University of Leicester
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Discipline after deconstruction: A defence of conceptual oppositions in the humanities.

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posted on 2015-11-19, 08:59 authored by Catherine. Burgass
'Discipline After Deconstruction' is a critique of the application of deconstruction in the humanities. The thesis seeks to show that the recruitment of deconstruction to certain projects which seek to alter disciplinary practices betrays a false assumption of the material power of metaphysics. It challenges the literary theory which presents conceptual oppositions as pernicious ideological reifications and empirical methods of inquiry as naive. Part One examines the status of oppositions in metaphysical philosophy. While Derrida is unwilling to endorse the total collapse of conceptual oppositions, the disjunction between metaphysics and the real world means that actual cultural differences are impervious to deconstruction. Part Two investigates the deconstruction of discursive and generic oppositions. Chapter two analyses some abuses of rhetoric by postmodern theorists which are validated by deconstruction and promotes classical categories as a corrective to this trend. In chapter three it is shown that although in formal terms the literature/philosophy opposition is susceptible to deconstruction, a historical analysis indicates the relative stability of generic identity. Chapter four shows that mimesis and metafiction co-exist in literary realism but refutes the claim made by certain postmodern theorists that metafiction confuses the ontological categories of word and world. The third part addresses methodological, pedagogical and political issues in the humanities. Chapter four analyses the contemporary trend in university English for the application of literary theory and the practical problems that ensue. In chapter five it is shown that the historical opposition between English and cultural studies has been eroded by the introduction of literary theory. However, it is suggested that English should resist the encroachment of textualism because of its methodological inadequacy. Against the claims of contemporary poststructuralists the final chapter argues that deconstruction is fundamentally unfit for political application.


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University of Leicester

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  • Doctoral

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  • PhD



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