Derrida: “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences”

In his essay “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences” Jacques Derrida argues for a change in the role of structure in literature to incorporate sign and play.

Derrida begins his essay by critiquing modern views of structure, especially the limits of the notions of center in the structure of literature. He argues for a “decentering” or deconstruction of the structure of a work in order to overcome these limitations (91). In his essay, Derrida primarily analyzes the work of Levi-Strauss in his argument for incorporating sign, play, and other variations of human sciences into the structure of literature in order to strengthen it. Derrida also argues for the analyzation of the “structurality of structure,” which, Derrida believes, is central to identifying and changing the structure of a work (91).

I was extremely interested by the closing paragraph of Derrida’s essay, particularly the last sentence. He begins the paragraph by highlighting the arguments made in the previous paragraphs about the two interpretations of interpretations and the operations of choice in this interplay. In the last sentence, however, Derrida goes on to say that we are only beginning to realize the “conception, formation, gestation, and labor” of it today. These words are typically associated with the process of childbirth and foreign to the world of linguistics. Furthermore, Derrida goes on to acknowledge the connotation of these words, but also states that he used this words to speak to those who “turn their eyes away” when faced with “the formless, mute, infant, and terrifying form of monstrosity” (103). While intrigued by this sentence and its powerful diction, I am still rather unsure of its meaning, and its purpose as the concluding sentence of Derrida’s essay. The sentence is extremely forceful, however, it feels like it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the essay and perhaps should be further clarified within the body of the essay itself.

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