Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Derrida, Deconstructivism & HOL. (rough draft please I would really like some feed back)

of leaves is a book embedded in layers upon layers of obscurity that cannot be completely unraveled, this complexity is the beauty of the book itself. Derrida is one of the one of the many cited sources in the House of leaves. Derrida a prominent philosopher coined the term Deconstructivism, a tool used here to peel back some of the multiple layers in House of leaves.

Deconstructivism (beyond lay-man definition) failed even in Derrida hands to meet a satisfactory definition, however, it can be defined as (but not limited to) the process through which a ‘subject’ (texts, language and structure) being examined appears to shift and complicate in meaning when read in the light of the assumptions and absences it reveals within itself as well as the dichotomies it expresses.(1) This definition is nothing short of the material foundation on which House of leaves is built. This essay will take a stab at unveiling some of the intricacies via philosophic and linguistic structuralism (the form and function) centering on the use of langue in House of leaves’ textual framework.

It would be sheer arrogance to claim comprehension of Derrida’s work, with that in mind this Derridarean analysis of House of leaves is open to questioning; it is absolutely no testament to an understanding of Derrida’s work rather a review of his work as it may pertain to various aspects of House of leaves.

Philosophic structuralism focuses on the ideas of Logocentrism, Binary oppositions and Mythology. House of leaves in embodies all these concepts, used here as a tool to study the underlying structural body of this text.

The idea of Logocentrism stemming from the words, Logos translated as word/thought and Centrism meaning focal point or center. Derrida in his work, Structure Sign and Play examines the notion of ‘center’ in Deconstructivism, an idea he criticizes, considering its fundamental impossibility since there is a continual shift in what could be or is often deemed the ‘center’ within a text. Derrida argues that such a 'center' is nonexistent given that “the center is not the center”, he also emphasizes that logos in conjunction with the word ‘center’ creates this illusion that there has to be a focal point of reference, which is sought over and over again after in textual analysis.

Finding and analyzing this ‘center’ is translated as a principal understanding of the text. The word does not in any way serve as the center rather the words shapes what the center is or could be, exposing it (the ‘center’) to an infinite number of translations “thus viewed in this way the term ‘deconstruction’ refers in the first instance to the way in which the ‘accidental’ features of a text can be seen as betraying subverting, it purportedly ‘essential’ message”. This is in no way to suggest that House of leaves lack a focus instead this focus continually shifts thus the lack of a ‘center’.

So how does one seek deconstruct House of leaves? Derrida concludes that “there is nothing outside text” this paradox emphasizes that everything lies within the text. Keeping in mind that the words are the structure to be deconstructed, understanding a subject in this case House of Leaves, is a matter of perceptual decomposition with fragments of epistemological beliefs fused together to construct an agonistic support of the Langue.

So viewing House of Leaves perceptively, it is hard to come to a conclusion regarding the its 'center', thus we are forced to continually revisit and reevaluate the innate and underlying meanings within the book as a whole by investigating, scrutinizing and analyzing its textual contents, which offers a different conclusions each time. It is fair to assume the there is no singular message within the House of Leaves, but as it is revisited new connections are made between passages, chapters and above all its words.

i feel am still all over with this paper, please any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.
I plan on expanding on logocentriasm, binary opposition and mythology.
**The sources have not been cited as this is an incomplete project


Adam Johns said...

Minor initial comment - there are interesting ways in which might connect your project with Erika's.

I like your introduction, which I take to be your first several paragraphs. Aside from some bad proofreading (a minor problem), this seems like a humble and somehow rather clear entry point into the Derrida, and the ways in which Danielewski uses his work.

I feel like your paragraph which introduces the three ideas of logocentrism, mythology, and binary oppositions could really use a citation or set of citations from Derrida to help pin it down - to me, this is the biggest reason why your paper begins to spin out of control. You're dealing with extraordinarily difficult concepts and texts , which makes it imperative that you deal with them in a controlled, approachable way - deal with specific passages from Derrida and Danielewski both.

You're actually trying to do that with your extended discussion of "center," but without a better grounding in how those three other concepts relate to that fourth concept, and without a sense of context in both Derrida and HOL, we're left somewhat adrift.

Of course, you could do a paper strictly about the Derridean concept of the center in HOL, starting with the obvious quote from HOL itself, then contenextualizing it within Derrida, then sort of circling outwards.

Another alternative approach is to lay aside what you have written so far (with the hope of using most of it later), and simply trying to answer this question in as specific a way as possible: "How has reading Derrida helped my understand Danielewski?" Answering that question will presumably help you understand or articulate how you're trying to use the Derridean concepts with which you're working.

Let me know if any of this is helpful...

For what it's worth, I think this is a promising start, given the difficulty of Derrida especially.

Aj said...

thank you so much, your assessment is accurate thats where am having problems, i've had a mental block the last 24 hrs writing and rewriting, i know what i want to say i just cant translate my thought to words. i will try approaching it the way you suggested.

erika mcclintock said...

After talking with you after class- here's what I walked away with: you seem to be really fascinated with the way that Derrida is introduced in the context of the Labyrinth- you mentioned the use of the key (levi-strauss) symbol both literarily and figuratively (in the form of the text). You also talked about how the entire construct of HOL can be linked back to the theories of Derrida (story within story- narratives circling around one another- no clear center). It seems to me that you have a pretty clear thesis (Danielewski applies (or conforms to) Derridaian theory in the actual construct of the novel in graphic form (the key shape) and in literary form (the circular structure of the narrative)) and a couple of really relevant examples. I have to say- it seems like you have a really strong grasp of the materials (stronger than me, that's for certain) and what you told me after class was really interesting and seemed pretty spot-on. I think Adam's advice of using concrete examples from both Derrida's text and HOL would be a great launching point and organizational tool. You could even organize the paper through examples of where you see Logocentrism, Binary opposition, and mythology within the HOL. I don't know if any of this helps...

If I think of anything more- I'll post it... Good luck!

Adam Johns said...

Just as a quick followup on Erika's comment - I also think you have a strong grasp on the relevant ideas, and Erika's rendition of your argument sounds great. Just make it as concrete as possible. You have no problem dealing with complex material - your problem is making the complex concrete. Just focus on that and you'll be fine.

Max Krugman said...

Derrida didn't "coin" the term deconstructivism, in fact, he was emphatically against the idea of using deconstruction as a "method" or anything definite like that. The point is that in much the same way as Navidson's house, deconstruction (like any other structure) is bigger on the inside than on the outside, that is, it cannot be circumscribed without missing the point (which is the absence of the point, as the point is always beside itself). What you've written isn't bad, but you should note that Danielewski is reaching (with debatable success) towards Derrida's idea, which is to avoid even the possibility of definition.