Author Archives: spotofbother

Derrida and Postmodernism

We’ve read a few things this year that have referred to poststructuralism as the taking apart of large texts to decenter them, and undermine the structures on which they are based. What’s really interesting about Derreida’s essay is that it develops this theory of nothing having a center from a close (I guess one might call it “poststructuralist”) reading of Levi-Strauss, a classic “structuralist”. The underlying concept in The Savage Mind, Derrida shows, is “the abandonment of all reference to a center, to a subject, to a privileged reference, to an origin, or to an absolute archia” (286). What’s strange, and fascinating about Derrida’s criticism is that, instead of working to refute past philosophies–Derrida rejects this when he writes”there is no sense in doing without the concepts of metaphysics in order to shake metaphysics” (280)–he seems to work inside the work of past philosophers.

With that said, I thought the Bennet and Royle essay was a bit confusing and contradictory. In their conclusion, Decentering, they claim that postmoderism “challenges the ethnocentric (the authorit of one enthnic ‘identity or culture–such as Europe or ‘the West’ or Islam or Hinduism). It challenges the phallocentrec (everything that privileges the symbolic power and significance of the phallus)” (256). I wonder how much postmodernism works to “challenge the phallocentric”, and not, as Butler seemed to do, to reject the entire idea of phallocentrism. I was confused by their description of Bollywood music as “a potent mix of classical and folk music from the Indian subcontinent with the so-called ‘Western’ rhythms and sounds of soul, jazz, rock’n’roll, pop, disco, 1970s blaxpoitation funk, trip hop, techno, ambient and house music” (254). It seemed to me like they were stepping outside of postmodernism to define this music. All of the other genres were written off as self-containing, but this Bollywood music somehow steps out of genre by including so many others.

With that said, I wonder if there is anything that can be said to be postmodern art; Bennet and Royle seemed to have trouble defining exactly what that is…

(Unofficial) Subjects of Sex/Gender/Desire

While I found much of what Butler had to say fascinating, I was struck by the form of her essay. It seemed to me that, while much of the essay was analysis and reflection on the current state of discourse as it related to feminism, the most overtly political statement was not made at the end, after Butler had made all of her main points. She argues that “An open coalition, then, will affirm identities that are alternately instituted and relinquished according to the purposes at hand; it will be an open assemblage that permits of multiple convergences and divergences without obedience to a normative definitional closure” (16). This strong statement that looks to the future for its affirmation comes before her discussion of sex or a gender as not an act, but as an effect. I wonder how this order affects her overall statement, why the political coalition must be established even before she makes her own most original points.


Said’s idea of Occidental culture setting up Oriental culture as a foil, a sort of other with which to affirm Occidental identity reminded me of a Chinua Achebe essay on Heart of Darkness called An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, which makes a similar claim about Western images of Africa as the inferior “other” for comparison. The article is at:

literary history

I was just wondering if anyone understood what Jauss is trying to say in his sixth thesis. I can’t figure it out…