. 1–594. Oxford: Blackwell, 1996.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores the nature of the contemporary social and cultural condition in terms of a compelling shift in metaphor from mechanism to network. Interesting to students and researchers in critical theory, since viewing societies in terms of networks is an important concrete application of the post-structuralist reinterpretation of the notion of discourse in terms of open-ended complex systems.

    Find this resource:

  • Cilliers, Paul. Complexity and Postmodernism: Understanding Complex Systems. New York: Routledge, 1998.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Spells out the relevance of complexity thinking for literary theory through an interpretation of Derrida’s approach to language as an open system, which can be described fruitfully in terms of concepts drawn from the characterization of open systems. Suitable for senior students and researchers across the disciplines.

    Find this resource:

  • Hayles, N. Katherine. Chaos Bound: Orderly Disorder in Contemporary Literature and Science. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Based on an understanding of chaos in terms of complexity rather than disorder, the text associates chaos theory and post-structuralism. Particularly in chapter 7, it is argued that deconstruction and chaos theory share fundamental characteristics and aims. A clearly written text suitable for senior students and researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Hurst, Andrea. Derrida vis-à-vis Lacan: Interweaving Deconstruction and Psychoanalysis. New York: Fordham University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.5422/fso/9780823228744.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Outlines Derrida’s “plural logic of the aporia” and demonstrates how this logic informs deconstructive reading. Argues that Derrida’s heuristics for complex thinking (including “economic and aneconomic,” “différance,” “pharmakon”) offers a key for reading other post-structuralist thinkers, such as Lacan. Suitable for senior students and researchers across the disciplines.

    Find this resource:

  • Leven, Bram Koen. Machinic Deconstruction: Literature/Politics/Technics. Leiden, The Netherlands: Leiden University Press, 2007.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Intricate account of “technics” as a complex force that both produces interrelations between things and multiplies or disperses them. The text goes on to demonstrate how technics applies to “systems” of writing (literature) and “institutions” (politics). A detailed analysis, suitable for advanced researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Morin, Edgar. “Restricted Complexity, General Complexity.” Translated by Carlos Gershenson. Presented at the colloquium “Intelligence de la complexité: Epistemologie et pragmatique,” Cerisy-La-Salle, France, 26 June 2005.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Complexité restreinte, Complexité générale. Essential companion to Morin’s On Complexity. Distinguishes between complexity thinking, restricted to the sciences, and general complexity thinking, applicable to the humanities. Suitable for senior students and researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Morin, Edgar. On Complexity: Advances in Systems Theory, Complexity, and the Human Sciences. Foreword by Alfonso Montuori. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton, 2008.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A collection of seminal essays in which Morin explicates in accessible terms the philosophical underpinnings of complexity thinking and indicates how it might apply to diverse issues in humanities research. Suitable for senior students and more advanced researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Stonum, Gary Lee. “Cybernetic Explanation as a Theory of Reading.” New Literary History 20.2 (1989): 397–410.

    DOI: 10.2307/469107Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Offers an interesting critical discussion of concepts shared by literature and information sciences, such as that of “codes,” and a discussion of the possibility or otherwise of distinguishing between noise and information. Suitable for senior students and researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Swirski, Peter. Of Literature and Knowledge: Explorations in Narrative Thought Experiments, Evolution and Game Theory. New York: Routledge, 2007.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Containing chapters on literature in its relation to knowledge, modeling, evolution, thought experiments, and game theory, the text offers original and interesting insights concerning how literature as thought experiment serves as a systematic tool of inquiry. Suitable for advanced researchers.

    Find this resource:

Criticism of Post-structuralist Ideas

Since its inception post-structuralist thinking has been the source of heated controversies and debates both internal (if there indeed is such a thing) and with those who maintain disciplinary or theoretical borderlines and offer criticism from this or that perspective. Critical texts are numerous and have been incorporated to some extent in previous sections. Norris 1990 and Norris 1994 provides an overall, intelligent, and informed critique of the kind of post-structuralist thinking that invites cynicism concerning the possibility or truth and an attitude of cultural relativism. Sokal and Bricmont 1999 provides an early critique of tendencies among postmodern theorists toward obscure and elitist language that masked scientific ignorance. This criticism has spawned ongoing defensive and confirmatory responses, including highly publicized contributions from Noam Chomsky. Before attending to such public debates, however, a study should be made of the detailed overview offered in Holland 1992, in which Chomsky’s position is explained. Habermas 1987 offers a seminal critique of post-structuralist ideas from the alternative perspective of modernist critical theory. In a similar vein, Callinicos 1991 offers a Marxist critique of structuralism, deconstruction, and post-structuralism. Macey 1988 and Merquior 1985 offer exemplary, well-researched critical accounts that are dedicated to specific thinkers, Lacan and Foucault, respectively.

  • Callinicos, Alex. Against Postmodernism. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 1991.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A detailed critique that first sets out to describe and contextualize postmodernist discourse as a historical phenomenon before turning to critique. Suitable for students and more advanced researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Habermas, Jürgen. The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity. Translated by Frederick Lawrence. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 1987.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Der philosophische Diskurs der Moderne (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1985). Important early critical work. Criticized for important misinterpretation of Derrida and other thinkers, the text nevertheless is an important source for continued debate about the status of post-structuralist theory from the perspective of critical theory.

    Find this resource:

  • Holland, Norman N. The Critical I. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A thorough and detailed overview of critical literary theory from which emerges the argument that post-structuralist thinkers rely too heavily on the, since abandoned, linguistic model offered by Saussure and do not pay enough attention to Chomsky. Suitable for students and more advanced researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Macey, David. Lacan in Contexts. New York: Verso, 1988.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A detailed, critical interpretation of Lacanian work on femininity that attributes its main ideas to surrealism rather than structuralism and contests the applicability and value of main Lacanian ideas for feminism. Suitable for senior students and more advanced researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Merquior, José Guilherme. Foucault. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A detailed, comprehensive evaluation of Foucault’s work that challenges the accuracy of Foucault’s research and places certain arguments into question. A critique that derives, as the author suggests, from misgivings about post-structural thinking in general. Suitable for senior students and more advanced researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Norris, Christopher. What’s Wrong with Postmodernism?: Critical Theory and the Ends of Philosophy. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Offers a critique that does not paint all thinkers with the same brush. Criticizes thinkers such as Baudrillard, Fish, Rorty, and Lyotard, whose thinking invites relativism, and defends figures, such as Derrida, de Man, Bhaskar, and Habermas. Suitable for senior students and more advanced researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Norris, Christopher. Truth and the Ethics of Criticism. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1994.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A good companion to Norris 1990, which extends Norris’s nuanced, intelligent, and well-informed criticism of some versions of post-structuralist thinking to include ethical issues in literary and critical theory. Suitable for senior students and more advanced researchers.

    Find this resource:

  • Sokal, Alan, and Jean Bricmont. Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science. New York: Picador, 1999.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    English translation of Impostures intellectuelles (Paris: O. Jacob, 1997). Elaboration of the critique that inspired the famous “Sokal’s hoax,” which generated ongoing heated debate. The text targets famous post-structuralist intellectuals for misuse of scientific concepts and relativistic conceptions of the scientific project. Suitable for all students and researchers interested in post-structural theory.

    Find this resource:

back to top