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Analytical Theory | Some points from on reading from Mary Klages

Synchronic – examining how something remains the same across a span of time
Diachronic – examining how something changes across a span of time

The structure of English in a single sentence:
“The adjectival noun verbed the direct object adverbially.”
The stupid boy slipped and kicked the ball too hard.
“The adjective noun auxiliary verbed the direct object adverbially main-verb.”
The stupid boy slipped and the ball too hard kicked.
“The noun adjective verbed adverbially the direct object.”
The boy stupid slipped and kicked too hard the ball.

Metaphor is the establishment of a relation of similarity between two things (A is like B).
Metonomy is an equating of one thing for another (crown for king).
The point is that relations between units in a system can only be analyzed in pairs.

Cthonic, meaning from the underground gods, is used to describe something’s origin in the earth,
or merely external to one’s self in some instances.

Poststructuralist ideas are provisional and ambiguous. Poststructuralist theory is difficult because
most theorists adopt a writing style that highlights the provisionality and ambiguity of meaning.
They do not want to speak, or write, clearly, because to do so would be to affirm that there is
such a thing as absolute meaning.

Derrida says that every philosophical system, every attempt to explain the relations among the
mind, the self, and the world, posited some sort of a center, or a point from which everything
comes and to which everything refers. In some systems the center is the concept of God; in
others it is the human mind, or the unconscious, or space aliens.
The importance of binaries, or two terms placed in relation to each other, is deconstruction’s
second critical point. Being/Nothingness; each term has meaning only in reference to the other.
Being is what is not nothingness; presence takes precedence over absence.

Psychological Theory

In Civilization and Its Discontents, Freud theorizes about two fundamental principles at work in
civilization, and he calls these the “pleasure principle” and the “reality principle.” The first tells
us to do whatever feels good; the second tells us to subordinate the first in favor of what needs
doing, to work. This is accomplished by a psychological process Freud calls sublimation,
wherein you take desire that cannot or should not be fulfilled, and turn their energy into
something useful and productive. The unfulfilled desires are then packed, or “repressed,” into a
place in the mind which Freud labels the unconscious.

Without an unconscious, or the repression that creates it, or the reality principle that demands
repression (which is associated with what Freud calls the superego), the child has no gender. As
Freud describes it, going through the Oedipus Complex as a developmental stage in childhood
turns us from the incestuous sexual developmental stage to the exogamous sexual stage.

Central to the conception of the human for Lacan is the notion that the unconscious, which
governs all factors of human existence, is structured like a language. Patriarchy, as our center,
limits the play of elements and gives stability to the whole structure. In “The Agency of the
Letter in the Unconscious,” he makes to drawings: the first is the word tree over the picture of a
tree, which is the classic Saussurean concept of signifier (word) and signified (object). The
second is of two identical doors; over one door is the word “ladies” and over the other is the
word “gentlemen.” A patriarchal culture is one which aligns all the left-side terms as the valued
ones, and consigns all the right-side terms to the position of “other.”

She also links binary structures to Western cultural practice, and she follows Freud’s lead
regarding gender, maintaining that women are aligned with otherness, and men with selfhood. In
writing about this she refers to women as “they,” as non-speakers and non-writers, stating that as
“others” women enter the symbolic by taking up a subject position, being assigned a name, and
then being assigned a meaning. Novels, she says, are allies of this representationalism; they are
genres, which try to speak a stable language, a language where one signifier points to one
signified. For Cixous, what has been repressed into the unconscious is female sexuality and the
female body. For Freud, the basic idea of hysteria is that the body produces a symptom which
represents a repressed idea; thus, the body speaks what the conscious mind cannot say.
We are the only species that can copulate more or less at will, and that alone separates sexual
behavior from reproduction. Sexual behavior in human culture is almost always about something
more than just pleasure or reproduction: it is often about forms of power and dominance.

History is a story a culture tells itself about its past.


According to Marx, the economic base is the primary determining factor in all social relations:
everything that happens in a society is in some way related to, and determined by, the economic
base. The existence of a society’s economic base permits the construction of a superstructure, or
a set of social systems determined by the base. Marxist theory asks how the base does this. How,
for instance, does the feudal mode of production determine religious beliefs and practices?
Ideology and its ideologies are the kinds of ideas that exist in the superstructure. How does the
economic base influence the form and content of that society’s literature?

He distinguishes between ideologies and Ideology. Ideologies are specific, historical, and
differing; we can talk about various ideologies, such as Christian, democratic, feminist, Marxist.

Ideology, however, is structural. Althusser says that Ideology is a structure, and as such is
eternal, i.e. to be studied synchronically; this is why Althusser says that Ideology has no history.
He derives this idea of ideology as a structure from the Marxist idea that ideology is part of the
superstructure, but he links the structure of Ideology to the idea of the unconscious, from Freud
and from Lacan. Because Ideology is a structure, its contents will vary – you can fill it up with
anything – but its form, like the structure of the unconscious, is always the same.
Why not just understand what is real?
Althusser’s Marxist answer is that the material alienation of real conditions predisposes people to
form representations which alienate them from these real conditions. In other words, the material
relations of capitalist production are themselves alienating, but people cannot deal with the harsh
reality of this, so they make up stories about how the relations of production aren’t so bad; these
stories, or representations, then alienate them further from the alienating conditions. This double
distancing works like an analgesic to keep us from feeling the pain of alienation; if we did not
have these stories we would know the alienation of the real relations of production, and would
probably revolt – or go mad.

The word interpellation comes from the same root as the word appellation which means “a
name.” It is the interpretation which identifies us.

Monologia (or the language of a single voice) operates according to centripetal force: the speaker
of monologic language is trying to push all the elements of language, all of its various rhetorical
modes (journalistic, theological, political, economic, academic, personal) into a single form
coming from a point of origin. The centripetal force of monologia is trying to eliminate
differences in language (or rhetorical modes). Its opposite is heteroglossia.

A discourse is all the kinds of writing, thinking, talking, and acting on or about a certain topic.

Modernity is fundamentally about order: about rationality and rationalization, creating order out
of chaos. The assumption is that creating more rationality is conducive to creating more order,
and that the more ordered a society is, the more rationally it will function. Because modernity is
about the pursuit of ever-increasing levels of order, modern societies constantly are on guard
against anything and everything labeled as disorder, which might disrupt order. Thus modern
societies rely on continually establishing a binary opposition between order and disorder, so that
they can assert the superiority of order. But to do this they have to have things that represent
disorder – modern societies continually have to create/construct disorder. In Western culture, this
disorder becomes the “other.”