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  Deconstruction is a technique in criticism and philosophy, dating back to the ancient Greeks but now mainly associated with the name of Jacques Derrida (1930 - ). It is a school of thought of extreme scepticism, rejecting the accepted claims made by all existing systems. In the criticism of literature, for example (the most controversial area to which the technique has been applied), one starts from the assumption that a literary text has not one meaning but many, that ‘meaning’ itself is a fragmentary and diffuse phenomenon. Detailed examination of a text, so far from narrowing down what it is saying until one central ‘meaning’ becomes apparent, releases all kinds of latent, fragmentary and often contradictory ‘meanings’, not necessarily anything like the one(s) the writer of the text may have had in mind. The method involves ‘deconstructing’ the text as one might disassemble a jigsaw puzzle: that is, not looking for corespondences which would help to fit pieces together to make a single unit, but concentrating on individual elements and on the gaps, dislocations and disjunctions between them. The technique is not confined to literature: it has, for example, been successfully applied to the traditional critical categories of architecture (beauty, form, function, harmony, meaning and order) and to the work of anthropologists and sociologists—and it is also used, though in a less rigorous way than Derrida and his followers had in mind, as part of the decision-making process in business and politics. JM KMcL

Further reading G. Broadbent, Deconstruction: a Student\'s Guide; , C. Norris, Deconstruction: Theory and Practice.



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