Deconstructed News

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Deconstruction was a hot, new technique in literary criticism 25 years ago when I was a grad student in English studies. It was hot because it was favored by the sexy French theorists like Jacques Derrida and Jacques Lacan and also because it authorized a detached, cynical approach to works of art. Deconstruction differs from analysis. The goal of analysis is to identify and examine parts that contribute to a whole. Analysis presumes integration: there is one work with perhaps multiple meanings but still an overarching significance. The goal of deconstruction is also to identify and examine parts, but not so one can see how they contribute to a whole. Indeed, the whole is illusory. The task of deconstruction is to reveal the constructedness of a work and examine how it produces the illusion of wholeness despite tell-tale signs of its constructedness. Deconstruction became the darling of postmodernists because of its suspicion of absolute categories like truth, reality, and meaning. Like all the darlings of the elite, the concepts of deconstruction soon found their way into mainstream culture stripped of all nuance and philosophical underpinnings. So it’s no surprise that “deconstruct” now appears in place of “analyze” in news stories:

New York Region
By SIMON AKAM
Published: October 11, 2009
Deconstructing a care package headed to a friend serving with the British Army in Afghanistan.
The article just details what’s in the care package. It’s even short on analysis and certainly does not represent deconstruction. They don’t always get it wrong, though:
Film
By MANOHLA DARGIS
Published: October 11, 2009
By slowing down a short film, Ken Jacobs shows not a work of art but what is behind its illusions.
You might expect a New York Times’ film critic to get it right, and she does.
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