You are on page 1of 25 Structuralism From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia For other uses, see Structuralism (disambiguation).

This article's introduction section may not adequately summarize its contents. To comply with Wikipedia's lead section guidelines, please consider modifying the lead to provide an accessible overview of the article's key points in such a way that it can stand on its own as a concise version of the article. (discuss). (January 2012) This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (February 2008) Structuralism is a theoretical paradigm that emphasizes that elements of culture must be understood in terms of their relationship to a larger, overarching system or "structure." Alternately, as summarized by philosopher Simon Blackburn, Structuralism is "the belief that phenomena of human life are not intelligible except through their interrelations. These relations constitute a structure, and behind local variations in the surface phenomena there are constant laws of abstract culture".[1] Structuralism originated in the early 1900s, in the structural linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure and the subsequent Prague[2], Moscow[2] and Copenhagen schools of linguistics. In the late 1950s and early '60s, when structural linguistics was facing serious challenges from the likes of Noam Chomsky and thus fading in importance in linguistics, an array of scholars in the humanities borrowed Saussure's concepts for use in their respective fields of study. French anthropologist Claude Lvi-Strauss was arguably the first such scholar, sparking a widespread interest in Structuralism.[1]. The structuralist mode of reasoning has been applied in a diverse range of fields, including anthropology, sociology, psychology, literary criticism, economics and architecture. The most prominent thinkers associated with structuralism include Lvi-Strauss, linguist Roman Jakobson, and psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. As an intellectual movement, structuralism was initially presumed the heir apparent to existentialism. However, by the late 1960s, many of Structuralism's basic tenets came under attack from a new wave of predominantly French intellectuals such as the philosopher and historian Michel Foucault, the philosopher and social commentator Jacques Derrida, the Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser, and the literary critic Roland Barthes.[2] Though elements of their work necessarily relate to structuralism and are informed by it, these theorists have generally been referred to as post-structuralists. In the 1970s, structuralism was criticised for its rigidity and ahistoricism. Despite this, many of structuralism's proponents, such as Jacques Lacan, continue to assert an influence on continental philosophy and many of the fundamental assumptions of some of structuralism's critics (who have been associated with "post-structuralism") are a continuation of structuralism.[3] Contents [hide] 1 Overview 2 Structuralism in linguistics 3 Structuralism in anthropology and sociology 4 Structuralism in literary theory and criticism 5 History 6 Interpretations 7 Bibliography 8 See also 9 Notes 10 Further reading [edit]Overview The origins of structuralism can be attributed to the work of Ferdinand de Saussure on linguistics, along with the linguistics of the Prague and Moscow schools. In brief, Saussure's structural linguistics can be understood as three related concepts.[1]

(1) He argued for a distinction between langue (an idealized abstraction of language) and parole (language as actually used in daily life). He argued that the "sign" was composed of both a signified, an abstract concept or idea, and a "signifier," the perceived sound/visual image. (2) Because different languages have different words to describe the same objects or concepts, there is no intrinsic reason why a specific sign is used to express a given signifier. It is thus "arbitrary." (3) Signs thus gain their meaning from their relationships and contrasts with other signs. As he wrote, "in language, there are only differences 'without positive terms.'" As summarized by philosopher John Searle,[4] Saussure established that 'I understand the sentence "the cat is on the mat" the way I do because I know how it would relate to an indefinite indeed infiniteset of other sentences, "the dog is on the mat," "the cat is on the couch," etc." The term "structuralism" itself appeared in the works of French anthropologist Claude Lvi-Strauss. This gave rise, in France, to the "structuralist movement", which spurred the work of such thinkers as Louis Althusser, the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, as well as the structural Marxism of Nicos Poulantzas. Most members of this movement did not describe themselves as being a part of any such movement. Structuralism is closely related to semiotics. Blending Freud and De Saussure, the French (post)structuralist Jacques Lacan applied structuralism to psychoanalysis and, in a different way, Jean Piaget applied structuralism to the study of psychology. But Jean Piaget, who would better define himself as constructivist, considers structuralism as "a method and not a doctrine" because for him "there exists no structure without a construction, abstract or genetic"[5] Michel Foucault's book The Order of Things examined the history of science to study how structures of epistemology, or episteme, shaped the way in which people imagined knowledge and knowing (though Foucault would later explicitly deny affiliation with the structuralist movement). In much the same way, American historian of science Thomas Kuhn addressed the structural formations of science in his seminal work The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Though less concerned with "episteme", Kuhn nonetheless remarked at how coteries of scientists operated under and applied a standard praxis of 'normal science,' deviating from a standard 'paradigm' only in instances of irreconcilable anomalies that question a significant body of their work. Blending Marx and structuralism was another French theorist, Louis Althusser, who introduced his own brand of structural social analysis, giving rise to "structural Marxism". Other authors in France and abroad have since extended structural analysis to practically every discipline. Proponents of structuralism would argue that a specific domain of culture may be understood by means of a structuremodelled on languagethat is distinct both from the organizations of reality and those of ideas or the imaginationthe "third order".[6] In Lacan's psychoanalytic theory, for example, the structural order of "the Symbolic" is distinguished both from "the Real" and "the Imaginary"; similarly, in Althusser's Marxist theory, the structural order of the capitalist mode of production is distinct both from the actual, real agents involved in its relations and from the ideological forms in which those relations are understood. According to Alison Assiter, four ideas are common to the various forms of structuralism. First, that a structure determines the position of each element of a whole. Second, that every system has a structure. Third, structural laws deal with co-existence rather than change. Fourth, structures are the "real things" that lie beneath the surface or the appearance of meaning.[7] [edit]Structuralism in linguistics See also: Structural linguistics In Ferdinand de Saussure's Course in General Linguistics (written by Saussure's colleagues after his death and based on student notes), the analysis focuses not on the use of language (called "parole", or speech), but rather on the underlying system of language (called "langue"). This approach examines how the elements of language relate to each other in the present, synchronically rather than diachronically. Saussure argued that linguistic signs were composed of two parts: a "signifier" (the "sound pattern" of a word, either in mental projectionas when one silently recites lines from a poem to one's selfor in actual, physical realization as part of a speech act) a "signified" (the concept or meaning of the word) This was quite different from previous approaches that focused on the relationship between words

and the things in the world that they designate.[8] Other key notions in structural linguistics include paradigm, syntagm, and value (though these notions were not fully developed in Saussure's thought). A structural "idealism" is a class of linguistic units (lexemes, morphemes or even constructions) that are possible in a certain position in a given linguistic environment (such as a given sentence), which is called the "syntagm". The different functional role of each of these members of the paradigm is called "value" (valeur in French). Saussure's Course influenced many linguists between World War I and World War II. In the United States, for instance, Leonard Bloomfield developed his own version of structural linguistics, as did Louis Hjelmslev in Denmark and Alf Sommerfelt in Norway. In France Antoine Meillet and mile Benveniste continued Saussure's project. Most importantly[according to whom?], however, members of the Prague school of linguistics such as Roman Jakobson and Nikolai Trubetzkoy conducted research that would be greatly influential. However, by the 1950s Saussure's linguistic concepts were under heavy criticism and were soon largely abandoned by practicing linguists: "Saussure's views are not held, so far as I know, by modern linguists, only by literary critics and the occasional philosopher. [Strict adherence to Saussure] has elicited wrong film and literary theory on a grand scale. One can find dozens of books of literary theory bogged down in signifiers and signifieds, but only a handful that refer to Chomsky."[9] The clearest and most important example of Prague school structuralism lies in phonemics. Rather than simply compiling a list of which sounds occur in a language, the Prague school sought to examine how they were related. They determined that the inventory of sounds in a language could be analyzed in terms of a series of contrasts. Thus in English the sounds /p/ and /b/ represent distinct phonemes because there are cases (minimal pairs) where the contrast between the two is the only difference between two distinct words (e.g. 'pat' and 'bat'). Analyzing sounds in terms of contrastive features also opens up comparative scopeit makes clear, for instance, that the difficulty Japanese speakers have differentiating /r/ and /l/ in English is because these sounds are not contrastive in Japanese. While this approach is now standard in linguistics, it was revolutionary at the time. Phonology would become the paradigmatic basis for structuralism in a number of different fields. [edit]Structuralism in anthropology and sociology Main article: Structural anthropology According to structural theory in anthropology and social anthropology, meaning is produced and reproduced within a culture through various practices, phenomena and activities that serve as systems of signification. A structuralist approach may study activities as diverse as foodpreparation and serving- rituals, religious rites, games, literary and non-literary texts, and other forms of entertainment to discover the deep structures by which meaning is produced and reproduced within the culture. For example, Lvi-Strauss analyzed in the 1950s cultural phenomena including mythology, kinship (the alliance theory and the incest taboo), and food preparation. In addition to these studies, he produced more linguistically focused writings in which he applied Saussure's distinction between langue and parole in his search for the fundamental structures of the human mind, arguing that the structures that form the "deep grammar" of society originate in the mind and operate in us unconsciously. Lvi-Strauss took inspiration from information theory and mathematics[citation needed]. Another concept utilised in structual anthropology came from the Prague school of linguistics, where Roman Jakobson and others analyzed sounds based on the presence or absence of certain features (such as voiceless vs. voiced). Lvi-Strauss included this in his conceptualization of the universal structures of the mind, which he held to operate based on pairs of binary oppositions such as hot-cold, male-female, culture-nature, cooked-raw, or marriageable vs. tabooed women. A third influence came from Marcel Mauss (18721950), who had written on gift-exchange systems. Based on Mauss, for instance, Lvi-Strauss argued that kinship systems are based on the exchange of women between groups (a position known as 'alliance theory') as opposed to the 'descent' based theory described by Edward Evans-Pritchard and Meyer Fortes. While replacing Marcel Mauss at his Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes chair, Lvi-Strauss' writing became widely popular in the 1960s and 1970s and gave rise to the term "structuralism" itself. In Britain authors such as Rodney Needham and Edmund Leach were highly influenced by structuralism. Authors such as Maurice Godelier and Emmanuel Terray combined Marxism with

structural anthropology in France. In the United States, authors such as Marshall Sahlins and James Boon built on structuralism to provide their own analysis of human society. Structural anthropology fell out of favour in the early 1980s for a number of reasons. D'Andrade suggests that this was because it made unverifiable assumptions about the universal structures of the human mind. Authors such as Eric Wolf argued that political economy and colonialism should be at the forefront of anthropology. More generally, criticisms of structuralism by Pierre Bourdieu led to a concern with how cultural and social structures were changed by human agency and practice, a trend which Sherry Ortner has referred to as 'practice theory'. Some anthropological theorists, however, while finding considerable fault with Lvi-Strauss's version of structuralism, did not turn away from a fundamental structural basis for human culture. The Biogenetic Structuralism group for instance argued that some kind of structural foundation for culture must exist because all humans inherit the same system of brain structures. They proposed a kind of Neuroanthropology which would lay the foundations for a more complete scientific account of cultural similarity and variation by requiring an integration of cultural anthropology and neurosciencea program that theorists such as Victor Turner also embraced. [edit]Structuralism in literary theory and criticism Main article: Semiotic literary criticism In literary theory, structuralist criticism relates literary texts to a larger structure, which may be a particular genre, a range of intertextual connections, a model of a universal narrative structure, or a system of recurrent patterns or motifs.[10] Structuralism argues that there must be a structure in every text, which explains why it is easier for experienced readers than for non-experienced readers to interpret a text. Hence, everything that is written seems to be governed by specific rules, or a "grammar of literature", that one learns in educational institutions and that are to be unmasked. [11] A potential problem of structuralist interpretation is that it can be highly reductive, as scholar Catherine Belsey puts it: "the structuralist danger of collapsing all difference."[12] An example of such a reading might be if a student concludes the authors of West Side Story did not write anything "really" new, because their work has the same structure as Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. In both texts a girl and a boy fall in love (a "formula" with a symbolic operator between them would be "Boy + Girl") despite the fact that they belong to two groups that hate each other ("Boy's Group - Girl's Group" or "Opposing forces") and conflict is resolved by their death. Structuralist readings focus on how the structures of the single text resolve inherent narrative tensions. If a structuralist reading focuses on multiple texts, there must be some way in which those texts unify themselves into a coherent system. The versatility of structuralism is such that a literary critic could make the same claim about a story of two friendly families ("Boy's Family + Girl's Family") that arrange a marriage between their children despite the fact that the children hate each other ("Boy Girl") and then the children commit suicide to escape the arranged marriage; the justification is that the second story's structure is an 'inversion' of the first story's structure: the relationship between the values of love and the two pairs of parties involved have been reversed. Structuralistic literary criticism argues that the "literary banter of a text" can lie only in new structure, rather than in the specifics of character development and voice in which that structure is expressed. Literary structuralism often follows the lead of Vladimir Propp, Algirdas Julien Greimas, and Claude Lvi-Strauss in seeking out basic deep elements in stories, myths, and more recently, anecdotes, which are combined in various ways to produce the many versions of the ur-story or ur-myth. There is considerable similarity between structural literary theory and Northrop Frye's archetypal criticism, which is also indebted to the anthropological study of myths. Some critics have also tried to apply the theory to individual works, but the effort to find unique structures in individual literary works runs counter to the structuralist program and has an affinity with New Criticism. [edit]History Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, existentialism, such as that propounded by Jean-Paul Sartre, was the dominant European intellectual movement. Structuralism rose to prominence in France in the wake of existentialism, particularly in the 1960s. The initial popularity of structuralism in France led to its spread across the globe. Structuralism rejected the concept of human freedom and choice and focused instead on the way

that human experience and thus, behavior, is determined by various structures. The most important initial work on this score was Claude Lvi-Strauss's 1949 volume The Elementary Structures of Kinship. Lvi-Strauss had known Jakobson during their time together in New York during WWII and was influenced by both Jakobson's structuralism as well as the American anthropological tradition. In Elementary Structures he examined kinship systems from a structural point of view and demonstrated how apparently different social organizations were in fact different permutations of a few basic kinship structures. In the late 1950s he published Structural Anthropology, a collection of essays outlining his program for structuralism. By the early 1960s structuralism as a movement was coming into its own and some believed that it offered a single unified approach to human life that would embrace all disciplines. Roland Barthes and Jacques Derrida focused on how structuralism could be applied to literature.[citation needed] [dubious discuss] [edit]Interpretations This section needs additional citations for verification. (March 2011) Structuralism is less popular today than other approaches, such as post-structuralism and deconstruction. Structuralism has often been criticized for being ahistorical and for favoring deterministic structural forces over the ability of people to act. As the political turbulence of the 1960s and 1970s (and particularly the student uprisings of May 1968) began affecting academia, issues of power and political struggle moved to the center of people's attention.[citation needed] In the 1980s, deconstruction and its emphasis on the fundamental ambiguity of language rather than its crystalline logical structurebecame popular. By the end of the century structuralism was seen as an historically important school of thought, but the movements that it spawned, rather than structuralism itself, commanded attention.[citation needed] Some observers have strongly criticized structuralism or even dismissed it in toto. Anthropologist Adam Kuper[13] argued that "'Structuralism' came to have something of the momentum of a millennial movement and some of its adherents felt that they formed a secret society of the seeing in a world of the blind. Conversion was not just a matter of accepting a new paradigm. It was, almost, a question of salvation." Structuralism Structuralism is a mode of thinking and a method of analysis practiced in 20th-century social sciences and humanities. Methodologically, it analyzes large-scale systems by examining the relations and functions of the smallest constituent elements of such systems, which range from human languages and cultural practices to folk tales and literary texts. In the field of linguistics the structuralist work of Ferdinand de SAUSSURE, undertaken just prior to World War I, long served as model and inspiration. Characteristic of structuralist thinking, Saussure's linguistic inquiry was centered not on speech itself but on the underlying rules and conventions enabling language to operate. In analyzing the social and collective dimension of language rather than individual speech, he pioneered and promoted study of grammar rather than usage, rules rather than expressions, models rather than data, "langue" (language) rather than "parole" (speech). Saussure was interested in the infrastructure of language that is common to all speakers and that functions on an unconscious level. His inquiry was concerned with deep structures rather than surface phenomena, and made no reference to historical evolution. (In structuralist terminology, it was synchronic, existing now, rather than diachronic, existing and changing over time.) In the domain of anthropology and myth studies, the work done in the immediate post-World War II period by Claude LEVI-STRAUSS introduced structuralist principles to a wide audience. Following the ideas of Saussure and of the Slavic linguists N. S. Trubetzkoy and Roman Jacobson, LeviStrauss specified four procedures basic to structuralism. First, structural analysis examines unconscious infrastructures of cultural phenomena; second, it regards the elements of

infrastructures as "relational," not as independent entities; third, it attends singlemindedly to system; and fourth, it propounds general laws accounting for the underlying organizing patterns of phenomena. In humanistic and literary studies, structuralism is applied most effectively in the field of "narratology." This nascent discipline studies all narratives, whether or not they use language; myths and legends, novels and news accounts, histories, relief sculptures and stained-glass windows, pantomimes and psychological case studies. Using structuralist methods and principles, narratologists analyze the systematic features and functions of narratives, attempting to isolate a finite set of rules to account for the infinite set of real and possible narratives. Starting in the 1960s, the French critic Roland BARTHES and several other French narratologists popularized the field, which has since become an important method of analysis in the United States as well. Because structuralism values deep structures over surface phenomena, it parallels, in part, the views of Marx and Freud, both of whom were concerned with underlying causes, unconscious motivations, and transpersonal forces, shifting attention away from individual human consciousness and choice. Like Marxism and Freudianism, therefore, structuralism furthers the ongoing modern diminishment of the individual, portraying the self largely as a construct and consequence of impersonal systems. Individuals neither originate nor control the codes and conventions of their social existence, mental life, or linguistic experience. As a result of its demotion of the person, or subject, structuralism is widely regarded as "anti-humanistic." Saussure envisaged a new discipline, a science of signs and sign language which he named "semiology," and for which he believed structural linguistics could provide the principle methodology. The American philosopher C. S. PEIRCE, Saussure's contemporary, sketched a similar science labeled "semiotic." In 1961, Levi Strauss situated structural anthropology within the domain of "semiology." Increasingly, the terms "semiology" and SEMIOTICS came to designate a field of study that analyzes sign systems, codes, and conventions of all kinds, from human to animal and sign languages, from the jargon of fashion to the lexicon of food, from the rules of folk narrative to those of phonological systems, from codes of architecture and medicine to the conventions of myth and literature. The term semiotics has gradually replaced structuralism, and the formation of the International Association for Semiotic Studies in the 1980s has solidified the trend. At the moment when structuralist methodology was expanding into the discipline of semiotics, critical reaction occurred, particularly in France, where it led to such antithetical and schismatic projects as Gille Deleuze's "schizoanalysis," Jacques Derrida's DECONSTRUCTION, Michel Foucault's "genealogy," and Julia Kristeva's "semanalysis." These critical schools were lumped together and given the label of "postconstructionalism" in the United States. Despite the various critiques of structuralism, it has generated much important work and holds promise of continuing to do so. Vincent B. Leitch Bibliography: Culler, Jonathan, Structuralist Poetics (1975); De George, Richard and Fernande, eds., The Structuralists (1972); Harari, Josue, ed., Textual Strategies: Perspectives in PostStructuralist Criticism (1979); Harland, Richard, Superstructuralism: The Philosophy of Structuralism and Post-Structuralism (1987); Hawkes, Terence, Structuralism and Semiotics (1977); Leitch, Vincent B., American Literary Criticism from the Thirties to the Eighties (1988); Scholes, Robert, Structuralism in Literature (1974). Structuralism: Like New Criticism, Structuralism concentrates on elements within works of literature without focusing on historical, social, and biographical influences. Structuralism, however, is

grounded in linguistics and developed by Ferdinand de Sausseure. Sausseure's work argues that language is a complete, self-contained system and should be studied as such. Sausseure also claimed that language is a system of signs. When applied to literature, this form of criticism is generally known as Semiotics (see above). For further reading: Semiotic and Structural Analyses of Fiction: An Introduction and a Survey of Applications by Leonard Orr; Structuralism in Literature: An Introduction by Robert Scholes; and The Role of the Reader: Explorations in the Semiotics of Texts by Umberto Eco. Structuralist Approaches A. BACKGROUND: Linguistics of Ferdinand Saussure (see Abrams, "Linguistics in Literary Criticism," pp. 103-107) 1. Distinction between parole: any particular meaningful use of spoken or written language (also called "performance") langue: the underlying system of sounds, forms, and rules of combination of a language which make meaningful communication possible (a speaker's implicit knowledge of this system is called "competence") 2. Principle of difference: in any language, difference from other elements in the linguistic system, rather than any positive property or correspondence to something existing outside the linguistic system, establishes identity and thus creates meaning. Sounds ("phonemes"): compare bag, beg, big, bog, bug Forms ("morphemes"): compare its and it's Words ("semantemes"): compare beautiful and ugly Sentences ("syntax"): compare Mark loves Mary and Mary loves Mark. 3. Sign: composed of the union of Signifier: sequence of sounds or marks on a page (e.g., c-h-a-i-r) Signified: concept or meaning (idea of a chair) This whole sign stands in an arbitrary relation to its Referent, an externally existing object or action (the actual object on which I am sitting); this relation exists only because it is conventionally agreed upon within a particular language community. Saussure felt that linguists must bracket off the real object, direct their study away from the referent and concentrate solely on the sign in order to fully understand the workings of language. B. SEMIOTICS: systematic study of signs and signifying systems (a field of study which frequently uses the method of structuralism); may treat as quasi-languages objects and activities not immediately apparent as signs (often called "codes"; e.g., "gastronomic code": "phonemes": elements considered edible (calves' brains but not eye of newt; snails but not insects) "morphemes": possible combinations of such elements (hot fudge but not gravy on ice cream) "syntax": order and method of consuming these elements (meat and potatoes before ice cream; use of fork and spoon) 1. Emphasis on langue rather than parole, on how meaning is created in these signifying systems rather than on what the particular meaning is; interested in relational aspects of signifying systems 2. Literary semioticians are particularly interested in poetry, which may be analyzed as foregrounding the signifier, calling attention to its sound and appearance on the page, etc. 3. A semiotic approach to The Awakening might deal with a topic like "eating as sign," studying the relations of all references to eating in the novel, analyzing these into codes to determine their underlying system, possibly relating them to other codes in the novel (e.g., dress). C. STRUCTURALISM: a method of enquiry, applying linguistic theory to a wide array of objects and

activities; heavily influenced by cultural anthropology, especially that of Claude Lvi-Strauss, who studied myths, kinship systems, rituals, etc. 1. Interested in langue rather than parole, in particular cultural phenomena primarily as these reveal the structures and rules of the general system 2. Regards signifying systems as culturally variable but the deep laws that govern these as universal, even as rooted in unchanging structures of the human mind (e.g. the creation of meaning through binary opposition--beautiful vs. ugly--and the effort to find a reconciling middle term--the "ugly duckling") 3. Structuralist literary critics attempt to identify the smallest meaningful units in a work ("mythemes," "deep structures") and study their modes of combination with a view to understanding how meaning is created rather than interpreting the actual meaning conveyed by the particular text e.g. Vladimir Propp in Morphology of the Folk Tale identified 31 fairy tale elements (e.g., hero leaves home; hero receives warning or prohibition; hero violates warning; villain discovers essential information about hero; etc.) which may not all appear in every tale but which always follow certain sequences 4. A structuralist approach to The Awakening might deal with a topic like "the nature/culture dichotomy," analyzing the oppositions between sea/land, Grand Isle/New Orleans, Kentucky farm childhood/Creole society adulthood, infatuation/marriage with swimming providing a possible middle term (social activity, bathing suits, controlled passage from land to sea to land) which in the end fails to reconcile the dichotomy (nakedness, land to sea to drowning) 5. Structuralists are not concerned with consumption of literature, about what happens when people actually read the works, about the role of literature in social relations. Structuralist studies show how the narrative code generates meaning through the literary conventions of the narrative. Modern literary theory distinguishes between a work and a text. A work presupposes the author; the supremacy of the author and his or her control over the meaning of the work. In contrast, a text is self-contained, looked at independently from the author. With Structuralist theories, meaning is thus interpreted from the text. Text is derived from the word tessutus meaning a woven thing, therefore implying the notion of intertextuality and the notion that literature depends on other texts since it does not exist in a vacuum. The Linguistic Background of Structuralism Structuralists insist that structure is important to convey meaning and applied linguistic and anthropological structures to literature in order to convey its underlying structure. Literature is seen as something encoded, written in such a way as to convey a certain kind of meaning and in order to understand literature one needs to decipher the codes. Structuralists agree that literature has a special relationship with language. It draws attention to the very nature and specific properties of language. In this respect Structuralist poetics are closely related to Russian Formalism. The Linguist Ferdinand de Saussure The work of the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure has been profoundly influential in shaping contemporary literary theory. Linguist Structuralists have applied notions of structuralism to literature.

Saussure revolutionised the way we look at linguistics. He made a distinction between the traditional diachronic study of language and the synchronic. The new synchronic perspective ignores the historical development of language. Saussure promotes the focus on the present functioning of language; the principles on which language functions at a particular time rather than the traditional diachronic evolution of language. According to Saussure language is a system of relations between its constituent units; and the identity of a unit depends on its relationship with other units. Language is thus form and not substance, where the general system enables meaning to be produced. It is the relation of the units to each other which establishes the context. Roman Jakobson, Tzvetan Todorov, and Gerard Genette, all apply linguistic notions to the study of literature. Literature is seen as a system in which a work is included. Structuralism as Applied to Literature Structuralists begin to study narratives by looking at the structure rather than the content. A narrative structure is meaningful and texts have to be analysed within the prevailing and established code. Structuralist studies show how the narrative code generates meaning through the literary conventions of the narrative. Structuralist theories show that the function of literature is not just to imitate life. In fact some postmodern texts draw attention to their own fictionality even while they depend on the effect of the real. The drawback of Structuralism is that it emphasizes structure at the expense of meaning and the message of literature. Reading With An Eye on Deep Structure Resources... Voice of the Shuttle: Literary Theory Page Elements of Structuralism Saussure and the Sign n Why We Read Generally speaking, a structuralist reads to identify and understand fundamental structures in absolutely anything by seeing a text (object, event, document, action, etc.) as part of an even larger system. Of course, a literary structuralist focuses on structures in "literary" texts (and a structuralist would help define "literary" by studying the deep structure in texts we label "literary"). The project is pseudo-scientific because a structuralist supposedly only maps what is there. She does not evaluate; she only charts and compares or links one structure with another. A grammarian is a perfect example of a structuralist because she doesnt care about the content of the sentences she maps. She cares about how certain words function within a sentence. A structuralist does the exact same thing with literary texts; she wants to map the "grammar" of the text she studies. But why even do this? Structuralists still have enough humanist residue on them to study for the sake of knowledge. Admittedly, it is a pleasure perhaps to feel as though one understands the "fundamental" structure of anything and to make connections between texts. n What We Read Structuralists are willing to read anything, for everything is part of a sign system, from literary texts to velvet paintings, from cars to a celebritys face, from ancient cultures to Madonna. In fact, this ability to move from one system to another is what makes structuralism so useful. The theory not only reveals that "literature" is a human construct (not an inherent or essential category), but that everything is a "text" in that everything is part of a sign system or "language." One can choose to focus (perhaps problematically) on "literary" systems or link "literary" systems to other systems. i.e. How does literary studies function within the larger structure of the university? of our economy? of

certain ideologies? n How We Read You may want to consider these questions. While the questions here will help you, my writing hints also provide a kind of step-by-step methodology. First, look for repetitions, patterns, echoes, and oppositions in people, places, language, objects, movement, and decisions. Second, uncover the implications of the repetitions and oppositions by exploring the relationships of similarity and difference that link the storys events and actions. This is where you look for the metaphorical content in the people, places, language, objects, movement, and decisions. This is where you try to identify the allusions, the "subtexts," the connections between other texts. Finally, use your observations to come up with your claims as to the texts function, not meaning. Or put another way, the text's function is its meaning. Interpretation depends heavily on your ability to make connections, and this ability will improve as you read, study, and observe. One could argue that education is the process of learning to make connections. More connections become possible as you learn more. For example, I cant connect a diaper ad with the Oedipus myth if I have never read Sophoclesbut I still need a way of seeing that helps me connect the two. Enter structuralism....

Writing Resources... General Writing Suggestions

Writing Suggestions:

Part One: Gathering Data/Prewriting Create at least two charts or diagrams: First, make a "t-chart" of what is valorized and devalorized in the text you are studying. Remember, by valorized, I mean what does the text seem to valorize, not what you valorize. Be sure as well to "flesh out" the chart as much as you can by including terms suggested by other terms. For example, in Blake's "Garden of Love," he includes terms like "green," "Garden," and "flowers," but these terms also seem to suggest "fertility," "growth," "nature," "life," "Eden," etc. In other words, include the connotations of the key words and concepts along with the key terms. Second, make a chart that identifies parallels, patterns, repetitions, echoes, contrasts, and cause and effect relationships within the text. Remember that you are reducing the text to a visual chart that indicates the fundamental structure of relations in plot, character, setting, imagery, and anything else you deem relevant. Be a map maker, a literary cartographer! Part Two: Making Meaning Make sense of your charts by explaining the deep structure in prose form. That is, persuade your reader that youre right about the deep structure that you have located. Justify your conclusions. Give reasons for your observations. Part Three: Making Connections Link the structure you have discovered to at least one other structure. For example, you could be a... ...literary critic and link your text with other "literary" texts (with texts within the same collection, by the same author, by the authors contemporaries, within the same genre, within the same time period). Even if you are focusing on a so-called non-literary text like an advertisement, you can link it to the "literary" tradition, or you may want to link your text to whatever "genre" it belongs to (ads with other ads; social systems with other social systems, etc.) ... myth critic (albeit related to a literary critic because myths are arguably "literary" texts) and link your text with some myth, ancient or contemporary. That is, you can link a text to the myth of Apollo or to some specific American myth (i.e. the Western cowboy as a symbol of freedom, etc.). Please note there is more involved in myth criticism than I imply, but myth critics are, at the core, structuralists. (And structuralism helped me make that conclusion because I look at what literary critics do and what myth critics do and lo and behold, they share the same fundamental structure!) Thanks to his books and TV shows, Joseph Campbell is probably the most famous of myth scholars, and Northrop Frye, along with his Anatomy of Criticism, is the most famous literary myth critic. Although a kind of psychologist, Carl Jung also provides a useful framework to discuss myth in literary texts. All three of these guys provide frameworks or maps of basic story structures that we can use to make sense of other texts. ... cultural critic (more to come on this subject) and link your text with a more abstract structure (i.e. the structure of a text is similar to the structure of capitalismIf you work hard, you are supposed to be successful) or to other contemporary texts that we find in popular culture (i.e. If Braveheart were my text, I would link it to other medieval romances like Rob Roy, First Knight, etc. or to "action-adventure" films, for Braveheart is nothing more than a medieval action adventure story.) In sum, what you are doing is connecting one deep or basic structure with another. Structuralists are similar to New Critics in that New Critics also locate patterns, map structure, identify tensions, etc. but New Critics dont go beyond the text they study. The system they study is the text before them, nothing more. Their text is a discreet object, living an orphaned life. For the structuralists, however, the text is always part of larger systems, and one cant begin to study it without studying the larger systems. In fact, a poem cant even be a poem unless we acknowledge that its part of a larger system (and shares fundamental traits, attributes, and structures with other texts that we call "poems"). Structural Analysis Structuralism, from which Structural Analysis derives, is the methodological principle that human culture is made up of systems in which a change in any element produces changes in the others. Four basic types of theoretical or critical activities have been regarded as structuralist: the use of language as a structural model, the search for universal functions or actions in texts, the explanation of how meaning is possible, and the post-structuralist denial of objective meaning. In the field of literature, in which Structuralism and Post-Structuralism have gained particular importance, Structuralism seeks to explain the structures underlying literary texts either in terms of a grammar modeled on that of language or in terms of Ferdinand de Saussure's principle that the meaning of each word depends on its place in the total system of language. Though limited to literature, this definition from the Dictionary of Concepts in Literary Criticism and Theory provides an understanding of what Structuralism or Structural Analysis is about. The French theorist Roland Barthes expands this definition by characterizing Structuralism in terms of its reconstitutive activity: "The goal of all structuralist activity, whether reflexive or poetic, is to reconstruct an 'object,' in such a way as to manifest thereby the rules of functioning (the 'functions') of this object. The structure is therefore actually a simulacrum of the object, but it is a directed, interested simulacrum, since the imitated object makes something appear which remained invisible or, if one prefers, unintelligible in the natural object" (Barthes, 1963). For Jean-Marie Benoist, "An analysis is structural if, and only if, it displays the content as a model, i.e., if it can isolate a formal set of elements and relations in terms of which it is possible to argue without entering upon the significance of the given content" (Benoist, 8). In other words, Structuralism is not concerned with the content of a text or any other kind of system; rather, it analyzes and explores the structures underlying the text or system, which make the content possible. One of the leading principles of Structuralism is that the form defines the content ("form is content"). That is, that the underlying structure of a text or system, which presents and organizes the content, determines the nature of that content as well as its message or communicated information. Thus Structuralism analyzes how meaning is possible and how it is transmitted - regardless of the actual meaning. According to Claude L vy-Strauss, as well as other Structuralist thinkers in linguistics, anthropology, psychology, and biology (as well as other disciplines), the human mind structured to operate in certain ways and which determines the way we think and operate, regardless of the discipline we are working, the culture we are living in, or the language that we speak. The view that there is in man an innate, genetically, transmitted and determined mechanism that acts as a structuring force is one underlying premises of Structuralism and, though this view is far from reaching consensus among Structuralist thinkers, it has lead to the belief that there are permanent structures in our minds that determine who we are and what we can be. In this sense, this view of Structuralism is simply based on the application of structuralist principles to the human mind. Whether these principles can be applied only to texts, science, research methods, systems, etc., or be expanded to the human mind remains to be seen. However, this debate illustrates the basic premises of Structuralism and their universal application. Like Discourse or Critical Analysis, Structural Analysis (which can be considered part of Discourse Analysis) may be applied to any discipline. What differs Structuralism from Discourse Analysis is its scientific claim or, rather, it's focus on underlying structures instead of content. Through this focus, Structuralism claims to

preserve a certain level of objectivity in its analysis. Structuralism has turned into Post-Structuralism and many of the thinkers who were previously considered Structuralists are now labeled PostStructuralists. This is the case of Michel Foucault, Derrida, Barthes, and Lacan, as well as of others. Again, this illustrates the close kinship between Structuralism and Discourse Analysis and that theories and philosophies are not easily classified and distinguished from each other. Suffice it to note here, that Discourse Analysis is a broader concept than Structuralism and that current theories of Discourse Analysis rely upon the premises established by Structuralism. It should also be noted that Structural Analysis plays an important role in the fields of Engineering and Chemistry and other "hard" sciences. While the principles are basically the same, structural analysis in these fields is probably not surrounded by the same controversy and the term "Structuralism" probably does not apply in the same manner as in the Humanities and Social Sciences. top | home Advantages and Disadvantages Structural Analysis can be used to study any kind of system, text, or material. It applies equally to the Humanities and Social Sciences as well as to the "hard" Sciences, though with different connotations. The methods of Structural Analysis might be different in each discipline. For example, Structural Analysis in Linguistics or Psychology might differ from Structural Analysis in Literature or the study of information retrieval and organization. The basic premises, however, are the same. As with all other methods of research the validity of the conclusions obtained through structural analysis depend on the quality and rigor of the study. In the Social Sciences, the validity of Structural Analysis may rest on quantifiable and verifiable research; though this may also be the case in the Humanities, the construction of the argument might have more importance. The major advantage of Structural Analysis is that it enables an awareness to underlying structures and reveals their limiting and conditioning nature. However, it does not enable analysis of the content. Another disadvantage is that the search for ultimate and final structures (especially in Psychology and Anthropology) may stifle innovation and enhancement (not to mention its limiting character with regard to human psychology and interaction). Works Cited, and other Useful Resources Works Cited Barthes, Roland. "The Structuralist Activity." In Critical Essays. Trans. R. Howard. Evanston, Ill: Northwestern University Press, 1972. This essay is a good starting point and introduction to both Structuralism and the thought of one its main theorists, the French critic Roland Barthes. The brief nature of the essay and its summarizing of Barthes major ideas makes this essay particularly appealing. Benoist, Jean-Marie. The Structural Revolution. Trans. A. Pomerans. London: Widenfeld and Nicolson, 1978. Collection of essays by Jean-Marie Benoist which relate structuralism to a number of philosophical and literary traditions. Harris, Wendell. "Structuralism." Dictionary of Concepts in Literary Criticism and Theory. New York : Greenwood Press, 1992. 378-387. Though the article is concerned with Structuralism in regards to Literary Criticism and Theory, it provides an excellent, brief explanation of the concepts behind structuralist thought and constitutes a good introduction to the various theories within Structuralism in regards to narrative texts. Other Useful Print Resources Badcock, Christopher. Lvy-Strauss: Structuralism and Sociological Theory. London: Hutchinson, 1975.

This is a useful explanation of Claude Lvy-Strauss' theory and importance for Social Criticism and Structuralism, especially since Lvy-Strauss can be difficult to grasp. The book is mostly free of structuralist jargon and written from the point of view of sociological theory and the history of sociological thought. Ehrmann, Jacques, Ed. Structuralism. New York: Anchor Books, 1970. This is a collection essays by important theorists and scholars on Structuralism in Linguistics, Anthropology, Art, Psychiatry, and Literature. The authors include such important figures as Claude Lvy-Strauss, Jacques Lacan, Michael Riffaterre, and Tzvetan Todorov. In addition, the volume provides bibliographies on Structuralism in all three disciplines. This is a good introductory resource, though sometimes difficult of access, as some of the essays are written by the theorists themselves. Gibson, Rex. Structuralism and Education. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1984. As a part of the series Studies in Teaching and Learning, Structuralism and Education provides an excellent introduction the application of structuralist theories to the study of education. Gibson explains Structuralism, its methods, concepts, and origins, while remaining skeptical about its claim to inform human behavior. In addition, the volume contains a chapter on Structural Analysis as a method of studying educational practice, that provides a useful definition as well as examples of Structural Analysis. top | home Useful Links Structural Equation Modeling is a statistical method. It was designed for the areas of the social sciences where precise measurements are difficult to find, but where the investigator supposes that there is some underlying construct that cannot be measured directly but nevertheless can be assessed indirectly by measuring a number of relevant indicators. Structural equation modeling, and in particular the special case of factor analysis, was developed for this purpose, typically dealing with individuals' behavior, attitudes or mental performance. This page on Structural Equation Modeling contains an index of SEM-related resources available on the WWW; this includes links to listservs, general sites on Structural Equation Modeling, as well as special topics, software applications, and course syllabi. It is an excellent place to start exploring Structural Equation Modeling, as it provides a complete overview over the method (through the links), as well as access to current software. Full text access to the following paper by Duane Truex: "The Debate in Structural Linguistics: how it may impact the information systems field." This paper argues that the use of concepts in Information Science research which have been borrowed from references disciplines may present difficulties when the concepts are only partially imported into IS research. Providing an introduction into the ongoing debate in the field of linguistics, between Chomskyan structural linguists and linguists developing the notion of emergent grammars, the paper provides insight as to how that debate may impact the field of Information Science. Structural Anthropology, by Claude L vi-Strauss (1958), Chapter II: Structural Analysis in Linguistics and in Anthropology. Full text access to Claude Levi-Strauss' essay on structural analysis in Linguistics and Anthropology. Quite a long and difficult read, yet the most famous texts on how Structuralism applies to Anthropology and society; includes links to full primary texts by other famous thinkers of structural analysis, i.e. Ferdinand de Saussure, Durkheim, Althusser, and Marx. The page is part of a "Miniature Library of Philosophy" by Andy Blunden and contains numerous links to other relevant information on Structuralism as well as other Critical Theories that are worthwhile to explore. Large site on Statistical Data Analysis with numerous links, as well as bibliographic information; link to Structural Analysis of Discrete Data and other examples of statistical structural analysis. This is such a long page and the information/links to Structural Analysis are difficult to find. I recommend

searching for "structural" once the page is done loading. Page by Professor John Lye of Brock University on "Elements of Structuralism and its Application to Literary Theory." The page provides a definition of Structuralism and describes how it applies to literature. In addition, it provides a description of Structural Analysis in a broader sense and a useful glossary of vocabulary that is also applies to other fields. This is a good page to gain an understanding of what Structuralism is and how it can be applied to texts of any discipline. Examples of Structural Analysis Beghtol, Clare. Stories: Applications of Narrative Discourse Analysis to Issues in Information Storage and Retrieval. Knowledge Organization 24.2 (1997): 64-71. According to Clare Beghtol, research into narrative discourse (Discourse Analysis) is relevant to issues in document storage and retrieval, especially in the Arts and Humanities. The author contends that document retrieval may be simplified if fundamental categories that occur in texts can be isolated. Applying structuralist methods, Beghtol aims at analyzing texts in such manner that would allow a clear categorization of their nature and content. Beghtol is particularly interested in identifying reliable distinctions between narrative and non-narrative texts. Indeed, such a distinction would enable or enhance current problematic classification practices, especially in the classification of fiction. Through a clear distinction and categorization of fictional as well as non-fictional texts, user access to information could be greatly enhanced. Florance, Valerie. "Medical Knowledge for Clinical Problem Solving: A Structural Analysis of Clinical Questions." Bulletin of the Medical Library Association 80 (1992): 140-149. Concerned with the underutilization of current biomedical literature by physicians, Valerie Florance explores the nature of clinically applicable medical knowledge through a structural analysis of clinical questions. Through a survey of 60 question based on the actual online search requests of practicing physicians, Florance identified four states of information valuable in patient care: prediagnostic assessment; diagnostic; treatment choice; and learning. She concludes that clinical problem solving requires a blend of declaration and procedural knowledge. Salisbury, Lutishoor. "Structural Analysis and Design in a Library Environment." International Library Review 21 (1989): 231-239. Salisbury uses a structured approach to evaluate the application of structured analysis in requirement analysis and system design. The author starts by defining "structured approach" as a method that enables to organize problems hierarchically and to break them down into smaller understandable and workable problems, with recognizable relationships and sub-problems. In this manner, the author is able to recognize and solve the sub-problems, without losing sight of the overall system problem. The paper is an example of how a structured approach (which follows the same principles as those of Structure Analysis) can be applied to the field of Information Science. Yaru, Dang. "Structural Modeling of Network Systems in Citation Analysis." Journal of the American Society for Information Science 48 (1997): 946-952. Yaru describes the construction of a citation network system, including some subsystems (time sequence network, co-citation network, couple network) and establishes the structural modeling system for these systems by means of system engineering. This is an example the application of structural modeling to analyze and enhance a citation system (citation index). Structuralist theology HAD I WRITTEN THIS article in the approved style of semiology, you would not have read this far. For semiology is an impenetrable language practised in the realms of Higher Education in Film. So began Kevin Brownlows searing attack on the jargon of film criticism which he made in an article in the New Statesman earlier this year [1980]. Those who have waited for the tidal wave of correspondence produced by Brownlows article to give rise to even a ripple of reference or resentment in the calm lagoons of the literary press, have waited so far in vain. Perhaps that is because the real situation is even more embarrassing than Kevin Brownlow suggested. For the terrible truth is that a good deal of structuralist writing is not only impenetrable to the layman, it is

also impenetrable to the specialist. Try your hand at this for example, an extract from a seminar conducted by the French structuralist psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, now published in book form by Penguin under the title The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis: That by which the subject finds the return way of the vel of alienation is the operation I called, the other day, separation. By separation, the subject finds, one might say, the weak point of the primal dyad of the signifying articulation, in so far as it is alienating in essence. It is in the interval between these two signifiers that resides the desire offered to the mapping of the subject in the experience of the discourse of the Other, of the first Other he has to deal with, let us say, by way of illustration, the mother. If you found that a little opaque then you are in the good and honourable company of countless learned men and women. The situation was summed up in an advertisement for a French psychoanalytic magazine: January 1980. There are thousands of people who do not understand Lacan. In 1950 there were only twenty or thirty. Anthony Clare was given the task of reviewing The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis in New Society. Clare scarcely understood a word of it and was not afraid to say so. As it happened his copy of the book had two chapter fives, one of them placed before chapter six and the other ingeniously placed after chapter seven. In his review Clare confessed that he had got half-way through the second chapter five before anything struck him as familiar. But then, as he said, its that sort of book. The uninitiated might well think that that sort of book couldnt possibly be taken seriously by the academic community. But they would be wrong. For, as the initiated know, Jacques Lacan is taken very seriously indeed by a large number of psychoanalysts, psychologists, literary critics and sociologists not only in England, France and the USA but also in Spain, Italy, South America, Japan and probably every other country where people like to keep abreast of the latest intellectual fashions. Lacan is one of the two or three leading figures in what has been described as the most significant intellectual movement of our time structuralism. Writing in The Observer David Lodge has lamented the fact that structuralism has been ignored by the posh papers and that the BBC, while I they have seen fit to explain relativity to the viewing millions, have never mounted a programme on structuralism. He seems to forget that newspaper editors have their circulation figures to worry about and that the BBC has no charter alternately to bore and irritate its viewers to death. At the same time it must be said that things are very different in France. At a the beginning of the year the papers were full of the latest episode in what is called le phnomne Lacan. A banner headline was splashed across the front page of Le Monde and full-page features on Lacan appeared on all sides. Strangely, however, in all the sheaf of French press cuttings I have beside me there is no article which makes any attempt to explain Lacans ideas. The French press is not wholly unaware of its predicament, for one of the articles published by Le Monde is headed Who will dare to say that the emperor is naked?. In his New Statesman article Kevin Brownlow related his tireless but ultimately vain search for somebody who could explain the significance of semiology to him. I have conducted a similar search in order to find somebody who could illuminate Lacans ideas which are themselves partly based on semiology. I have read books, articles and commentaries. I have spoken to lecturers, professors and psychoanalysts. I have spoken to Lacans English translator and to an academic who is writing a book about him. All without success. As Lacans translator told me, Lacan doesnt intend to be easily understood He designs his seminars so that you cant, in fact, grasp them. I am by no means alone in coming to the conclusion that to quote one psychoanalytic writer , behind the smoke-screen there is nothing of substance. It seems necessary to go further than that, however. In his brave attempt to bring structuralism to the masses through the medium of The Observer David Lodge started to try and explain in simple language what structuralism was. After a couple of faltering sentences a tone of distinct embarrassment crept in. He began to apologise and soon gave up altogether. This is by no means unusual. For if you ask any structuralist to explain the fundamental; significance of the ideas behind

the movement you will find very few who are able to do so. Lacan, in other words, is only the most extreme example of a much wider problem. Take away the convoluted vocabulary and the impenetrable syntax and you are left with little or nothing except what is perhaps the most extraordinary religious movement which history has known. Though structuralism once claimed to be only a method of analysis, what it now offers is nothing less than a philosophy of life a key by which the mysteries of human nature may be unlocked. There are two ways of defining structuralism. One is to explain what it is about, the other isto explain what it is not about. Any philosophy of human nature will inevitably leave some parts of life out of account because it considers them trivial or insignificant and one of the best tests of a philosophy is to see what these are. Since Lvi-Strauss is generally agreed to be the purest structuralist thinker we might consider his intellectual system. Lvi-Strauss describes himself as an anthropologist a student of the nature of man. In LeviStrausss anthropology, however, there is no place for any consideration of joy or grief, of love or ! lust. Indeed the mere miracle of man on two legs is one for which Lvi-Strauss appears to have an infinite contempt. In his universe men and women are neither kind nor cruel, violent nor tender; they feel no religious fervour nor have they ever done so. Delivered from all contact with animality and emotions, they are passionless and pure. When so much has been subtracted from human nature there is, of course, very little left. What is left is composed mainly of language. But not language as any common language-user knows it. It is language reduced to a pure system, a system of binary oppositions and phonemic pairs, of abstract codes and symbolic logic. And when Lvi-Strauss has surveyed the whole rich realm of mythology, with its tales of passion and of pride, of children and parents, incest and worship, then all myths are reduced to this: Fx (a) : Fy (b) : : Fx (b) : Fa1 (y) This is the formula by which Lvi-Strauss says he has never ceased to be guided in his study of myth. Dont ask me what it means. I dont know. And please, whatever you do, dont ask a structuralist. For that would be like asking a believer whether they have touched God. Those unversed in the inner secretsof structuralism may well ask how, if this is the kind of thing it is, it can possibly be applied both to psychoanalysis and literature. Answering that mystery there come, over the university campuses in their long white coats and with their long white faces, the Ph.D.s, bearing in their hands the bound copies of their unreadable structuralist theses. Forthe most part, however, it has already been decided. Its true that for structuralist psychoanalysts or structuralist literary critics there are certain words which cannot easily be avoided, words to which humanity has a habit of sticking like love or desire, or even body. But when you encounter such gross and impure words as these in structuralist writing you should by no means idly assume that they mean to the structuralist what they mean to you. Take the word phallus for instance. Now that may not strike you as the most homely of words. But I can guarantee that if you came across it tucked away at the end of a paragraph of Lacanian jargon, it would seem to you as familiar and reassuring as a cup of hot Horlicks. You would soon find out the error of your ways though. For as we read in Anika Lemaires introduction to the thought of Lacan: The term Phallus, as used by Lacan, is not to be confused with the real, biological sex, with what is called the penis. It is an abstract signifier, which, like any symbol, goes beyond its materiality and beyond what it represents. Adopting a phrase from S. Leclaires Les lments en jeu dans une psychanalyse we can say that: It is a copula, a hyphen in the evanescence of its erection the signifier par excellence of the impossible identity. It would seem reasonable to assume that people who have any regard for writing like this can have no regard for literature. The situation, however, is quite the reverse of this and structuralist critics positively worship literature. When ordinary mortals read literature they do so with the help of their head and their heart and their five senses, and the literature they read never seems any the worse for that. When structuralists read literature it would seem that they do so with what Roland Barthes calls the sixth purely literary sense, the private property of producers and consumers of literature. For the inner mysteries of literature are not vouchsafed to you or to me. They are vouchsafed only to the Elect. And if you wish to become a member of that Elect you must first show that you too are gifted with unintelligible tongues. Then in literature you will find redemption, a redemption which is

unutterably good and pure, purer even than water which has itself been washed. The fact that this has nothing to do with literature is regrettable but it cannot be avoided. For gods are not there to be savoured; they are there to be worshipped. Of course it may be true that some literature does offer a kind of redemption. But it is a redemption deeper and darker than any structuralist could imagine. When Melville had finished writing Moby Dick he wrote to Nathaniel Hawthorne, I have written a wicked book, and feel spotless as a lamb. Literature is full of wicked books. They were written by writers like Shakespeare and Milton, Pope and Swift, Hardy and Lawrence. Their wickedness is nothing more or less than our humanity. Yet this is something towards which many feel more than a little distaste. Literature has sometimes offended by telling the truth and there have always been some who, rather than face their nature, have preferred to cut parts of it out. Those who lived before Victorian times called it castration. When Walter Scott was asked to expurgate Dryden, he sent back his answer: I will not castrate John Dryden, I would as soon castrate my own father, as I believe Jupiter did of yore. After some months Scott relented: I fear, that without absolutely gelding the bard, it will be indispensable to circumcise him a little by leaving out some of the most obnoxious lines. The Victorians themselves called it bowdlerisation. They bowdlerised Shakespeare, they bowdlerised Swift and they even bowdlerised the Bible. We have lost the Victorian capacity for honestly expressing our disgust. We no longer bowdlerise our literature because that would seem barbarous. Instead we have invented a philosophy which does it for us. We become structuralists and we learn the latest critical technique. And its called (would you believe it?) deconstruction. Edwyn Bevan once wrote that there was a stage in the life of St Augustine when all the many colours of life seemed to him only an undesirable stain on the white radiance of eternity. As a description of extreme Christian asceticism, thats reasonable. As a description of structuralism it could scarcely be bettered. And indeed, although some people would say that you should not now talk of structuralism but of post-structuralism, we would, if we had any sense of our religious tradition, talk not of structuralism at all but of post-Christianity. For if anyone should ask why learned men and women believe in structuralism, there is one very simple answer. For centuries educated people believed in heaven. Now they believe in structuralism. Of course there are no angels or demons in structuralism. There is no hellfire or brimstone. But neither for that matter are these things to be found in ordinary Christianity these days. John Updike has seen fit to lament the loss: Alas, we have become, in our Protestantism, more virtuous than the myths that taught us virtue; we judge them barbaric. Religion has indeed become a purer, more rational thing. And if your theology is even more advanced than that of Bishop Robinson, then structuralism or postChristianity is the church for you; it is the church for those who are too pure to entertain the idea of God. Although there are no supernatural beings in the church of post-Christianity there are, of course, many prophets and messiahs who tend to hand down from on high doctrines, which, as has been noted, are sometimes ineffably mysterious. If you look carefully you will find that post-Christianity also has Antichrists. And if you do not wish to renounce your vitality, or if you cling obstinately to your belief in the value of intuition or common sense or empiricism, or worst of all if you listen to the voice of your body rather than the voice of your mind, then perhaps you should tremble now. For you may be among them. David Lodge has suggested that we all need the intellectual refreshment that structuralism can provide. Of all the curious notions associated with structuralism, this must be the most curious. When the oasis stands up and walks into the barren desert in order to seek moisture, then on that day will the great mass of the educated public find refreshment in the philosophy of structuralism. But now that structuralism has decided that we need it, what should you do if a structuralist from the local university comes knocking at your door offering to refresh you with his doctrine, or rescue you from the flesh-pots of empiricism and common sense, or simply sell you a copy of the latest structuralist magazine? Whatever you do, do not send him away. Invite him in and make him a pot of tea. Sit him down by the fireside. But not too close to the fire. For the real reason the structuralist

has come knocking at your door is that his parched, dried soul is craving for the moisture of a little ordinary humanity. When he has moistened down a little, take him to the garden and let him do a good honest bit of digging and get his hands thoroughly grimed over with good honest dirt. And then if this seems to be in order take him in your arms and embrace him, and let him go unwashed back to the clean campus of the university he came from. What confusion will ensue! With what horror will his clean structuralist colleagues regard the real dirt on his hands and hear of the real honest work he has done! With what shame and embarrassment will he be covered! But, looking at his unwashed hands and feeling his body begin to ache, he may realise for the first time something of the depth of self-loathing on which his philosophy of life is founded. He may begin to see something of the fierceness of the contempt in which structuralism holds us all. Of course that is only a beginning. We cannot expect him to be redeemed overnight from sainthood into a state of reasonable sinfulness. But it is a beginning. Ah, but, you say, what of your own fierce contempt for structuralism? Why is it that you rant and rail so against structuralism with such lack of love and lack of charity as a Papist has for a Protestant or a Protestant for a Papist? That is a question I have asked myself and I fear you may already have guessed the answer. If not then it is a terrible confession I have to make. I too am a structuralist, a secret structuralist. And if you look around at the society in which we live and see its immense poverty, and see how we have locked away deep within us our own wealth and the wealth of our family and community relations, so that we begin to forget that such wealth even exists, then you might reasonably come to the conclusion that we are all structuralists now. For if joy and grief, cooperation and community count for nothing in the intellectual system of structuralism, then just how much do they count for in our system and the policy decisions by which we perpetuate and extend it? We have built a system of production which treats men and women with no less contempt than the philosophers of structuralism. In Jacques Lacan and Claude Lvi-Strauss we have perhaps simply got the messiahs we deserve. Having got most of the wealth of life safely out of the way, which we managed to do even without the help of our structuralist philosophers, we are now no longer distracted from our true purpose, which is, with each economy of scale we make, to squander a little more real wealth and accumulate a little more material wealth, and thus pursue economic growth successfully until we are impoverished quite beyond all rescue. Long before that though, if we continue in our structuralist and post-Christian world to pursue relentlessly the religious drive towards purity, we will soon reach the stage when compassion itself is a defilement and all life is in danger of being regarded as a contamination. If that should ever happen then not all the prayers offered up by the church of post-Christianity will help us. Perhaps it is time to stop and turn around before it is too late. Literary Review, September 1980 Structuralism

The Linguistic Background

de Saussure

Vladimar Propp Gerard Gennette A. J. Greimas, Tzvetan Todorov Claude Levi Strauss Jonathan Culler Metonymy and Metaphor

The Linguistic Background: Twentieth century linguists such as Ferdinand de Saussure and Roman Jakobson define language as "that stable systemic core that is susceptible to linguistic formalizations; everything else is mere speech, which is not language but the mere performance of true language" (Groden 466). In other words, anything that does not conform to the system that Saussure, Jakobson, and their contemporaries laid out is merely a deviation from real language. An important factor in linguistics is semiotics, "the domain of investigation that explores the nature and function of signs as well as the systems and processes underlying signification, expression, representation, and communication" (Groden 658). In linguistics the word, either written or spoken, is the sign. Saussure defines the sign as a union between a concept and a sound image, which he calls the signified and the signifier (Groden 652). The sound image is the word (either written or oral) that we use to define something, for instance, bicycle. The concept is the idea of the bicycle that the sound image puts into the recipients head. In Saussures definition the thing itself has no place. Words do not get their meaning from an inherent relationship with the things they represent, the connection is completely arbitrary but we recognize it "because it is defined as an element in a system, the structural whole of language (Groden 652). Saussure called the system langue, he called the individual utterances parole. It is easy to confuse the system with the way its used, to think of English as the set of English utterances. Learning English is not, however, about memorizing a set of utterances. You have to master a system of rules and norms which make it possible to produce and understand utterances. The rules of langue may be unconscious but they are known to exist in our "ability to not only understand utterances, but to recognize grammatically well-formed or deviant sentences, to detect ambiguity, to perceive meaning relations among sentences, etc. The linguist attempts to construct a system of rules that would account for this knowledge by formally reproducing it (Culler 8).

Ferdinand de Saussure

The initial work of Ferdinand de Saussure in the early twentieth century is where Structuralism in literary criticism gets its base. He based his examination on three basic assumptions: "The systematic nature of language, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts (Groden 697), which is to say that to study language scientifically one must examine the system or code, not just the utterances produced within the system. "The relational conception of the elements of language, where linguistic entities are defined in relationships of combination and contrast to one another (Groden 697). Linguists call the individual sounds that make up words, and in turn our language, phonemes. What Saussure is saying here is that phonemes combine and contrast with each other in the system to make recognizable words. "The arbitrary nature of linguistic elements, where they are defined in terms of the function and purpose they serve rather than in terms of their inherent qualities (Groden 697). This, as we saw above, refers to the idea that the word has no inherent relationship to the thing it describes. Signs cannot be studied by their causes, only their function. Structuralists take these premises and apply them further than simply to words and sentences, they look for the structure behind the broader categories of poetry and narratives.

Structuralist Critics and their Theories: Vladimir Propp Vladimir Propp was a Russian Formalist scholar who paved the way for future Structuralists to come. He was born in St. Petersburg Russia to a German family. Propp studied Russian and German philosophy from 1913 to 1918 at the University of St. Petersburg and later became a professor at Leningrad University in the 1930s until his death. Propp was an outstanding folklorist, concentrating on fairy tales, heroic epic poetry, and historical semantics (Makaryk 449-50). His most important contribution to the study of literature was his study of structural laws of folklore in "Morfologiia Skazki" (Morphology of the Folklore). It stated that each folk tale begins with an initial situation where members of the story are introduced, then it is followed up with thirtyone functions which do not all have to be there but always occur in the same order (Glucksmann 56-57). Gerard Genette Gerard Genette was a literary theoretician and structuralist critic. He studied at Ecole Normale Superieure and was primarily interested in poetics and rhetoric. His earliest published books were "Figures 1, 2 and 3", which consist of essays which focus on authors and methods and literary criticism. (Makaryk 333) He is renowned for his studies on narrative discourse. Genette believes that a narrative consists of a story, discourse, and narration; which are all related by tense, mood, and voice. He theorized that there are three binary oppositions that exist within narrative. The first is diegesis and mimesis (narrative and representation). Secondly, there is narration and description (active and complimentive). The last opposition is narrative and discourse (pure telling and telling). Gerard believes that narrative is nearly always impure, depending on the writer and readers opinions. He believed that the highest degree of purity in writing is in Hemmingway and Hammett (Makaryk 334).

A. J. Greimas A.J. Greimas was a semiotician, who studied law at the University of Grenoble. He later joined the military and escaped to France when his country was invaded. He then obtained his doctorate with his primary thesis in fashion and secondary thesis in social life (Makaryk 345). Greimas later taught the history of French language and became a founder of the Paris school of Semiotics.

Anthropology, folklore, linguistics, mythology, and phenomenology influenced his work (Makaryk 346). He theorized that within narrative there are three pairs of binary oppositions, the first being subject/ object, which is connected with desire, search and aim. Secondly there is sender/receiver, which is connected with communication. The last opposition is helper/opponent, connected with auxiliary support and hindrance (Hawkes 92-93). Greimas thought of narrative in terms of relationships between entities. He broke down Propp's thirty-one functions into twenty, which can be divided into the following three categories (Hawkes 94): 1. Contractual: concerned with establishing or breaking of contracts or rules 2. Performative: concerned with the actions of the characters 3. Disjunctive: concerned with the sequence of events and how they relate to each other Tzvetan Todorov The work of Tzvetan Todorov shifts from an emphasis on literature as writing to an emphasis on the connected activity of reading (Hawkes 95). He is another major critical thinker who seeks to establish a scientific account of narrative structure. He believes that all narratives need proposition, which is the smallest, most basic unit of narrative. This can be an agent (i.e. a person) or a predicate (i.e. an action). He also uses the story of Oedipus Rex, an abstract yet universal myth to stress his theory, which could also be referred to as an algebraic formula (Selden 75): -X is King -Y is Xs mother -Z is Xs father -X marries Y -X kills Z

In this example, the first three (king, mother, father) propositions denominate agents. These are specific people or nouns. The first and last two propositions contain predicates or actions: to be a king, to marry and to kill. He then goes on to present two higher levels of organization: 1.) 2.) Sequence: a group of propositions form a sequence Text: a group of sequences form text.

The basic sequence is made up of five propositions which outline a basic state of narration that is "disturbed" and then "re-established." For example (Selden 76): EQUILIBRIUM (stability or peace) FORCE (a disruption of peace i.e. enemy invades) DISEQUILIBRIUM (climax i.e. war) FORCE (in order to restore peace i.e. enemy is defeated) EQUILIBRIUM (peace on new terms or a form of compromise)

A succession of sequences form a text and this text can be organized in several different ways:

1.) Embedding: a story within a story, digression 2.) Linking: a string of sequences 3.) Alteration: interlacing of sequences 4.) Conglomeration: a mixture of all these forms

Todorov tried to identify the fundamental narrative units which come together to form larger structures in text. He aimed to develop a "universal grammar" which not only underlies all languages and signifying systems, but also acts as a guidebook for all language and lays out even the most basic functions and responsibilities of all human beings (Hawkes 97).

Claude Levi Strauss Levi Strauss was a popular French anthropologist who was most well known for his development of structural anthropology. Some reasons for his extreme popularity are identified in his refusal to see western civilization as privileged and unique, his emphasis on form over content and in his insistence that the "savage" mind is equal to that of the "civilized." He spent a great deal of time studying the behaviour of North and South American Indian tribes and believed that men of every culture shared identical characteristics. He believed that man moves from a natural to a cultural state as he develops language and becomes more educated in specific studies of discipline which he also believes to be inherent rather than learned. He derived structuralism from a school of linguistics where the focus was not on the meaning of the word, but the pattern(s) the word(s) form(s). This linguistic model of binary opposition is essential for understanding the human mind. Stories are written by humans, about humans, and for humans, therefore they ultimately reflect all that is human (Clarke 30-31). Strauss also introduced units of myth which he called "mythemes" and organized these units into binary oppositions. He noted that reoccurring patterns found in myths were not culture specific but ultimately universal, the answer being found in structure, not context. Myths are a form of complex language because they have to be told orally to exist. Both myth and language share many characteristics. For example they are both compiled of certain functions organized according to specific rules, these functions then form specific relationships with each other, and they are based on opposites which also provide the foundation for the structure (Piaget 121-22). This structural method of evaluation brings order out of chaos. Since myth is oral literature it is constantly evolving and being reinterpreted/modified to fit the social structure and beliefs of the time. Strauss was not interested in the narrative sequence as much as in the structural pattern which gave the myth meaning. Therefore, as long as the functions occur, order is not necessarily as important. The myth "grows" but the structure of the myth stays the same (Hawkes 33). Jonathan Culler Culler believed that history and the author were unimportant to the study of literature, beliefs that were similar to theorists such as the New Critics. However, Culler also believed that the text, what was actually written, was equally unimportant. He felt that the structure of language produces reality as opposed to language reflecting reality (Selden 85), or the idea that language uses us, as opposed to us using language. Basically this means that because our language is structured the way it is, words are a group of letters that grouped together form sound and meaning to the reader, each reader will interpret these words somewhat differently in a sentence (Sims). Works can only be written a certain way and everything we try to express in literature is governed by the confinements on our language system. Culler was not really interested in what interpretations

people come up with but how they come up with them, what systems they followed to reach their conclusions, and what interpretive conventions we use to get the meanings (Selden 82). Culler said that the poets and novelists would stay within certain conventions based on their knowledge of what a poem is and what a novel is. Similarly, readers can recognize prose or poetry even if it is written in a strange way, for example, if the line breaks are taken out of a poem so that is looks like prose. It would be harder for the reader to analyze a poem written in this was but s/he would still recognize it as a poem. Culler also makes a distinction between the competent reader and writer, and the non-competent reader and writer (Fish). The competent writer will always write in a way so that the competent reader understands. A competent writer knows to write poetry in a certain way so it is recognizable as poetry. People automatically read prose and poetry differently. They will look for metaphor and metonymy in poetry but not in prose. At this point structuralism has moved away from only being based on folklore and myth. Metaphor and Metonymy as Elements of Structuralism: Jakobson created another important concept within Structuralism; namely, a combination of metaphor and metonymy. In order to fully understand both parts of the concept it is important to know the definitions of both. Metonymy: A figure of speech that replaces the name of one thing with the name of something else closely associated with it. (i.e. the press - for journalists, the Crown - for royalty) (Baldick 135). Synecdoche is another form of metonymy. Synecdoche is when the name of a part is substituted for that of the whole. For example, hands - for manual laborers (Baldick 221). Metaphor: A figure of speech in which one thing, idea, or action is referred to by a word or expression normally denoting another thing, idea, or actions - this suggests a common quality shared by the two (Baldick 134). Jakobson studied aphasia with regards to its impacts on poetics (Selden 78). According to the national website ( aphasia is: An impairment of the ability to use or comprehend words, usually acquired as a result of a stroke or other brain injury. The primary symptom is an inability to express oneself when speaking, however, in some cases, reading and writing or understanding of speech can be the more impaired language modality. The Barthes clothes model can be applied as an example. This is explained using the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the model. The vertical dimension takes objects and substitutes them one for the other (ex. sweatershirtjacketvestblouse). The horizontal dimension takes the objects and makes a sequence out of them (ex. slacksblouseblazer) (Selden 78). Therefore the vertical dimension relates to the langue and the horizontal dimension relates to the parole. When Jakobson studied aphasia he noticed that children usually lost one dimension or another which hindered their ability to communicate. He defined each dimension even further as: Contiguity disorderthe inability to combine elements into a sequence (Selden 78-79) Similarity disorderthe inability to substitute an element for another (Selden 79) Thus, this becomes a system of either substitutions or combinations when applied to structuralism. Since contiguity disorder is related to combinations, metaphor is directly linked. Also, similarity disorder is related to substitutions, which directly relates to metonymy. For example: Vertical dimension= langue = substitutions = similarity disorder = metonymy Horizontal dimension = parole = combinations = contiguity disorder = metaphor

This is important because Jakobson believed that in regular speech people unconsciously tended to favour one or the other (Selden 79). For example, a poet might express their preference in their literary style. In general, it is believed that individuals lean toward either the metaphoric or metonymic when writing. In conclusion, structuralism is fundamental to critical theory and thought. Most structuralists create formulas or frameworks that are predictable, operating in almost a mathematical sense. They believe that language is merely a system of signs that in turn grant meaning. Language is nothing without context to support it within the particular system in which it operates. Structuralists are interested in systems of difference and multiple examples of these binaries can be found in both literature and everyday life occurrences.

Works Cited Baldick, Chris. The Oxford Concise Dictionary of Literary Terms. Oxford University Press: New York, 1991. Clarke, Simon. The Foundations of Structuralism: A Critique of Levi-Strauss and the Structuralist Movement. The Harvester Press: Great Britain, 1981. Culler, Jonathan D. Structuralist Poetics: Structuralism, Linguistics, and the Study of Literature. Cornell UP: New York, 1975. Fish, Tom. Glucksmann, Miriam. Structuralist Analysis in Contemporary Social Thought. Routledge & Kegan Paul: Boston, 1974. Groden, Michael and Martin Kreiswirth. The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism. Johns Hopkins UP: Baltimore, 1994. Hawkes, Terence. Structuralism and Semiotics. Methuen & Company Limited: London, 1977. Makaryk, Irena R. Encyclopedia of Contemporary Literary Theory. University of Toronto Press: Toronto, 1993. Piaget, Jean. Structuralism. Basic Books Publishing: New York, 1970. Selden, Raman, Peter Widdowson, and Peter Brooker. A Readers Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory. Prentice Hall: New York, 1997. Sims, Amy.