In the realm of structuralism, various seminal theorists aim to reveal the hidden aspects of a structure through commentaries. However, Jacques Derrida takes a different approach, deconstructing the fundamental assumptions made by these theorists. His methodology later became a significant critical theory known as 'deconstruction,' influencing diverse disciplines.
Derrida's Lecture at John Hopkins University
In 1966, Jacques Derrida delivered a paper titled "Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of Human Sciences" at John Hopkins University in the USA. In this paper, he challenges the notion of a universal 'center' guiding a structure. Derrida argues that analyzing this center would require assuming another center, rendering the concept of a universal center obsolete (logocentricism).
Phonocentrism and the Ambiguity of Signs
Derrida also critiques phonocentrism, which gives preference to speech over writing. He introduces the term 'différance' through a French word to illustrate the ambiguity of signs. In written text, the presence of an 'a' differentiates the word 'différance' from 'difference.' However, in speech, the 'a' is not audible, causing the two meanings to merge. Phonocentrism leads to the neglect of 'différance.'
Violent Hierarchy: Speech vs. Writing
Derrida introduces the concept of 'violent hierarchy,' which hierarchizes speech over writing. Speech is considered original and closer to the origin, while writing can be detached from the idea of presence. Speech is transient, disappearing into the air, while writing remains available for interpretation and reinterpretation. Derrida believes that this hierarchy can be undone through deconstruction.
Deconstructing the Binary
The speech-writing binary can be extended to philosophy and literature. Philosophers often dismiss literature as mere fiction with rhetorical devices, while philosophy is perceived as more serious and profound. However, both forms contain elements of the other. Derrida urges against creating new binaries like writing-speech or literature-philosophy, emphasizing the need for deconstruction to break free from these rigid classifications.