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Deconstruction—a mode of close reading associated with the contemporary philosopher Jacques Derrida and other members of the "Yale School"—is the current critical rage, and is likely to remain so for some time. Reading Deconstruction / Deconstructive Reading offers a unique, informed, and badly needed introduction to this important movement, written by one of its most sensitive and lucid practitioners. More than an introduction, this book makes a significant addition to the current debate in critical theory.

G. Douglas Atkins first analyzes and explains deconstruction theory and practice. Focusing on such major critics and theorists as Derrida, J. Hillis Miller, and Geoffrey Hartman, he brings to the fore issues previously scanted in accounts of deconstruction, especially its religious implications. Then, through close readings of such texts as Religio Laici, A Tale of a Tub, and An Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, he proceeds to demonstrate and exemplify a mode of deconstruction indebted to both Derrida and Paul de Man. This skillfully organized book, designed to reflect the "both/ and" nature of deconstruction, thus makes its own contribution to deconstructive practice. The important readings provided of Dryden, Swift, and Pope are among the first to treat major Augustan texts from a deconstructive point of view and make the book a valuable addition to the study of that period.

Well versed in deconstruction, the variety of texts he treats, and major issues of current concern in literary study, Atkins offers in this book a balanced and judicious defense of deconstruction that avoids being polemical, dogmatic, or narrowly ideological. Whereas much previous work on and in deconstruction has been notable for its thick prose, jargon, and general obfuscation, this book will be appreciated for its clarity and grace, as well as for its command of an impressively wide range of texts and issues. Without taming it as an instrument of analysis and potential change, Atkins makes deconstruction comprehensible to the general reader. His efforts will interest all those concerned with literary theory and criticism, Augustan literature, and the relation of literature and religion.

G. Douglas Atkins is professor of English at the University of Kansas. He is the author of The Faith of John Dryden.

"Deconstruction has become famous for the opacity of its prose and ideas. Atkins goes a long way towards clarifying that opacity. . . . Moreover, he does all of this in really quite lucid prose, something which the French tradition of the many important continental deconstructionists seems to preclude."—Choice

"Presents straightforward explications that illuminate the works...Offers insights into Pope's poetry."—Library Journal

"Both in style and in content, this is a remarkable book. Reading Deconstruction/Deconstructive Reading is extraordinarily concise, but for the purpose of precise communication, not obfuscation or opaqueness."—Review

"Places the poems in the light of deconstruction and, in the reading of 'Duniciad IV,' places deconstruction in the light of Pope. The book is a delight to re-read."—Choice

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Literature, Deconstruction


Comparative Literature

Reading Deconstruction, Deconstructive Reading
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