deconstruction and derrida

I listened to radio story the other night about being fat.  The woman interviewed asked that folks not call her “overweight” because it suggests that there is a correct level of weight for someone.  This goes against our ideas of BMI, health, heart disease, everything we’ve been taught.  But, I buy it.  I guess I relate it to the principal of overthinking.  I stopped to look up quotes about overthinking and they all insinuate it’s a bad thing—ruining lives and birthing problems that were never there in the first place.  Yes, this can be true but I also find solutions that were never there in the first place.

I don’t mind my overthinking and fall in love with the minds of those who ponder the universe with just as much intensity.  If I find someone who understands critical theory—I am elated.  To understand post-structuralism one must inherently reject the dominant relation in the hierarchy–when something is one thing, it cannot be another and all things are greater or less than on this metaphorical ladder.  To practice these concepts of deconstruction one must understand concepts and systems in relation to one another.  Thinking, thinking, so hard about assumptions and knowledge systems.   Unraveling the concept that they produce multiple junctures of meaning in relation to one another rather than one singular meaning.  You best believe that overthinking is a huge component of rejecting the current system which sure doesn’t seem fair to me.

I remember sitting in my capstone theory class for my English degree completely and utterly confused by Foucoult, Derrida, all the post-structuralism theorists.  The idea is that all we talk about is what we know—former problematic areas of discourse related to self and other where each is defined in opposition to the other.  I am a woman because I am not a man and I learned these idea from former generations that were not getting it right, either.  We can only write in the language we inherent, we can only think in the ways we have learned.  Derrida argues that we are all bricoleurs, creative tinkerers who must use the tools we find around us.  This means rejecting the inherent “truth” in all things, assuming that things are ever changing and that truth is often defined by those who control the signs and symbols of the world.

Think about a drivers license.  The actual drivers license itself carries no power.  It’s a piece of plastic.  But, the meaning we have assigned to the object (sign) carries much weight.  You can drive, it can be used to prove age, identity, etc.  The essential quality of the license has been defined by various departments of transportation.  And these relations exist because of the dominant terms (license) relationship to the subservient counterpart (unlicensed).  I cannot issue a drivers license and my relationship to the government is subservient and also “other” –the government is what I am not.  Same with masculinity.  There is no real way a man is superior to a woman but because of the way we have defined feminine qualities as less than or undesirable the hierarchy hangs in a balance always defined by the ruling class with the language and thought of the ruling class.

There is no singular self in post-structuralism.  I am not just a Jen but I am a bundle of conflicting tensions and knowledge claims.  So, if one were to study my writing they might want to study how my work is related to my concept of self.  There is no one meaning to my work and the intentions behind what I write are secondary to the meaning that the reader perceives.  This is why writing and literary theory become so fuzzy.  Was Hemingway writing womanzing works that upheld his fragile sense of self or was he just speaking from the space of someone who suffered from depression and most likely a traumatic brain injury?  It doesn’t matter in this space, instead the individual reader creates a new and individual purpose, meaning, and existence for a given text.

So, how might I deconstruct my own writing and what might I find?  That I’m obsessed with normalcy and that the traits I possess are somehow not normal and because when I’m this I’m not that.  I find these problems arising in my deconstruction of my past relationship.  I’m the victim, therefore he was the abuser.  Not so simple.  Given the context of our relationship created after my huge move and his huge divorce it seems we were creating meaning in the self/other sense.  Well, she is acting crazy so I must be sane.  I think, though, that for these patterns to emerge there must be adherence to the language we have learned.  I always assumed that he would be better than me at most sports, science, etc.  This is the thought process that exists in the signs we have gained over time.  To deconstruct means that I overthink, tear through the hierarchy and define my feminine nature by refusing to define at all.  I suppose this is my fascination with anarchy—the rejection of the hierarchy.  And of course it would mean destruction because it is the essence of deconstruction.  Nothing has inherent value in relation to other.

But, this is no way to live and so I can think about my life and times as I write.  The language I speak and understand is the dominant machine of Western thought.  Infused with Greek mythology and Jungian psychoanalysis, I see the world through dominant eyes.  I can overthink myself into the grey to understand I am both victim and abuser.  I am both man and woman.  I am high up, I am low down.  And I see the world through the lens of my perception once again influenced by privilege.  Awareness is key, I suppose, and I see the themes of self arise in my works.  Sometimes fragmented, sometimes reaching self-actualization.  An over-thinking bundle of nerves and flesh obsessed with the tiny details of life running the same routes to always discover something new.  Folding into nature busting through the hierarchy of the thought that I am more than just a thread in the cloth of a larger system–I’m the whole damn blanket.


“The more I think about it, the more I realize that overthinking isn’t the real problem. The real problem is that we don’t trust.”

― L.J Vanier