Monday, November 1, 2010

THEORY and deconstruction

No, not theory as such, but my recently issued book, THEORY AFTER THEORY (Broadview).

Some professors have been asking publishers' representatives whether the use of the subtitle 'deconstruction' in nearly all the chapter titles meant the book was endorsing or favoring deconstruction, or applying deconstruction as a method across the board.

The answer is, emphatically, no. The book is indeed quite critical of deconstruction and its limitations, and only part of chapter 2 is devoted to deconstruction per se. What the book, does, though, argue is that principles analogous to deconstruction can be found in the other theories, and that there is an intimate intellectual relationship between them; they are not cordoned off.

But the book is not entirely critical of deconstruction, thus differentiating it from Eagleton or, on the other side of things, Corral/Patai. It is not saying deconstruction is/was worthless.  Its stance is deconstruction happened, it mattered,it is now over, and we can assess its strengths and weaknesses. Its stance is. at most, 'two cheers for deconstruction". 

That's what I asked my publisher to tell people. You might though  ask hen why I chose the title in the first place when any intelligent person might predict these sorts of questions would arise (and potentially turn off customers/readers). I did it because deconstruction is the word, and the set of ideas/practices, that really arouse emotions about theory, and one of the agendas of the book is to explain to today's students, who if they are traditional-age were born well after the heights of debates about theory, why people got so emotionally worked-up over theory. I wanted, as that non-deconstructionist Gerald Graff would say, to 'teach the conflict'. Also, I wanted to normalize the word deconstruction, to make people less afraid of it, to render the willing to remember and cultivate the good aspects of the 'method', if it was such--and that someone clearly as non-card-carrying-deconstructionist as myself is willing to use the term should help accomplish this task of normalization. 


Don LePan said...

This is very helpful--and makes good sense!

Nicholas Birns said...

Glad you liked it!

Nicholas Birns said...

One of my colleagues characterized me as "a blue-dog deconstructor". Not that far from the mark.....