Wendell V. Harris: Poststructural Theorizing and Hollow Dialectic

Philosophy and Literature 2/2000

Thematisch schließt dieser kleine Aufsatz an die gestrige Notiz über die Fragwürdigkeiten des New Historicism an, auch wenn er theoretisch allgemeiner gehalten ist. Wendell V. Harris ist einer der bekanntesten amerikanischer Kritiker des poststrukturalistische Theoriewesen, und gab beispielsweise den empfehlenswerten Sammelband „Beyond Poststructuralism“ (1996) heraus.

Hier beschäftigt er sich mit der Frage, warum die Kritik am Poststrukturalismus oft so schwierig ist:

There are at least four major difficulties in exposing the absurdities one is likely to encounter in PT [=poststructural theorizing]. To begin with, scholars aware of the dangers of applying formulations valid in one field to phenomena of a quite different field of study are understandably wary of expressing criticism of those portions of a theorist’s work that draw on disciplines in which they lack full competence. Thus for instance conscientious psychologists, physicists, or linguists hesitate to go beyond their fields in criticizing the high-flying interdisciplinarity of practioners of PT


Second, convincing demonstration that a theorist has misunderstood or misused concepts drawn from a particular field of knowledge is likely to depend on the reader having just the kind of background in that field that the errant theorist lacked.

Third, given that contemporary theorists appear to thrive on obscurity, it becomes difficult to target the precise meaning of a PT text. Fourth, in that much of what seems exaggerated, unsound, undocumented, or confused in the work of poststructural theorists is merely part of an overall argument, a part whose relevance to the main argument is not always clear […] [S. 425 / 426]

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