In my last post on postmodernism, I ended saying that one of the defining characteristics of postmodernism is “differance.” But I didn’t give a good explanation of differance. To be fair, postmodern literature is often murky, but I think the paths along the swamp are clearly enough lit.
Two ways to explain differance
The first way is to say that meaning is always deferred. We can never fully answer a question with an appeal to a single word. When we answer, our words often appeal (defer) to yet another word (pardon the terribly short synopsis).
The second way is that differance creates ontological space. This can be space between entities or space between concepts. Differance can also be the creation of hierarchies. When I say this isn’t that, I am differentiating objects (or people, or concepts). This is fairly harmless, but it also involves a potentially volatile process. By differentiating entities, I am also creating “oppositions.”
Oppositions are not necessarily violent. God’s differance with his creation can be seen as harmony, not violence. But in today’s discourse, it often is violent. For the academy today, oppositions usually mean someone creates an “other.” The “other” is often seen as a scapegoat or a symbolic representation of the dangers to “the society.”
This is merely a literary exploration.