Contemporary Literary Theory is not a single thing but a collection of theoretical approaches which are marked by a number of premises, although not all of the theoretical approaches share or agrees on all of them.
Meaning is assumed to be created by difference, not by ―presence‖, (that is, identity with the object of meaning). As the revisionist Freudian Jacques Lacan remarks, a sign signals the absence of that which it signifies. Signs do not directly represent the reality to which they refer, but (following the linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure) mean by difference from other words in a concept set. All meaning is only meaning in reference to, and in distinction from, other meanings; there is no meaning in any stable or absolute sense. Meanings are multiple, changing, contextual.

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