Literary criticism
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Literary Criticism. Class #1. Structuralism. “ Linguistics is not simply a stimulus and source of inspiration but a methodological model which unifies the otherwise diverse projects of structuralists.” (Culler, Structuralist Poetics , 4).

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Literary Criticism

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Literary Criticism

Class #1


Structuralism


  • “Linguistics is not simply a stimulus and source of inspiration but a methodological model which unifies the otherwise diverse projects of structuralists.”

  • (Culler, Structuralist Poetics, 4)


  • Barthes: “I have been engaged in a series of structural analyses which all aim at defining a number of non-linguistic ‘languages’”

  • (Essais critiques, 155; qtd in Culler, Structuralist Poetics, 4).


Ferdinand de Saussure

(1857-1913)


Publications

  • 1916

    Course in General Linguistics


  • “the father of modern linguistics”

  • Led to “the linguistic turn” in the 20th- century history of ideas


The Sign 符號


I.

  • “The bond between the signifier and the signified is arbitrary,” not “motivated” (by natural resemblance).

    (Saussure)


  • “The meanings we give to words are purely arbitrary, and . . . these meanings are maintained by convention only” (Barry 41).


bracketing the referent

  • =leaving out the third dimension of the sign, that to which it refers

  • Argued that language should be studied apart from the world to which it refers.

  • Language = chess?

    (Norton 959)


bracketing the referent

  • Against “reference,” essentialism, or mimetic representation, namely, one-to-one correspondence between words and things


Possible exceptions

  • 1. Onomatopoeia: “shatter,” “clash,” “tick-tock,” “drip-drop”

  • 2. Interjections: “哎呀!” “Ouch!” “Damn!” “Gosh!” “Shit!”


II.

  • “In language there are only differences 差異" (Saussure, Course in General Linguistics).

  • “The meanings of words are . . . relational” (Barry 42).


  • The definition of any given word “depends for its precise meaning on its position in a ‘paradigmatic chain,’ that is, a chain of words related in function and meaning each of which could be substituted for any of the others in a given sentence” (Barry 42).


Vertical axis

Paradigmatic chain

syntagmatic chain

Horizontal axis


mat

bat

  • I bought my hat in an antique store.

    cat

    rat


hovel

shed

hut

  • Ms. Su lives in a house.

    apartment

    mansion

    palace


  • Saussure’s example: “we feel the 8.25 p.m. Geneva-to-Paris Express to be the same train each day, though the locomotive, coaches, and personnel may be different. This is because the 8.25 train is not a substance but a form, defined by its relations to other trains. It remains the 8.25 even though it leaves twenty minutes late, so long as its difference from the 7.25 and the 9.25 is preserved. Although we may be unable to conceive of the train except in its physical manifestations, its identity as a social and psychological fact is independent of those manifestations” (Culler 11).


Binary Oppositions

  • “Indeed, the relations that are most important in structural analysis are the simplest: binary oppositions” (Culler, 14).


  • good / eviloriginal / copyprimary / secondaryinside / outsidereality / appearanceessence / accident

  • http://www.lawrence.edu/dept/english/courses/60A/handouts/binaries.html


  • soul / bodypure / corruptedfather / sonmale / femalespeech / writing

  • http://www.lawrence.edu/dept/english/courses/60A/handouts/binaries.html


  • center / marginsnormal / deviantnatural / unnaturalstraight / gaywhite / blackself / other

  • http://www.lawrence.edu/dept/english/courses/60A/handouts/binaries.html


  • truth / fictionphilosophy / mythsciences / humanitiesclassical / romantic

    modern / postmodernpoet / critichttp://www.lawrence.edu/dept/english/courses/60A/handouts/binaries.html


  • sex / gendermaster / slavehigh culture / pop culture

    base / superstructurewaking / dreaming

    latent content / manifest contentthe library / the web

  • http://www.lawrence.edu/dept/english/courses/60A/handouts/binaries.html


http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/S4B/sem05.html


L’Homme Sans Tête

  • (directed by Juan Solanas)

  • Discussion: Identify the binary opposites.


the paradigmatic chain

  • “What goes without saying” → ideology

  • What is “conspicuous by its absence” → flout conventional expectations → value

  • (Daniel Chandler, “Semiotics for Beginners,” http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/S4B/sem05.html)


III.

  • “Language constitutes our world . . . Meaning is always attributed to the object or the idea by the human mind, and constructed by and expressed through language: it is not already contained within the things” (Barry 43).


  • Problems with Descartes’ idea: “I think therefore I am”?

  • World language I

mediator


武松打店

  • Discussion:

    (1) Identify binary oppositions

    (2) Discuss how language constitutes our world.


Langue vs. Parole

  • Parole 話語 : an individual utterance (specific, diachronic)

  • Langue 語系: a larger system or structure (synchronic, ahistorical)

    (Barry 44)


  • “Any actual ‘speech’ (parole) presupposes a system (langue) which is being used.”

    (Selden 55)


Noam Chomsky

  • Competence能力→ Langue

  • Performance表現→ Parole


semiology vs. semiotics

  • Semiology:

  • Semiotics:


Food for Thought

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of using linguistics to study other cultural phenomena?


Claude Lévi-Strauss

(1908-)


Publications

  • 1962 The Savage Mind

  • 1962 Totemism

  • 1964-71 Mythologiques (4 vols)

  • 1978 Myth and Meaning

  • 1984 Anthropology and Myth


  • "Structuralism is the search for unsuspected harmonies..."

  • (Lévi-Strauss, qtd. in http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/information/biography/klmno/levi-strauss_claude.html)


Myth = Language


The Oedipus Myth

  • (1) the overvaluation of kinship ties (Oedipus marries his mother; Antigone buries her brother unlawfully)

  • (2) the undervaluation of kinship (Oedipus kills his father; Eteocles kills his brother)


Lévi-Strauss

  • “[T]he individual tale (the parole) from a cycle of myths did not have a separate and inherent meaning but could only be understood by considering its position in the whole cycle (the langue) and the similarities and difference between the tale ad others in the sequence” (Barry 46).


  • “A structural anthropologist may examine the customs and rituals of a single group of people in some remote part of the world not simply to understand them in particularbutto discover underlying similarities between their society and others”

  • (Dobie, Theory into Practice, 140)


  • The End


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