Haunting history: Deconstruction and the spirit of revision

This essay explores the ways that the specter of deconstruction has been haunting history over the past thirty years, in particular this specter's effects on the revision of intellectual and cultural history. The essay uses the terms "specter" and "haunting" to express the fact that while deconstruction is repeatedly targeted in attacks against the dangers of postmodernism, poststructuralism, or the linguistic turn, very few historians actively use deconstruction as a historical methodology; in this regard the target has always been a phantom. However, some historians have employed the methods of deconstruction, and by examining their work as well as the attacks on it the essay attempts to explain the historiographical reasons behind these attacks. The goal of the essay is ultimately to indicate some of the ways that deconstruction is useful for the historian, as evidenced in the project of historical revision.