Reading Deconstruction, Deconstructive Reading

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University Press of Kentucky, Feb 2, 1985 - Literary Criticism - 158 pages

Deconstruction -- a mode of close reading associated with the contemporary philosopher Jacques Derrida and other members of the "Yale School" -- is the current critical rage, and is likely to remain so for some time. Reading Deconstruction / Deconstructive Reading offers a unique, informed, and badly needed introduction to this important movement, written by one of its most sensitive and lucid practitioners. More than an introduction, this book makes a significant addition to the current debate in critical theory.

G. Douglas Atkins first analyzes and explains deconstruction theory and practice. Focusing on such major critics and theorists as Derrida, J. Hillis Miller, and Geoffrey Hartman, he brings to the fore issues previously scanted in accounts of deconstruction, especially its religious implications. Then, through close readings of such texts as Religio Laici, A Tale of a Tub, and An Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, he proceeds to demonstrate and exemplify a mode of deconstruction indebted to both Derrida and Paul de Man. This skillfully organized book, designed to reflect the "both/ and" nature of deconstruction, thus makes its own contribution to deconstructive practice. The important readings provided of Dryden, Swift, and Pope are among the first to treat major Augustan texts from a deconstructive point of view and make the book a valuable addition to the study of that period.

Well versed in deconstruction, the variety of texts he treats, and major issues of current concern in literary study, Atkins offers in this book a balanced and judicious defense of deconstruction that avoids being polemical, dogmatic, or narrowly ideological. Whereas much previous work on and in deconstruction has been notable for its thick prose, jargon, and general obfuscation, this book will be appreciated for its clarity and grace, as well as for its command of an impressively wide range of texts and issues. Without taming it as an instrument of analysis and potential change, Atkins makes deconstruction comprehensible to the general reader. His efforts will interest all those concerned with literary theory and criticism, Augustan literature, and the relation of literature and religion.

 

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Contents

Introduction
1
Reading Deconstruction
13
The Sign as a Structure of Difference
15
Dehellenizing Literary Criticism
34
ReaderResponsibility Criticism The Recent Work of Geoffery Hartman
49
J Hillis Miller Deconstruction and the Recovery of Transcendence
64
Reading Deconstruction Becomes Deconstructive Reading
77
The Story of Error
79
Deconstructive Reading
89
Reading andas Swerving The Question of Interpretive Authority in Drydens Religio Laici
91
Allegory of Blindness and Insight Will and Willing in A Tale of a Tub
105
Gracing These Ribalds The Play of Difference in Popes Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot
118
The Vanity of Human Wishes A Conclusion in Which Nothing is Concluded
136
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About the author (1985)

G. Douglas Atkins is professor of English at the University of Kansas. He is the author of The Faith of John Dryden.

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