Hermeneutical Deconstruction: Always Deferring, Never Arriving

Deconstruction is hard to pin down in terms of its understanding of where to find meaning, to some degree because it is not looking for a meaning, but is usually trying to overthrow meanings to create new ones. Consequently, this approach can only loosely be called reader-response. ((cf. H.-G. Gadamer, Truth and Method (New York: Seabury, 1975).)) The focus of deconstruction, like that of structuralism, (( cf. Claude Levi-Strauss, Ferdinand de Saussure, Noam Chomsky)) is in fact neither on the author nor the reader as supplying the meaning, but on the text itself, which it attempts to read very closely. With the postmodern hermeneutical shift away from “understanding” and toward “reading,” it seems closer in its basic commitments to locating meaning(s) in readers, but it also attempts to let the text overthrow the reader as well. ((David Seeley states: “Deconstruction is often misunderstood as allowing readers to attribute to the text any meaning they desire… [In fact] nothing could be further from the truth” (Deconstructing the New Testament [Leiden: Brill, 1994], 157).)) Curiously, deconstruction even acknowledges a role for an author, though that role is mostly negative: the author provides the framework that his text can undermine. But, as meaning is always “deferred,” always on the move, never arriving, it consequently can have no locus, and even though it has roots in both structuralism and in reader-response theory, it self-consciously tries to transcend the whole discussion of the locus of meaning. That solves the problem, but the cost (the loss of real determinate communication) is very great.

Dan McCartney, Let the Reader Understand: A Guide to Interpreting and Applying the Bible, (Philipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2002), 299-300.

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