Presentation on theme: "The Play of Meaning(s) : Structuralism and Poststructuralism, including Deconstruction."— Presentation transcript:
The Play of Meaning(s) : Structuralism and Poststructuralism, including Deconstruction
A. Structuralism: Context and Definition Structuralism is scientific and objective. It identifies structures, systems of relationships, which endow signs (e.g., words) or items (e.g., clothes, cars, table manners, rituals) with identities and meanings, and shows us the ways in which we think. Structuralists emphasize that description of any phenomenon or artifact without placement in the broader systems that generate it is misleading if not impossible.
B. The Linguistic Model Ferdinand de Saussure represented meaning in terms of this diagram. It depicts how an abstract mental concept is expressed in material form through a "sound-image" (i.e., an utterance, a written word, a picture). Saussure ‘s theory of language systems distinguishes between la langue and la parole. The parole is impossible without the support- the structural validity, generation, meaning- conferred upon it by the langue. A linguistic sign joins a signifier (a conventional sound construction) to a signification (semantic value, meaning).
The approach to analyzing sentences is symtagmatic – word by word in the horizontal sequence if parts or syntagms of the sentence. The two elements are irreducibly united, each evoking the recollection of the other. The mental concept is called the signified, and the material sound-image is better known as the signifier. Meaning, then, is instantiated in the process of signification. Saussure, who spoke French, called the sound pattern signifiant, and the concept signifié. These words have been translated in lots of different ways.
(a) shows Saussure’s first effort to depict the constitution of a sign in its two parts. A sound-image serves to represent an abstract mental conception (which in turn may stand for some “thing” in the world). (b) shows the same relation, except using the technical terminology Saussure introduces. The word “sign” is not useful to indicate the thing that does the representing, as it is the sign itself that is made of two parts: nothing is a signifier unless it is bound to something else signified, and it is this binding that constitutes the sign. (c) shows an example: the Latin word arbor is a signifier in the Latin language for the concept of a tree
C. Russian Formalism: Extending Saussure Vladimir Propp studied Russian folktales as structural units that together contained a limited number of types of characters and actions; Propp called these actants and functions. Vladimir Propp.
Victor Shklovsky pointed out literature’s constant tendency toward estrangement and defamiliarization, away from habitual responses to ordinary experience and/or ordinary language. Ex. Poetry. Shklovsky also emphasized that narrative has two aspects: story, the events or functions in normal chronological sequence, and plot, the artful, subversive rearrangement and thus defamiliarization of the parts of that sequence. Victor Shklovsky Mayakovsky and Viktor Shklovsky, Germany, 1923
Story and Plot Story is the elementary narrative that seeks relatively easy recognition, whereas plot estranges, prolongs, or complicates perception as in, say, one of Henry James’s fictions. Vladimir Propp
D. Structuralism, Lévi-Strauss, and Semiotics Lévi-Strauss concentrated on the paradigmatic approach– that is, on the deep or imbedded structures of discourse that seem to evade a conscious arrangement by the artisan but are somehow embedded vertically, latently, within texts and can be represented sometimes as abstractions or as paired opposites (binary oppositions). Lévi-Strauss.
D. Structuralism, Lévi-Strauss, and Semiotics The myth studies of Lévi-Strauss suggests the kind of links we infer between Oedipus Rex and Hamlet, or between King Lear and Moby-Dick, or between the Divine comedy and Leaves of Grass because the semiotic approach links messages in individual works to their respective codes, the larger system which permits individual expression- connects parole to langue(The Raw and the Cooked 147). “Raw” and “cooked” are shorthand terms meant to differentiate what is found in nature from what is a product of human culture.
E. French Structuralism Instead of the Russian formalists’ distinction between story and plot, the French structuralists use the terms histoire (essentially the sequence of events from the beginning to the end) and discours(discourse; the narrative rearranged and reconstructed for its own purposes and aesthetic effects). The well known French (post)Structuralist Roland Barthes.
E. French Structuralism In such an approach, the text is a message that can be understood only by references to the code. The reader gets the message(parole) only by knowing the code (langue) that lies behind it. Todorov has assured us that structuralism cannot interpret any literary work: it can only show us how to identify a work’s characteristic features and perhaps how to perceive their likenesses to or differences from structures in other works.
E. French Structuralism Barthes classifies five literary codes in fiction: 1.The code of actions (proairetic codes) asks the reader to find meaning in the sequence of events. 2.The code of puzzles (hermeneutic code) raises the questions to be answered. 3.The cultural code refers to all the systems of “knowledge and values invoked by a text.” 4.The connotative code expresses themes developed around the characters. 5.The symbolic code refers to the theme as we have generally considered it the meaning of the work.
F. British and American intrpreters Jonathan Culler is usually credited with the greatest success in mediating European structuralism to students of critical theory in Britain and the United States, mainly through his Structuralist Poetics; however, Robert Scholes’s Structuralism in Literature may have done more to simplify and clarify the issues and the practical possibilities of structuralism for nonprofessional students of literature.
F. British and American intrpreters Culler stresses that it is the reader’s business to find contexts that make a text intelligible and to reduce the “strangeness” or defamiliarization achieved by the text.
F. British and American intrpreters Poststructuralism and deconstruction are virtually synonymous. Deconstruction arises out of the structuralism of Roland Barthes as a reaction against the certainties of structuralism. Like structuralism, deconstruction identifies textual features, but, unlike structuralism, concentrates on the rhetorical rather then the grammatical.
G. Poststructuralism: Deconstruction Whereas structuralism finds order and meaning in the text as in the sentence, deconstruction finds disorder and a constant tendency of the language to refute its apparent sense. Michel Foucault. Known for trying to erase the traditional boundaries between science, history, philosophy, and science.
Instead of discovering one ultimate meaning for the text, deconstruction describes the text as always in a state of change, furnishing only provisional meanings. Further, deconstruction opposes logocentrism, the notion that written language contains a self-evident meaning that points to an unchanging meaning authenticated by the whole of Western tradition. Jacques Derrida. He deconstructs Saussure and Rousseau to illustrate Western society's logocentrism and phoncentrism, or focus on the "metaphysics of presence."
G. Poststructuralism: Deconstruction Despite its alleged shortcomings, the value of deconstruction may be as a corrective, as some of its cautions are absorbed into other interpretive approaches. In the Introduction and first chapter the authors orient us to Derrida and his work and invite us to participate in philosophical discourse with him through examination of key terms: logocentrism, deconstruction, invention, impossibility, understanding, translation, difference, and justice.
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