From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Deconstruction is a form of semiotic analysis, derived mainly from French philosopher Jacques Derrida's 1967 work Of Grammatology. Derrida proposed the deconstruction of all texts where binary oppositions are used in the construction of meaning and values. The first task of deconstruction, starting with philosophy and afterwards in literary and juridical texts, would be to overturn all the binary oppositions of metaphysics (signifier/signified; sensible/intelligible; writing/speech; passivity/activity; etc). According to Derrida, deconstruction should traverse a phase of "overturning" these oppositions.
To do justice to this necessity, deconstruction starts from recognizing that in a classical philosophical opposition readers are not dealing with the peaceful coexistence of a vis-a-vis, but rather with a violent hierarchy. One of the two terms governs the other (axiologically, logically, etc.), or one of the two terms is dominant (signified over signifier; intelligible over sensible; speech over writing; activity over passivity; male over female; man over animal, etc). To deconstruct the opposition, first of all, would be to overturn the hierarchy at a given moment. To overlook this phase of overturning would be to forget the conflictual and subordinating structure of opposition.
The final task of deconstruction is not to surpass all oppositions; because it is assumed that they are structurally necessary to produce sense, they cannot be suspended once and for all. They need to be analyzed and criticized in all their manifestations; the function of both logical and axiological oppositions must be studied in all discourses to provide meaning and values. Deconstruction does not only expose how oppositions work and how meaning and values are produced in a nihilistic or cynic position, "thereby preventing any means of intervening in the field effectively". To be effective, and simply as its mode of practice, deconstruction creates new notions or concepts, not to synthesize the terms in opposition, but to mark their difference, undecidability, and eternal interplay.
Jacques Derrida's reception in the United States
As early as 1968 Derrida lectured in the United States of America and formed a number of relationships which led to visiting appointments at American universities including Johns Hopkins, Yale University, and University of California, Irvine. It is often accepted that Derrida's influence was greatest in America, whereas in France Derrida was never granted any formal position of the greatest prestige. Derrida's early association with Paul de Man, established in 1968, led to the latter's consideration as the leading practioner of "American deconstruction". De Man's student Gayatri Spivak helped provide early exposure of Derrida's work to English-language readers. Derrida collaborated closely with his translators, many of whom went on to be prominent commentators and interlocutors, including Samuel Weber, Peggy Kamuf, Geoffrey Bennington, and Avital Ronell.