How to Write a Deconstruction Paper


Jacques Derrida, the 20th century French literary theorist, pioneered the school of thought in literature and philosophy known as “deconstructionism.” Deconstructionists were part of a larger movement, known as the “post-modern” movement. This type of theory seeks to find out the holistic meaning of a piece of work by first examining its smaller parts. Its intent is not to find truth; in fact, some theorists suggest that there is no real truth, only ever-changing paradigms. If you are asked to write a deconstructionist, or analysis, paper, keep some guidelines in mind.

  • Select a work to interpret for your paper. Nearly any piece of literature, whether it is a film, book or music, can be deconstructed according to Derrida’s school of thought. Even a political speech or philosophical discourse can be deconstructed. Consider the work as a whole, and consider what it is trying to communicate. During the deconstruction, you will be breaking it down into much smaller pieces of information.

  • Identify the logic in the piece of work. Look for the argument or position the author is making in the text. Once you have found this information, look for flaws in this logic. Deconstructionism is a way of subverting, criticizing or at times even undermining the intent of the author. This is not to be harsh, but simply to check the soundness of the argument. Much like the construction of a building, each part makes up a bigger structure. Deconstructionism seeks to unravel that structure by checking for soundness at each level.

  • Examine closely the wording and devices used in the piece of work. Dissect these words into their meaning by delving into root words or synonyms that can spark discourse. “Deconstruction is not synonymous with 'destruction,'” according to theorist Barbara Johnson, She posits that it is close in meaning to “analysis,” which means “to undo.” In order to develop an understanding of the work as a whole, the deconstructionist breaks it down to its most minute parts.

  • Familiarize yourself with theory jargon. This is about more than sounding knowledgeable in an essay; it allows you to better communicate your ideas to the informed reader. Understand terms such as what it means to be “post-modern,” “intertextuality” and “construction.” However, be sure you use these words correctly. Few mistakes compromise the integrity of your argument more than excess jargon that actually serves no purpose other than to impress.


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