Literary Approach - Post-Structuralism

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


The Norton Introduction to Poetry: Post-Structuralism


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.

”The broad term used to designate the several directions of literary criticism that, while depending crucially on the insights of science-based theory, attack the very idea that any kind of certitude can exist about the meaning, understandability, or shareability of texts. Post-structuralists, disturbed at the optimism of positivist philosophy in suggesting that the world is knowable and explainable, ultimately doubt the possibility of certainties of any kind, and they see language as especially elusive and unfaithful."


Post-structuralists examine the way an author uses language, while simultaneously doubting the viability of literary analysis. These skeptics question the process of defining literature, and to a certain extent, render the critique itself worthless. An odd approach, especially to a decisive scholar firmly embedded in a particular school of thought, yet post-structuralism appeals to intellectuals who accept the ambiguity of our contemporary world.