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298 Deconstruction S12

Page history last edited by n.ortega@... 8 years, 4 months ago


"In the Gloaming" By Alice Elliott Dark pg. 688-704




  1. Based on the definition of the gloaming, what other predominant binary is associated with the gloaming? 
  2. In what ways does Janet associate the gloaming with aspects of life instead of death?
  3. Based on our society’s hierarchy which binary, life or death, is valued more?
  4. How do the young and the old view life differently?
  5. How do Janet and Martin deal with their dying son differently? 




Binaries and Selected Passages:


  • Light/Dark
    • Pg  692-693 (Quickly...even more)
    • Pg 693 (She immersed....begin) 


  • Young/Old
    • Pg 704 (A child...to his mother)
    • Pg 692 (As she came...watching him grow) 
    • Pg 697 (He seemed...long enough) 


  • Male/Female  
    • Pg 693 (The truth was...dying son?)
    • Pg 694 (She had often...weapons she had)
    • Pg 700 (Martin rarely....for dinner)
    • Pg 704 ( She could....darkness)
    • Pg 704 (Please...boy like) 



Deconstruction Theory and Concepts:  



Deconstruction was founded in the mid twentieth century by French philosopher Jacques Derrida, as an opposition to the structural critic's manner of thinking. If structuralism seeks to views things not individually, but only as parts of a larger structure, then deconstruction does the opposite, breaking down the structure and analyzing its individual parts. Language is ambiguous, and therefore can be interpenetrated in a variety of different ways. Deconstruction seeks to decipher what the actual meaning of the language in a piece of literature is, as oppose to what the author's assumed meaning is. This is done by finding binaries, contradictions, and figues of speech in the text that, when viewed differently, result in different interpretations. Using these ambiguities, deconstruction involves asking questions in an effort to show that what the text claims to be saying is different than what it is actually saying.







Differerance -The meanings of words lie in the differences between them and the things they name.


Binaries -Polar opposites of each other whether it is words or themes in a story. 


Binary Opposition -It's when two binary thoughts are put against each other when analyzing.  


Hierarchies -Within binaries there is one term that our culture views as being superior and one term is viewed as negative or inferior.   


Signifier -A written or sound construction.


Signified -The concept, or idea, which is the meaning of the sign. 


Supplementation -Suggests that each of the two terms in such opposition adds something to the other and takes the place of the other. 


Undecidability - Debunks notion of reading as a decision making process. When a reader is forced with a choice of what could be happening with the text it is a feature of the text itself to have choices purposely there.




Additional Resources:



Website explaining the critical literary theories


Ann B. Dobie. "Theory into Practice: An Introduction to Literary Criticism. 3rd ed. Boston: Wadsworth, 2012. 149-171.


Works Cited:


Dark, Alice Elliott. "In the Gloaming." The Best American Short Stories. Ed. John Updike and Katrina Kenison. Mays. 9th ed. New York: Norton, 2007. 688-704.


Dobie, Ann B. "Deconstruction." Theory into Practice: An Introduction to Literary Criticism. 3rd ed. Boston: Wadsworth, 2012. 149-171.











Comments (23)

n.ortega@... said

at 8:41 am on May 3, 2012

Hey guys,
So I was a bit confused about the project so I ended up going to Leonidas’ office hours. It was VERY helpful so if you need any help understanding deconstruction or how to apply it to the text he’s a good source to check out. Since the meeting helped out a lot I’m just going to run through some of the thoughts and ideas we talked about:

First, I was confused about Deconstruction as a theory, so we discussed that first. So apparently for our project we SHOULD NOT try to cover every single aspect of deconstruction since that would be overwhelming. Instead he suggested we focused on just a couple aspects, that way it shows we have a grasp on the theory. For example, if we focused on the binaries in the text; in our text I think the most apparent binary is LIFE/DEATH. Throughout the entire story that theme seems central. From there we should take that ideas associated with life and death and see how it affects the meaning of the story if they are flipped/reversed. What I mean by that is in our society we value life over death (Hierarchy). While reading the story one views the prose as a mother mourning the life of her dying son, but what would happen if we decide death is more valuable than life? How would that affect the meaning of our story? What impact would that have on the story and on our society? Would that impact the way we view abortion or people in a coma etc. From there we look at parts in the story, like the binary of death viewed through gender or age. (I found some but I’ll post them later if we decide to go in this direction).

n.ortega@... said

at 8:41 am on May 3, 2012

It’s a complex theory that still confuses me a bit but I think are first task is to agree on the meaning/central theme of the story. From there we have to show how different aspects in the story (focusing on a couple deconstruction techniques) show otherwise. For example, looking at binaries and the hierarchies of certain values; and then observing how it gives us a new fresh perspective on the prose.

So for the presentation he suggested we roughly follow this outline:
1. A plot summary of our story (quick, just enough to help the class remember/ recap on our story)
2. Our apparent meaning to the story. Aka what we first believe the story was about
3. The discussion questions/how we applied deconstruction to the story to alter the meaning. This is the main part of the presentation; it’s where we shows our understanding of deconstruction and throw in the deconstruction lingo.
4. Conclusion how altering the meaning/de-bunking the main theme affects the story and life.

Minerva said

at 10:46 pm on May 4, 2012

This is what I have so far from your questions minus #4. I’ll be looking for specific passages from the text for support. Maybe it’ll help inspire someone’s ideas of what to write.

1. Well, here’s a very basic summary of what I came up with for the story, everyone can feel free to expand on it:
It is about a mother and the relationship she has with her 33 year old son who is dying of an unnamed illness. The son wants to know more about his mother and the mother is curious about her son , Laird and his thoughts as he is dying. The father is distant from his son and the sister is upset, but more concerned for her mother. When the son finally dies, the mother begins to prepare what her son would want for a funeral and the father asks his wife about his son’s interests.

2. The first time I read the story I assumed it focused on an absent emotional family relationship because the family didn’t appear to know each other on a deep emotional level or anything about each other. Also, I thought it focused on the difference between male and female in the story. The mother and father are radically different emotionally. The brother and sister are opposites themselves.

3. I’m just talking about one binary I found . If everyone wants to work on one of the other binaries that Neysha listed that helps.

In using binaries, it’s apparent that there is one between male and female in the story. The mother and father are opposites. The father chooses to distance himself from his son, while the mother gets closer to Laird in his final times. The mother admits she has always been the figure of discipline and not the father. The mother conforms to her role by taking care of the children and the father works for the money.

Minerva said

at 10:47 pm on May 4, 2012

It is not mentioned what the illness is, but it is implied that it is AIDS and that the son is homosexual. (For reference P.692 has the evidence to support this claim of homosexuality: “It still surprised her that Lairds wasn’t interested in girls. He had been, hadn’t he? She remembered him lying awake for him listening to come home, hoping that he was smart enough to apply what he knew about the facts of life, to take precautions.”) (Page 694 “A new immune system?” )

n.ortega@... said

at 8:42 am on May 3, 2012

So I know this was a long post but we haven’t met yet and I’m confused where we want to go for this project. We can totally dismiss his comments if the group wants to go in a different direction BUT I think his ideas and input were extremely helpful…Let me know what you guys think so we can start working on this :)

Minerva said

at 10:42 pm on May 4, 2012

I'm glad we were able to discuss everything as a group on Thursday and decide to meet up before the final presentation. I think it's a good idea to go off of some of the ideas to have a basic direction of where to go with the handout.

Minerva said

at 10:33 pm on May 4, 2012

So here is what I came up with for beginning of the Deconstruction Form that you have. Anyone can feel free to edit, add or expand what I put. I'm putting out as much as I can so we can see where we're at at understanding as group what to focus on. I don't want to put it up on the handout until we know for sure what is final.

Deconstruction Theory and Concepts: (Summary of Deconstruction)
Deconstruction “refers to a larger and more complex enterprise than the practice of demonstrating that a text can have contradictory meaning” (186). One way of looking at this is through binaries because readers tend to think and express ideas in opposites. Binaries and differance are points that are associated in deconstructing a story. Binaries focus on looking at the opposites while differance focuses on the interpretation of the meaning of some words. Deconstruction attempts to say that there can be more than one logic to an idea It doesn’t say A is right and B is wrong, but A can be right and can be wrong (188).

Differerance(187) -The meanings of words lie in the differences between them and the things they name.
Binaries (186) - Opposites of each other whether it is words or themes in a story
Undecidability (190-191) - Debunks notion of reading as a decision making process. When a reader is forced with a choice of what could be happening with the text it is a feature of the text itself to have choices purposely there.

I'll add more that I found in the other sections. I'm trying to find better passages in the text for "In the Gloaming."

n.ortega@... said

at 4:11 pm on May 5, 2012

Minerva add all of that up above into the handout outline that way we can edit and add on to it okay i'll add some more tonight

n.ortega@... said

at 4:28 pm on May 6, 2012

hey guys just a heads up wednesday doesn't really work to me when we meet up i have two finals wednesday and there my focus..tuesday works best..i'll text you all soon

thomasliljedahl@... said

at 12:32 pm on May 8, 2012

Hi one question. Is everything written at the top things that you have edited yourself already? If so good work, I like the outline you've come up with

The summary of Deconstruction,however, I think should be more in our own words, as to display our understanding of the concept. For example,starting with a sentence such as "If structuralism seeks to views things not individually, but only as parts of a larger structure, then deconstruction does the opposite, breaking down the structure and analyzing its individual parts." This could be to enforce the opposites (or binaries lol) that structuralism and deconstruction are. They contrast each other. I also think it would be a cool idea to rather than list our key terms and definitions mindlessly, to integrate them into our summary.Obviously we can bold them list them after words but to incorporate them into our summary of deconstruction really once again reiterates our understanding of the concepts. I can do this if you guys want and if we know what specific ideas we want to focus on (we already have an idea). As far as the terms that have gone undefined:

Dissemination and Deconstruction are terms that really go hand in hand. To disseminate is to disperse throughout. In the deconstructive sense, it is to view a piece of literature by viewing its dispersed parts specifically on their own. Essentially, this is what deconstruction is.

Binary opposition is the idea of two binaries being polar opposites, like Yin and Yang. Another important related concept is Supplementation. Supplementation is the unstable relationships of binary opposites, where as each term adds something to the other and in turn, can replace the other.However, because one opposite cannot exist without the other, the replacement can never be complete

thomasliljedahl@... said

at 1:03 pm on May 8, 2012

Reading the text so far, the binaries that have been mentioned, "Life and Death", "Night and day" exist and are important.....The title "In the Gloaming" seems to represent the flux that the entire story (and every binary) exists in......For example, this part of the day(The gloaming) is one that the mother treasures and looks forward to, the part of the day when she can cherish simply sitting and speaking with her son. Her son, on the other hand, is "In the gloaming" between life and death. He is still alive, but death is clearly inevitable. He seems to look forward to this part of the day as well. Other than this flux they exist in, they seem to be polar opposites themselves. For example, Laird is open to discussing his impending death, while the mother (is her name Janet?) is terrified by the idea of it. Its as if she wants to stay in this flux for eternity, avoiding all absolutes. This is further shown by the fact that the rainy day, where the moment of the gloaming is absent, they are both depressed and dissapointed, as if having nothing to live for

thomasliljedahl@... said

at 1:07 pm on May 8, 2012

there is some sort of equilibrium in which they live.....Will continue reading and making more observations

thomasliljedahl@... said

at 1:22 pm on May 8, 2012

Have we decided a time to meet? If anyone reads this please text message me to let me know.

n.ortega@... said

at 1:40 pm on May 8, 2012

So I agree about the deconstruction part of the handout it should be more in our own words so if you like go ahead and edit it and as a group we can add or edit what you write...and the dayh and night binary is a good idea too...you can add that in under the passage section that way the handout will have all the binaries were focused on in our text...

so tomorrow at 11 we will meet at the computer lab until then let's keep adding to our handout

Erin Schanzer said

at 6:56 pm on May 8, 2012

Okay, so I tried to find binaries that we didn't come up with already. Feel free to disagree with what I say because I don't know if there is really anything behind it. I looked for repetitive words that were used throughout the story and I found a few that could be seen as binaries (maybe?) One was young vs old. Often she mentions the contrast of when her kids were children and how they were (Laird always doing too much and Anne being sloppy) then relates to how they are now (i.e Anne being "a hopeless matron" (700)). Also, she talks about the juxtaposition between Laird as a child and him being sick now. How there are a lot of similarities between the two. Also, when she talked about smoking when the kids were children on page 689, she talked about how as children they loved the smoke rings, but when they got older they just begged her to stop.
Okay, so another one I found was truth/lies. These words were used several times throughout and I feel that they might be important. There was a lot of it on page 693, one when talking about how Janet never understood Martin's obsession with work, "The truth was that she had never understood." Then also, talking about how Janet has been a bit in denial about Martin always working and saying that Laird knew she was lying to herself, "He was letting her know he had caught her in the central lie of her life, which was that she understood Martin's obsession with his work." (this was the same page right before the previous quote.) Then there was the line when Laird said "I don't think that Dad can stand to be around me."(same page) to which Janet says, "That's not true." Which is immediately followed by her thinking, "It was true." So this shows exactly the contrast of truth vs lying. The other thing about this that I found was the kind of hinting at lying was page 694, when it says "He had become a character of her own invention". Talking about the person that Janet made Martin into for the sake of her kids. Long post sorry!!

n.ortega@... said

at 10:07 pm on May 9, 2012

ahh i'm confusing myself all over again

n.ortega@... said

at 11:09 pm on May 9, 2012

My section: a rough overview of what i'm going to say tomorrow

Our apparent meaning of the story:

We believe that our story aims to blur the line between life and death. While society aims to separate the importance of life and death, (valuing one over the other); our story focuses its attention on the in-between of life and death.

The gloaming represents a time during the day that is neither considered light nor is it consider dark. The lines between day and night are blurred when the day approaches the gloaming.

****Based on the definition of the gloaming, what other predominant binary becomes associated with the gloaming? (Hint: It was mentioned before )******

The gloaming ends up representing the in-between in life and death. Laird is clearly dying, and Janet must face the idea that she is slowly losing her son. Instead of accepting the facts, Janet chooses to treasure the moments that she feels Laird comes alive, which happen to occur during the gloaming.

*****Quotes pg692-693******* (Janet’s emotion during the gloaming)

*****In what ways does Janet associate the gloaming with aspects of life instead of death?*****

Laird is no longer seen as dying when the gloaming approaches instead he is seen as alive in Janet’s eyes. That time is filled with reading, conversations, and laughter. But by associating the gloaming with all aspects of life, the story actual ends up devaluing anything associated with death.

n.ortega@... said

at 11:09 pm on May 9, 2012

******Based on our society’s hierarchy which binary, life or death, is valued more? ********

So the importance of the in-between actually ends up falling part once the story begins to value life over death, so the reader must reevaluate the importance of in-between if death is considered inferior to life.

What we aim to do by deconstructing the story is to show the effects of how the story could be viewed differently if we reserved the roles of life and death and place more importance on death. By focusing on other binaries and passages within the story we hope to alter the apparent meaning of our story.

n.ortega@... said

at 11:19 pm on May 9, 2012

Tommy goes before me discussing:
- Plot summary
- An overview of deconstruction, defined binaries since that is what our group focused to look at

We need to agree when this is done so that I can print out the copies :)

Erin Schanzer said

at 12:01 am on May 10, 2012

Okay so basic overview of what I'm saying: The idea of young/old is predominant throughout the story. There are a few passages in the story which show that Janet is seeing her son dying and relating it back to him growing up. *example page 692* she is comparing the feelings she has for him, and the excitement she experiences each day to see how he progresses in their conversations, to the excitement she felt watching him grow. In a later passage *697* She compares Laird as a child when he would get sick, and how now it is the same thing and he would be fed the same things, the only difference being that now he will not get better. An interesting point to note, is why is Janet constantly comparing her dying son to a growing child? Why does she see it as growing rather than decaying and why does she value growth over decay? *allow people to maybe answer probably not*
Another important idea brought up which relates back to Neysha says about valuing life over death, is valuing one person's death over another's. *page 704* In this passage, Janet is referring to how she shouldn't have to bury her child because there is a natural order to things and therefore she, being older, should have died first.
Can I get opinions? Anything I should add or take out or change?

n.ortega@... said

at 12:09 am on May 10, 2012

just add the questions that you want to ask the class above that way it looks like have more questions about the text...other than that i think its fine were staying close to the death theme and if the teacher has any questions he can ask it and we can just expand on it during the presentation...

ps: i'll give us time to revise until noon tomorrow then printing

Minerva said

at 8:25 am on May 10, 2012

Okay, so just to make sure as I'm ending with my last question, what I'm going to talk about isthe female/male perspective on dealing with death. In socitey women are seen as the weaker emotional sex and male are the emotionally more resilient ones. In "The Gloaming" Janet is the stronger and more resilient sex, being able to cope and be with her son in his dying time. Martin consistently avoids his son and does not speak to him once in the story. It is only at the end after Laird's death that he even asks a question about his son and Janet as the stronger of the two, she decides to answer him and talk to him about his son. That's just a rough example of what I plan to go off of, I'll use examples of the text in between to support it.

n.ortega@... said

at 10:28 am on May 10, 2012

idk who wants to say the final note but i think we agreed that in order to accept death one must value life, and the same goes both ways. You can't value death without life and you can't value life without death...If we wanted to go further we could end it by relating it to real life where in our society when a person is in a comma they are described as being in the in-between of life and death. Since our society places its focus on the living, we do everything in our power to keep that person alive instead of looking at it through a deconstructionist view point were they would see the value in death and allow them to peaceful die...morbid thought I know but its just a suggestion.

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