What are the advantages and disadvantages of the deconstruction approach?

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kodwyer1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Deconstruction is one of many methods for reading and interpreting literature. It is a theory developed by the philosopher Jacques Derrida.

The advantage of deconstruction is that the reader is encouraged to question traditional assumptions and prejudices. For example, there are many assumptions regarding binary oppositions. Many of our thoughts and opinions are fixed in these binary oppositions, such as man/woman, white/black, west/east, good/evil, etc. In these binary oppositions, the first in the pair, man, white, etc., is considered to be the norm and therefore superior, while the second, woman, black, etc., is considered deviant and inferior. We tend to think that these oppositions are definite and fixed, whereas in reality they are often blurred and are in fact artificial. The power of ideology is that it puts forward ideas as natural and factual, but deconstruction helps us to see that they are not natural at all.

A disadvantage of deconstruction might be the argument that it makes truth or knowledge impossible because everything can be deconstructed. So, truth and knowledge are only relative and often subjective. For example, a literary text will have a different meaning to each individual reader; it will have no absolute or fixed meaning. However, it is debatable whether this is a disadvantage or not.