Guide to Week 9: Thursday
Recall your New Critical reading and the way it attempted to show the poem's unity as a "verbal icon" because it would resolve its tensions by means of a theme involving some poetic use of language (simile, metaphor, irony, ambiguity, paradox). Then find the missing "middle" terms between its tensions, or the ambiguous terms that destabilize that theme, etc. (i.e., show its "undecidability), or detect the tensions' ideological foundations and expose their role in creating a tension where one need not be, for instance. That would deconstruct a New Critical Reading. Then, try to figure out how its binary oppositions arise from some deep structuring "rule" that governs its "myth" about its content. Then, deconstruct that Structuralist puppy, too, either by demonstrating the myth's "undecidability" or exposing the ideological agendas grounding the binaries or their privileged terms. Don't write a paper about it, though! Just think hard and take some notes. It's a chance for all of us to practice, in conversation, what you will do in writing with the Wheatley poem for Monday. Fortunately, it's a short poem and even the infinite slippage of the signifiers won't turn into "drifts." (For the "Working with Deconstruction" paper, you don't have do deconstruct both NC and Structuralist readings of Wheatley's poem--I'm only asking you to practice Deconstruction on a Structuralist interpretation of the poem [i.e., using some privileged and unprivileged binary oppositions] OR on a New Critical reading [i.e., finding a tension the poem attempts to resolve by a theme using a literary figure.) If you can't figure out what to do with Dickinson for our demonstration class today, reread Selden, pages 92-93 where he deconstructs another Dickinson poem!
Click here for some thoughts about what motivates Structuralists and New Critics, and about why that drove Post-Structuralists to embrace Deconstruction as their weapon in a counterattack against the powers that control the authorization of texts' meaning. To locate the unstated halves of binary oppositions, you will need accurate antonyms. If that's not clear to you, and especially if you aren't good at deriving antonyms from a given term, click here for assistance.