Prof. Hugh J. Silverman

Mondays 7:00-10:00 p.m. LIBRARY E4305

Office: Harriman Hall 203; Office Hours: Wednesdays 4:00-5:30 p.m. and by app=t

Office Telephone: 632-7592; E-mail:



Deconstruction is a strategy for reading texts and other social institutions. Criticism is practiced as the literary, aesthetic, cultural, social, religious, legal, or political examination of and commentary on explicit and not-so-explicit modes of presentation and formulation. Deconstruction distinguishes itself from what stands within its domains in order to mark out and formulate the positions and textualities that lie outside its spaces of writing, articulation, and expression.

This seminar will focus on what deconstruction is and how it works. It will also explore ways in which deconstruction offers modes of access to various types of expression and position-taking on many pressing issues of our day. Deconstruction is explicitly contemporary in its temporality and historicity.

The seminar will focus on the writings of Jacques Derrida -- the mastermind behind the practices of deconstruction, but we shall also consider some relevant texts by Paul de Man, Geoffrey Hartman, and J. Hillis Miller as well as the theoretical writings of Jean-Francois Lyotard and Julia Kristeva.

The seminar will concern not only literary and art criticism, but also cultural, aesthetic, institutional, ethical, social and political theoretical issues.

Each student is to write two papers (about 8-10 pages in length).


The first paper should deal with deconstruction as literary or art criticism. The paper could offer a deconstructive reading of a text or painting; it could focus on the practice of deconstruction in literary and art criticism; it could show how deconstruction is postmodern; etc.


The second paper should take up how deconstruction is practiced as ethical and political criticism. The paper could show how deconstruction offers ways to think ethically or politically, how it is postmodern in practice, how it offers effective ways of dealing with contemporary ethical or political concerns. The two papers may be interrelated or independent of one another.

Papers are due on Oct 18th and Nov 29th respectively.


Each member of the seminar will prepare a protocol for one or two of the seminar sessions (depending on the number of seminar participants). The person responsible for a particular week will write up an account of what transpired in class the previous week and will make a copy available to each of the members of the seminar prior to the beginning of class. The protocol for a particular week will be discussed at the outset of the seminar. This will give everyone an opportunity to review what transpired in the previous session and to raise any lingering issues or topics that were not sufficiently treated when first presented.

Readings will include:

         Bloom, Hartman, Miller, de Man, Derrida: DECONSTRUCTION AND CRITICISM (Continuum)

         Derrida: ACTS OF LITERATURE (Routledge)

         Derrida: THE TRUTH IN PAINTING (Chicago)

         Lyotard: THE DIFFEREND (Minnesota)

         Derrida: OF HOSPITALITY (Stanford)

         Kristeva: STRANGERS TO OURSELVES (Columbia)

         Derrida: WITHOUT ALIBI (Stanford)


Supplementary readings:



         Silverman (ed) : DERRIDA AND DECONSTRUCTION (Routledge)

         Silverman (ed) CULTURAL SEMIOSIS (Routledge)

         Silverman (ed) PHILOSOPHY AND DESIRE (Routledge)

         Silverman (ed), LYOTARD: PHILOSOPHY, POLITICS, AND THE SUBLIME (Routledge)