What is it?

                       Deconstruction: A school of philosophy that originated in France in the late
                        1960s, has had an enormous impact on Anglo-American criticism. Largely the
                        creation of its chief proponent Jacques Derrida, deconstruction upends the
                        Western metaphysical tradition. It represents a complex response to a variety of
                        theoretical and philosophical movements of the 20th century, most notably
                        Husserlian phenomenology, Saussurean and French structuralism, and Freudian
                        and Lacanian psychoanalysis.
                             [First paragraph of a seven-page explanation in the Encyclopedia of
                                       Contemporary Literary Theory (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993).]

                       Deconstruction: The term denotes a particular kind of practice in reading and,
                        thereby, a method of criticism and mode of analytical inquiry. In her book The
                        Critical Difference (1981), Barbara Johnson clarifies the term:
                             "Deconstruction is not synonymous with "destruction", however. It is in fact
                        much closer to the original meaning of the word 'analysis' itself, which
                        etymologically means "to undo" -- a virtual synonym for "to de-construct." ... If
                        anything is destroyed in a deconstructive reading, it is not the text, but the claim to
                        unequivocal domination of one mode of signifying over another. A deconstructive
                        reading is a reading which analyses the specificity of a text's critical difference from
                           [First paragraph of a four-page definition of the term deconstruction in J.A.
                                       Cuddon, A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory, third ed. (London:
                                       Blackwell, 1991)].

                        Deconstruction: School of philosophy and literary criticism forged in the writings
                        of the French philosopher Jacques Derrida and the Belgium/North American literary
                        critic Paul De Man. Deconstruction can perhaps best be described as a theory of
                        reading which aims to undermine the logic of opposition within texts.
                              [Start of a four-page definition of deconstruction in A Dictionary of Critical
                                        Theory (London: Blackwell, 1996).]