Among his major works in this effortnare Elements of Semiology, S/Z, Empirenof Signs, and Mythologies. As anposthumous collection of assortednprefaces, critical essays, and shortnarticles. The Rustle of Language doesnnot represent a major addition to hisnoeuvre. Still, the reader of these diversenessays can get some idea of thenproblematic character of contemporarynlanguage study.nIn several of these pieces, Barthesnpursues structuralist objectives by “scientifically”ndissecting various modes ofnsymbolic expression—that of historians,nthat of gourmets, that of rulersnversus the ruled, that of teachers versusnstudents—trying to discover their internalndynamics and their social significance.nRepeatedly, Barthes assertsnthat, as with Marxism, anthropology,nand Freudianism, the goal is “to demystifynlanguages.” His “countertheological”napproach to words setsnhim against “the whole of Westernn(Greco-Judeo-Islamo-Christian) civilization,nunified in one and the samentheology (essence, monotheism).”nGod and the Author must die togethernon the altar of structuralism.nYet Barthes concedes “a certain embarrassment,neven a certain laceration,”ncaused by structuralism’s attemptn”to keep the distance of anscience in relation to its object,” language.n”How,” Barthes asks, “cann[structuralism] fail to call into questionnthe very language by which it knowsnlanguage?” Just as the self-consumingnregression of rationalism finally leadsnto what O.K. Chesterton called “thensuicide of thought,” as skepticism finallyndoubts its own mental tools, evennso the attempt to take the scientificnmeasure of words with words was foredoomed.nRather than simply repudiate structuralismnand semiology, though, Barthesnprefers to redefine them. It wasnnecessary, he explains, for him ton”corrupt languages [and] vocabularies”nand so “shift the meaning of words” asn”a way of thwarting the Image” he hadnacquired as a leading structuralistn”with a touch of narrow pedantry.” “Innthe case of Semiology, which I helpednconstitute, I have gone over to the sidenof the Corrupters.” Barthes declaresnthat “structuralism’s logical extensionncan only be to join literature no longernas ‘object’ of analysis but as activity ofnwriting.” For him, the “science of thensignifier” no longer takes as its goaln”the analysis of the sign” but insteadnseeks the “dislocation” of the sign:nIt is no longer the myths whichnmust be unmasked . . . but thensign itself which must benperturbed: not to reveal then(latent) meaning of a statement,nof a feature, of a narrative, butnto fissure the verynrepresentation of meaning; notnto change or purify symbols,nbut to contest the symbolicnitself. . . . Initially, we soughtnthe destruction of then(ideological) signified; now wenseek the destruction of the sign.nThe goal, acknowledged as “utopian,”nis the production of “a desituated,ndis-alienated language” notnrepressed by any extant social, political,nor historical linguistic order. Anlanguage of historical givenness offendsnBarthes almost as much as one ofndivine grace, and he denounces grammarnas intrinsically “fascistic” becausenit is “based on subordination: subject,npredicate, direct and indirect object.”n(If grammarians are fascists, does thisnmean that fascists are no worse thanngrammarians?) Shorn of every linkagento heaven or earth, “texts” are tied ton”no author or origin but languagenitself, i.e., the very thing which ceaselesslyncalls any origin into question.”n(Where were Barthes’ royalty checksnsent?) These rootless texts are fillednwith a “plurality of meaning: an irreduciblen(and not just acceptable)nplurality … an explosion.” Thisnhardly sounds like linguistic “science.”nRather, it sounds like in his last yearsnthe perpetual avant-gardist was runningnhard, trying to catch up withnJacques Derrida and all of the literaryn”deconstructionists” who are still ridingnhigh in Derrida’s turbulent wake.nRejecting the scientific pretension ofnstructuralism, Derrida has made hisncareer by stressing the radical indeterminacynof language. But Derrida hasnfrom the first shared with Barthes andnother structuralists an antipathy to anyntranscendent or theological understandingnof language. His project isn”the unrelieved temporalization ofnlogos, the reduction of meaning tonrhythm, the disintegration of all representationninto instinct and desire.”nnnReaders must abandon the futilensearch for certainty and truth and insteadnsimply play with multiple interpretationsnof texts.nIn recent years numerous academicncritics in Europe and America havenadopted Derrida as their prophet andnhave feverishly “deconstructed” poemsnand novels for the edification of theirnbewildered sophomore literature students.nDeconstructionists insist thatnthe mind of the author cannot benknown and that there can therefore benno authoritative reading of any text.nThe deconstructor overturns andn”transgresses” normative understandingnof the text. The new and alwaysnprovisional meaning of literaturenemerges in the “lateral dance of interpretation,”nand we make up the stepsnas we go along. There is no voicen”behind” the text for the deconstructionist,nso the poem or novel becomesnan echo chamber into which henshouts, with perhaps an occasionalnchorus sung by his “interpretive community.”nSince there is “nothing outsidenof the text” for the deconstructionist,nliterature no longer offersnwindows looking out upon new mentalnlandscapes, merely a fun-house arraynof mirrors for narcissists and solipsists.nIn the United States, J. Hillis Miller,nGeoffrey Hartman, and Paul denMan — all professors at Yale — assumednthe leadership of the deconstructionistnmovement. With booksnlike Hartman’s Saving the Text, denMan’s Allegories of Reading, and Miller’snFiction and Repetition, and withnhelp from such other “New Readers”nas Harold Bloom and Stanley Fish,nthey captured widespread attention forndeconstruction among college Englishnprofessors. In 1984 the University ofnOklahoma sponsored a conference onndeconstruction and its three Yalenchampions, recently publishing thenconference papers and symposia exchangesnin Rhetoric and Form: Deconstructionnat Yale. If this conferencenmay be taken as any indication, deconstructionnmay already be ebbing asna critical force in literary study.nIt is not that the protests of oldfashionednhumanists such as M.H.nAbrams, Wayne Booth, Gerald Graff,nand Denis Donohue are effecting anreturn to a more traditional and integrativenunderstanding of literature. Farnfrom it. In Rhetoric and Form, thenDECEMBER 1986 / 23n