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Questions for Weekly Discussions about Tyson’s Critical Theory Today - Weeks 5-6  

2018-02-22 22:28:43|  分类: +文论 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Tyson, Lois. Critical Theory Today: A User-friendly Guide. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2006. (洛伊丝·泰森:《当代批评理论实用指南》(第二版),赵国新等译。北京:外研社,2014)

Questions for Weekly Discussions about Tyson’s Critical Theory Today

Weeks 5-6: Deconstruction

1.  How do you understand the following quote from Tyson? “There are generally two main purposes in deconstructing a literary text, and we may see either or both at work in any given deconstructive reading: to reveal the text’s undecidability and/or (2) to reveal the complex operations of the ideologies of which the text is constructed” (259).

2.  If “the complex operations of ideologies of which the text is constructed” are not an undecidability, in what way are they deconstructive? Like those when “a Marxist critic is engaged in a deconstructive enterprise” (Tyson 65) or when a feminist is “helping us see the ways in which patriarchal ideology is often based on false oppositions” (65). What does Tyson mean by “complex operations”? “Complex” as in ironic or as in undecidable?

3.  Tyson says that “deconstruction’s theory of language” is “based on the belief that language is much more slippery and ambiguous than we realize” (250). The two examples she gives “should help you begin to see that language isn’t as stable and reliable as we generally assume it is” (251). However, she also says “a very simple, concrete phrase uttered in a context so specific that the signifiers should produce a very clear and unambiguous signified” can avoid vagueness and ambiguity (251). So, judging her two examples from a specific context, can we say that the statement “Time flies like an arrow” or “President Reagan says the Marines do not have to go to El Salvador” is still slippery and ambiguous?

4.  What is the significance of Tyson’s statement “What structuralism calls the signified is really always a chain of signifiers” (252)?

5.  How do you understand Derrida’s notions of “trace,” “différance,” and “under erasure” (Tyson 253)?

6.  Tyson uses the words “slut” and “stud” to illustrate her point that “for deconstruction, language is wholly ideological” (253). In what way can we say that since “there’s no getting beyond language, beyond the play of signifiers” (253), what we conceive in language (which is ideological) is deconstructive in nature?

7.  Do you find Tyson’s example of “the rhythm of birth control” (254) helpful in understanding deconstruction?

8.  How do you understand Tyson’s discussion about the binary opposition of “objective and subjective”? Pay attention to her rhetorical question “Isn’t objectivity, therefore, a subjectivity in disguise?”(255). [We tend to conceptualize our experience in terms of polar opposites, called binary oppositions” (Tyson 254)].

9.  How do you understand Tyson’s idea of deconstruction in her example of Copernicus decentering the earth in the 1600s (256)?

10.  In what way does “a fragmented self” or our (re)invented identity increase our understanding of deconstruction? Does Tyson stick to the same binary oppositions or does she go back and forth between them when discussing “a kaleidoscope of selves” (258)Can we say that those fragmented selves are unstable, slippery, or undecidable?

11.  One difference between New Criticism and deconstruction, Tyson argues, is as follows:

While New Critics especially appreciate tension, irony, ambiguity, and paradox in a literary test, all of these qualities must serve the unifying purpose of supporting the text’s main theme. Any conflicting meanings that seem to appear in the text must be shown to serve some function for the main theme so that the whole text can be seen to achieve its artistic purpose so smoothly and completely. (260)

       For deconstruction, this means that the New Critic is in collusion with the text to hide the self-contradictions that reveal the limitations of its ideological framework. To find that ideological framework and understand its limitations, a deconstructive critic looks for meanings in the text that conflict with its main theme, focusing on self-contradictions of which the text seems unaware. (260)

What is the difference, then, between irony and deconstruction the way Tyson sees it? How is her focus on “self-contradictions of which the text seems unaware” different from a New Critical study of irony?

12.  How would you evaluate Tyson’s “deconstructive” readings of the poem “Mending Wall” and the novel The Great Gatsby? (Compare Zhang and Zhang’s essay on Tyson’s misreadings of deconstruction).

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