Literary Approach - Deconstruction

The Norton Introduction to Poetry
Editor: J. Paul Hunter, University of Chicago
(Norton & Company, 1999)

The Norton Introduction to Poetry: Deconstruction


University of Chicago professor emeritus J. Paul Hunter defines critical approaches to evaluating poetry and prose in this excellent text published by Norton & Company. The book is now in its ninth edition with contributing editors Alison Booth, University of Virginia, and Kelly J. Mays, University of Nevada.

“Deconstruction takes the observations of structuralism to their logical conclusion, arguing that the elaborate web of semiotic differentiations created by the principle of difference in language means that no text can ultimately have any stable, definite, or discoverable meaning. Its most famous proponent is the French philosopher Jacques Derrida. Many deconstructionists have strong radical political commitments, but the retreat from meaning and denial of clear signification that characterize deconstruction also have affinities with formalism and structuralism. Unlike structuralism it denies that the verbal world adds up to anything coherent, consistent, or meaningful in itself.”


A deconstructionist evaluates a conglomeration of words with a cynical attitude that renders the text meaningless. Interesting to contemplate and difficult to analyze, language cannot be trusted, so nothing ever written is credible to this critic. Any narrative may describe, insinuate, or express, yet no one can fathom the infinite details, connotations, or emotions that remain subject to interpretation. Deconstruction dismantles the notion that a solid foundation exists in linguistics.