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IDSEMUG 1819 - What is Post-structuralism?

Like so many terms using the "post-" prefix, post-structuralism is hard to define: do we mean to indicate an aftermath, a continuity, a break, a repetition? In this course, we'll investigate some of the thinkers associated with post-structuralism and discover, perhaps, that all of these designators apply. Post-structuralism emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s and is associated with writers as diverse and complicated as Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, and Julia Kristeva. We might say that post-structuralism is what happens when structuralist thought collides with aspects of the "Continental" tradition in philosophy. If the central claim of structuralism is that all systems of meaning are structured along the lines of language, post-structuralist thought interrogates that claim. But rather than rejecting it outright, post-structuralist thinkers attend to the ways in which systems of meaning tend to instability, contingency, opening up gaps and silences, leaving echoes and traces. In the first part of this course, we'll focus on some of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century philosophers who influenced the post-structuralist turn: Nietzsche, Freud, Heidegger, Blanchot. In the second part of the course, we'll read some works of major post-structuralist thinkers. Finally, in the third part of the course, we'll spend some time looking at the impact of this general tendency in thought and the way in which it has influenced contemporary writers in political theory, gender studies and media studies.
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