Deconstruction and Postmodernism Approach to Case Study: A Doll's House

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Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1431 Words
Date:  2021-03-11

The most significant concepts in Jacques Derrida paper Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of Human Sciences (1978) are that of structure and its centre. Derrida argues that before the postmodern rupture any structure used to have a centre organizing and orienting the coherence of the system (1978:352). Upon the arrival of postmodernist views, the notion of centre lost its content as it no longer located itself in the centre. Derrida paradoxically postulates that if the centre is both inside and outside the structure, then the centre is not the centre (1978:352). Another important concept the rupture is a meaningful event in the history of the concept of structure that took place when the structurality of structure had to begin to be thought, that is to say, repeated ( Derrida 1978:353). Derrida postulates that until this rupture, or we dare say decentralization, the history of structure could be perceived as different centers substituting each other. He clearly means the conceptual ideas significant for every period in the history of human sciences. Among such centres Derrida enumerates essence, transcendentality, consciousness and others (1978:353). One more important concept is that of the sign Derrida posits that sign which replaces the center, which supplements it, taking the centers place in its absencethis sign is added, occurs as a surplus, as a supplement (1978:365). He means that language or discourse that took the place or substituted overruling ideas (centers) so everything became just a play.

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Zygmunt Baumans main standpoint in Sociological responses to postmodernity is the absence of order in contemporary art, widely symbolized by the notion of rhizome in postmodern discourse. The absence of order implies both the absence of wider referential frameworks (so works of art are mostly self-referencing) and the absence of cohesiveness, direction in the events (Bauman 1992:32). In this new world of postmodernity, even the order of succession of events does not exist, and neither do moral standards (Bauman 1992:32).

Another determinant concept in the article is drama, the perception of the events in the world as if everything were staged. The world as drama can exist only with help of media as the way of drama creation and distribution. Softening of the civilization is most likely the result of the drama outlook. By softening of the world Bauman means the society which increasingly fails to harden its members and imbue them with a sense of purpose. This is a society without a tough structure or firm developmental tendency (Bauman 1992:45). Such world is disorganized, the one describable in terms of absences, failures, declines, erosions (Bauman 1992:47). In this dysfunctional postmodern world individuals act as consumers rather than producers as in modern capitalist world. It is the market that dictates what the system of society needs now so the classical capitalist strict and universal rules and unambiguous criteria of truth, morality and beauty, indivisible authority of judgement are no longer required (Bauman 1992:52).

The critical concept of Peyman Vahabzadehs paper is ultimate referentiality understood as operative assumption about the real as True and thereby stable and foundational (Vahabzadeh 2009:447-448). There can be alsoreferentiality without ultimacy and that is what happens in postmodern, postmetaphysical discourse. The society living in this postmodern mode is deemed as an inexhaustible source of knowledge, always richer than our findings, perpetually in the process of reshaping its own laws, and, above all, indifferent to our theoretical expectations (Vahabzadeh 2009:460). According to Vahabzadesh the concept of praxiology is also worth analyzing. Thus, praxiology relies on the actual to uncover the possible through human action (Vahabzadeh 2009:462). By actuality the scholar means Heideggerian actualization that hides possibilities (Vahabzadeh 2009:461) that implies that the actual existence of a certain phenomenon destroys all of its possible but unrealized forms of presence (Vahabzadeh 2009:461). Vahabzadeh states that the ideas about unilinear societal development became out-dated, so this development should be perceived in terms of plurality, diversity and context-specification (Vahabzadeh 2009:462). Therefore, the new science, interpretative sociology that arose upon these terms employs autobiography as the main type of sociological work instead of cut-and-dry prose of the past. The main reason for choosing the genre of autobiography for this purpose is the fact that an autobiographical account shows how certain decisions have been made under determinate circumstances, while it reflexively alludes to the possible decisions (even potentially better ones) that have been missed (Vahabzadeh 2009:463).

When applied to analysis of Henrik Ibsens A Dolls House, Derridas concept of a centerless structure can be interpreted as Noras family life losing its very sacral meaning after she finds out the truth about her husband. Before the rupture, namely Torvalds discovery about her crime, committed out of love for him, the centre of Noras life was her cozy pretty house with a loving husband and sweet children. However, the postmodern changes in Nora take place long before the rupture. Nora ignores and even breaks the rules of modern world that prohibit her to take a loan without her husbands agreement. She also questions the wisdom of those rules and is sure that they must be substituted for rules more appropriate for humans: Do you mean to tell me that a daughter has no right to spare her dying father anxiety? -that a wife has no right to save her husband's life? (Ibsen 1900:41) Another postmodern characteristic of Noras behavior is that of a play. Nora plays a double life she plays the role of a silly cheerful squirrel (Ibsen 1900:57) that likes to jump and play. Everything becomes play as in Derridas discourse. After Nora loses her centre of home and family she turns to the structures outside centers like understanding who she really is and educating herself. Her act of leaving her home and children seems almost unfathomable both to patriarchally-oriented Torvald and the reader with traditional views on family.

Noras family life is also largely disorganized, in Zygmunt Baumans terms. She does not only lead a double life with her husband pretending she is not what she really is. What is more significant - she deceives herself too when pretending that she is genuinely happy in her life with Torvald. When she says to Christina: Oh, Christina, I feel so light and happy. It's splendid to have lots of money, and no need to worry about things, isn't it? (Ibsen 1900:13) she is mostly trying to persuade herself, not Christina. Noras family life demonstrates all kinds of negativity of postmodern mode of existence described by Bauman absence of trust in relationship with Torvald, failure to be a fit mother to educate her children, and decline of her love and respect to Torvald.

Applying Peyman Vahabzadehs concepts to the analysis of the play, it becomes evident that if not written in the form of autobiography, the play is surely presented from Noras point view. This is what constitutes the essence of a work of interpretative sociology and A Dolls house can surely function as an example of such. For instance, the narrative of the play is built according to a heightened sensitivity toward contexts in which events have taken place (Vahabzadeh 2009:463). The context of the play is the historical frame of the 19th century with its values of patriarchal family, financial stability and freedom from debt that Torvald and Nora also embrace before Noras perception of her family structure loses it centre. Another criteria, being autobiographical account shows how certain decisions have been made under determinate circumstances, while it reflexively alludes to the possible decisions (even potentially better ones) that have been missed (Vahabzadeh 2009:463) is also valid concerning the play characters. The reader is aware that Nora could opt for telling Torvald everything herself or choose to accept his forgiving her. However, she chooses to actualize her leaving Torvald, home and children thus destroying with her actions all of the other possible future actualizations. According to Vahabzadeh (2009) postmodern world should be categorized with help of the sociology of possibilities rather than traditional sociology with its tendency to study patterns, systems, structures, trends, paradigms - all of them expressing closure (Vahabzadeh 2009:461). Noras actions directed to future (Vahabzadeshs futurity) also seek openings and thus heed the developing ways out of the existing systemic closures (Vahabzadeh 2009:461). Her way out of suffocating marriage system paved the way to such social movement as feminism, challenging universal models and unilinear notion of progress (Vahabzadeh 2009:461).


Bauman, Zygmut. 1992. Sociological Responses to Postmodernity. Pp. 26-67 in Intimations of Postmodenity. London/New-York: Routledge.

Derrida, Jacques 1978 Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences Pp.351-370 in Writing and Difference. London/New-York: Routledge.

Ibsen, Henrik. A dolls house T. Fisher Unwin, London, 1900.

Vahabzadeh, Peyman 2009 Ultimate Referentiality. Radical Phenomenology and the New Interpretative Sociology. Pp. 447465 Philosophy & Social Criticism. Vol. 35, no 4.

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