Structuralism

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  • (Todorov 2101)
  • (Culler 7-8)
  • (“Death” 1324) – Norton Anthology of Theory
  • (1324)
  • (S/Z 16) and (1325)
  • Structuralism

    1. 1. Structuralism: Building the Infrastructure of Narrative
    2. 2. Structuralism Analysis of the large, encompassing structures of all narratives rather than on individual works of narrative. Structuralism “proposes a theory of the structure and operation of the literary discourse”, such as the overall “grammar” of narratives and conventions of specific genres.
    3. 3. Ferdinand de Saussure Study of semiology •Distinguishes between langue and parole – langue = the structure or grammar of a language – parole = individual instances of language use
    4. 4. For Saussure language is . . . 1. arbitrary (no inherent meaning in words) 2. relational (meaning exists only in relation to other words) 3. constitutive (language attributes or creates meaning; meaning does not inhere in the thing itself)
    5. 5. Tzvetan Todorov (1938) • Born in Bulgaria, moved to Paris as young man • Student of Barthes
    6. 6. Todorov • Followed work by Vladimir Propp on identifying plot elements of folk tales. • Worked with The Decameron to discern basic structural elements of individual stories.
    7. 7. Roland Barthes 1915-1980 • Raised without a father; close to mother, tubercular, highly regarded scholar and prolific, iconoclastic author • Began as a Structuralist →Poststructuralist & Reader Response
    8. 8. Barthes Anti-authoritarian, always looking for ways that institutions, systems, social usages of language seek to control us.
    9. 9. Barthes’ Marxist Agenda • Examines social forces at work in perpetuating authority of authors as the “epitome of capitalist ideology” (1322) • Sees “author” as a social “mythology” to be uncovered
    10. 10. Barthes’ Central Concern “His writings attempt to show us that . . . the meanings that seem natural to us are cultural products, the results of cultural frameworks that are so familiar as to pass unnoticed.” Ironically, Barthes’ reversals of his ideas served as a demonstration of his belief that meanings that seem natural to us are cultural products, not essential and eternal truths.
    11. 11. Intertextuality Intertextuality includes quotation, allusion, echo, parody, revision, genre conventions. At its limits, all language is intertextual. “Every text builds itself as a mosaic of quotations, every text is an absorption and transformation of another text. ” Julia Kristeva Every text is an intertext, “the text-
    12. 12. “Death of an Author” (1968) – Author role is historical. Authors and authorship have been romanticized. – All texts, genres, conventions are radically intertextual. – One can no longer look for textual unity, coherence, single, deterministic meaning. – Authors don’t control how a text is read and interpreted. Readers do
    13. 13. Textual Authority Historical shift from auctor (scribe, performer) to Author. Beginning about 15th C. author gained increasing prestige as inventor or genius. For Barthes, Author loses authority and returns to role of scriptor.
    14. 14. “We know now that a text is not a line of words releasing a single ‘theological’ meaning (the ‘message’ of the Author-God) but a multidimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash.”
    15. 15. Role of the Text Given radical intertextuality of all writing and recognition of unwarranted privileging of author, what is left is a text being “eternally rewritten here and now” by a reader. The death (“removal”) of the Author . . . Leads to birth of the reader.
    16. 16. Role of the Reader Words & texts have meaning only in terms of conventions & habits of reading (by readers who know codes/conventions). Reader becomes central figure as producer of the text. “The ‘I’ that approaches the text is itself already a plurality of other texts, of codes which are infinite or . . . lost (whose origin is lost). “The reader is the space on which all the quotations that make up a writing are inscribed . . . a texts’ unity lies not in its origin but its destination.”
    17. 17. Writers write . . . • in rich and active social and historical milieu, • with memory & influence of other authors, • and genres, conventions, syntax, grammar, vocabulary available to work with.
    18. 18. Impact of Structuralism • Demystifies or de-consecrate literature and the authority of authors • Celebrates intertextuality • Privileges readers over authors

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