Poststructuralism remains an elusive concept, with varied interpretations and discussions, complicating our understanding of the world to the extent that it defies a singular definition. Some view it as a continuation of structuralism, while others see it as a reaction against it. In reality, poststructuralism aligns with both views and neither simultaneously.
Poststructuralism emerges as a reactionary movement against structuralism. While structuralism seeks to uncover a common and central meaning in texts through linguistic analysis, poststructuralists also analyze language to find meaning but reject the notion of a universal or centralized interpretation.
Poststructuralism denies the centrality of meaning by arguing that the significance of a sign may vary across cultures, eradicating the idea of a universal truth. For example, the word "apple" can signify a fruit to some and a phone to others. The color white may represent mourning in some cultures and happiness in others. Language itself is a product of culture, attributing meanings to signs, according to poststructuralist discourse.
Both structuralists and poststructuralists reject the concept of a single, fixed meaning or purpose in a literary text. Poststructuralists argue that each individual creates their own meaning from the text, resulting in multiple interpretations. For them, meaning lies in the reader's reception of the text rather than the author's intention.
Poststructuralists challenge the agency of the author in the text. They propose that once the text is in the hands of the reader, the author's role diminishes, and the reader becomes the primary agent, giving birth to new interpretations. Roland Barthes, a structuralist turned poststructuralist, introduced the idea of "The Death of the Author," advocating for the replacement of the author by the reader as the primary subject of inquiry. This process, known as "destabilizing" or "decentering" the author, shifts the focus to other sources of meaning, such as readers, cultural norms, and other texts.
Poststructuralism, with its rejection of a fixed meaning and authorial centrality, opens up new avenues for understanding texts and emphasizes the multiplicity of interpretations that emerge from diverse perspectives.