Structuralism in aNutshellThings cannot be understood inisolation – they must be seen inthe context of the largerstructures that they are part of.
Structuralists concernthemselves with howmeaning is establishedand maintained
And focus upon the patterns and functions of language
Ferdinand de Saussure Linguist • Sign, Signified, Signifier Terms involved in the linguistic sign are psychological and have and associative bond • The linguistic sign unites a concept and a sound image • Sign: designates the whole relationship • Signified: the concept part • Signifier: the sound- image part
Saussure also divided language in two systems: langue and parole There is a significant distinction between the act of uttering language — parole/performance — and the system of a language which can be seen as the abstract ability of the single speaker to speak his/her native language — competence — and/or the communal linguistic knowledge which defines a speech community — langue.
Claude Levi-Strauss? French Anthropologist• Levi-Strauss argued that we understand cultures when we understand their rituals and myths. – To do this, we must understand the relationship between terms, not the terms themselves.• The meaning of a myth inheres not in its particular details, but in the relationships among them.• A myth must be studied in its totality.• A myth can be adequately represented not by any single, most authentic rendition, but only by a complete collection of all relevant renditions.• The universality of myth relates not to the prevalence of specific motifs, but to the recurrence in different cultures of similar structural relationships between different motifs.
Claude Levi-Strauss? French Anthropologist• After studying hundreds of myths and legends from around the world, Levi-Strauss observed that we make sense of the world, people and events by seeing and using binaryopposites everywhere.• He observed that all narratives are organised around the conflict between such binary opposites.
Examples of BinaryOppositions• good / evil • center / margins • normal / deviant• original / copy • straight / gay• primary / secondary • white / black• inside / outside • self / other• soul / body • truth / fiction• pure / corrupted • master / slave • teacher / student• father / son • high culture / pop culture• male / female • network TV / cable TV• speech / writing • base / superstructure
Jacques Derrida French Philosopher • Saussure stated that a sign is made meaningful by its location in a system of differences. – Derrida took this a step further by saying that the meaning if also always deferred, and that it is both always present and absent.
Jacques Derrida French Philosopher• Saussure stated that a sign is made meaningful by its location in a system of differences. – Derrida took this a step further by saying that the meaning if also always deferred, and that it is both always present and absent.
Violent hierarchies• Derrida once said that, since the dawn of time, people have thought in binary opposites (for example, white/black, fantasy/reality, life/death). – Within these oppositions, there is always one dominant thing; neither can exist harmoniously. – Basically, he’s saying that two opposite things will never be equal.• Derrida then goes on the question the dominance of the dominant, and reverses the hierarchy.• To deconstruct the opposition, first of all, is to overturn the hierarchy at a given moment‘.• This ‘violent hierarchy’ system is part of Derrida’s deconstruction theory.