Take Away Concepts
Post-structuralism and Postmodernism
Other ways in which Post-structuralist ideas can be used for analyzing texts
Post-structuralist insights into the nature of reality, knowledge, and subject can be
employed to approach specific aspects of a text.
For eg: If all knowledge is a result of differance then what we think we know objectively
is only referentiality. This has implications for how knowledge, information, factuality is
treated in literary works. In M. Butterfly for instance, Gallimard is used to deal with
“facts” whether as an accountant or as the Vice Consul, when he has to write a report
about how the Chinese and Vietnamese will respond to Western actions. A report
generally purports to be an objective form of knowledge containing concrete information.
But as we learn the project of creating objective, “absolute,” knowledge can be elusive.
What are the other ways in which the movie reveals objective and “absolute” knowledge as
impossible? (also interrogate your own ‘knowledge’ about what happens in the movie)
Can we interrogate the “facts” that we gather from the opera version? How reliable is what we
think we know about the characters and cultures in the opera? To what extent are the ‘given’
facts (eg. Japanese – traditional culture vs. American – modern) not facts but mere difference?
If “All reality is textual,” as Derrida says, caught up in an endless referential chain of
differance, then this gives us a way of approaching characters who seem deluded,
trapped in fantasy, or even insane. The concepts of ‘normalcy’ or ‘objective reality’ imply
transcendental signifieds that, as per post-structuralism, are impossible. Also, post-
structuralism disrupts the very notion of the rational subject, thinking of the subject as a
‘dissolved’ or ‘constructed subject,’ a product of social or linguistic forces, not an
essence at all, merely a tissue of textualities. So characters like Rene Gallimard, or
even Puccini’s Butterfly, who seem inexplicably irrational can be seen as examples of
this notion of the post-structuralist subject inhabiting a reality of differance. Consider the characters of the movie and/or the opera as ‘textualized’ subjects of post-
structuralism – that is, as subjects whose ‘reality