How to Read Deconstructively

English 481

Spring 2003 – Lehigh University

Instructor: Amardeep Singh

Meets: Wednesdays

5:30-8:30 pm

Drown 102

Instructor: Professor Amardeep Singh (“Deep”)


Instructor Information

Office: 221 Drown Hall

Office Hours:    Monday afternoons 1-5 (email for appointment); other days by

appointment. No meetings on Fridays.

Office phone:    610-758-4285

Cell phone:       610-730-8224 (emergencies)

Required Texts:

Jacques Derrida, Writing and Difference

Jacques Derrida, Limited Inc

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Critique of Postcolonial Reason

J.L. Austin, How to Do Things With Words

Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

Jeannette Winterson, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

Salman Rushdie, The Satanic Verses

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim

Course requirements: Attendance; two short papers; longer, final paper


English 481 – Fall 2003

Amardeep Singh

PART I: Literary Theory (getting to deconstruction)

9/3 Week 1: Nothing outside the text

Roland Barthes, "Death of the Author" (Blackboard)

Barthes, “From Work to Text” (B)

Michel Foucault, "What is an Author?" (B)

            Ferdinand de Saussure, from Course in General Linguistics (B)

            Optional: Jorge Luis Borges, “Pierre Menard” (B)

Some Concepts and terms to look for/think about: Authorship, Work/Text, Textuality, Readerly/Writerly, Author-function, sign/signifier/signified, langue/parole, phoneme/morpheme


9/10 Week 2: Speech Acts

J.L. Austin, How to Do Things With Words

Searle, “What is a Speech Act?” (B)

Roman Jakobsen, “Poetics and Linguistics” (B)

Some Concepts: Performative/constative, speech act, locutionary/ illocutionary/perlocutionary, phonic/rhetic/phatic utterances

9/17 No class (Deep in England)

9/24 Week 3: Derrida's take on speech acts

DUE: A short paper (4 pages) applying a concept from the first few weeks to reading a work of literature of your choice (think: poem, short story)

Jacques Derrida, Limited Inc

            J. Hillis Miller, Speech Acts in Literature excerpt (B)

            Miller, “The Critics as Host” (B)

10/1 Week 4: Difference

Derrida, Writing and Difference (3 or 4 chapters)

M.H. Abrams, “How to Do Things With Texts” (B)

Optional: Derrida excerpts from Of Grammatology (B)

Optional: Gaytri Spivak: preface to "Grammatology" (B)

                        Some concepts: Difference/Differance, alterity

10/8 Week 5: Postcolonial/Poststructural

Gayatri Spivak, Critique of Postcolonial Reason: “Literature,” “Culture,” and


Recommended: Beaudelaire’s poem, “Le Cygne,” Kipling’s short story “William the Conqueror, Mahashweta Devi’s short story “Pterodactyl”

Also recommended: knowledge of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe


                        Some concepts: Postcolonial/poststructural, Subalternity, the Other,

                        Native informant, Worlding, postcolonial revisions, globality,


PART II: From Literature to Literary Criticism (‘applied’ deconstruction)

10/15 Week 6: Sex, Lies, and Painting

Oscar Wilde, Picture of Dorian Gray

Roland Barthes on Images/desire

Eve Sedgwick, “Nationalisms and sexualities,” from Tendencies (B)

Ellis Hanson on Wilde, from Decadence and Catholicism (B)

Joseph Litvak, brief excerpt on the “sophisticated” from Strange Gourmets

Some concepts: the Gaze, fetishization, the sexual closet as a fact of language, queer orientalism, eroticization of Wilde’s Catholicism

10/22 Week 7: Repetition, alienation, everyday life


Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot,

Beckett, Endgame (B)

Roland Barthes, “Writers, Intellectuals, Teachers” (B)

De Certeau, Practice of Everyday Life excerpt (B)

            Assorted Beckett criticism: David Lloyd, Declan Kiberd

10/29 Week 9: Fruits and shells

DUE: a short paper (4 pages) interpreting Winterson, Beckett, or Wilde

Jeannette Winterson, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

John Caputo, Deconstruction in a Nutshell excerpts (B)

Judith Butler Gender Trouble excerpt (B)

            Some concepts: Khora, religion/deconstruction, eroticism/divinity

11/5 Week 10: The Ends of the Earth

Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim

Edward Said on Conrad, from Culture and Imperialism (B)


            Recommended: Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

11/12 Week 11: Hybridity, Nationalism


The Satanic Verses

            Homi Bhabha, “Signs Taken for Wonders” and “The Other Question” (B)

            Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities excerpts (B)

Some Concepts: Hybridity, migration, community, nationalism, stereotype

11/19 Week 12: Postmodernity


The Satanic Verses

            Fredric Jameson, essay on Postmodernism (B)

            Kwami Anthony Appiah: "Postmodern and Postcolonial" (B)


                        Concepts: Postmodernity, Postmodernism, pastiche/bricolage/remix

11/25 No class – Thanksgiving

12/3 Week 13: Simulacra, hyperreality, the network society


The Satanic Verses

            Jean Baudrillard, on the "simulacrum"

Umberto Eco, "Travels in Hyperreality"

            Optional: The Matrix

Optional: Essays from William Irwin, ed. The Matrix and Philosophy


                        Concepts: simulacrum, hyperreality, virtuality

Final papers (12-14 pages) due around 12/10

In class August 27: Quotes from M.H. Abrams, defining deconstruction etc.

Some terms:

Movements in literary criticism (context)


                                    See Abrams entry

New criticism

                                    See Abrams entry

Structuralism/semiotics, Deconstruction, post-structuralism

                                    See Abrams on Linguistics

                                                Ferdinand de Saussure


                                                Arbitrariness of the signifier

                                                Langue/parole (or performance/competence)

                                                Phonology/morphology (phoneme/morpheme)


                                    See Abrams entry on Semiotics

                                                Signs: Signifier + Signified

                                    See Abrams entry on Structuralism

                                    See Abrams entry on Deconstruction

Phonocentric, logocentric


Ecriture (French: writing)

Différance (neologism: differing + deferring)


                                    See Abrams entry on Speech Act Theory

                        J.L. Austin

                                                Speech Act