Structuralism & Semiotics

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Structuralism & Semiotics Henderson

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Structuralism & Semiotics. Henderson. Dudes to know:. Ferdinand deSaussure Claude Levi-Strauss Roland Barthes Jacques Lacan Michel Foucault Northrop Frye**. Context. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

Transcript of Structuralism & Semiotics

  • Structuralism & SemioticsHenderson

  • Dudes to know:Ferdinand deSaussureClaude Levi-StraussRoland BarthesJacques LacanMichel FoucaultNorthrop Frye**

  • ContextAs a literary theory, developed in the 1950s and 1960s, adopted from theories other areas such as sociology, psychoanalysis, anthropology, etc. **All interrelated!**Reactionary criticism, attempts to place literature into a system and assign value judgments to works.

  • Principles of StructuralismMeaning occurs through difference and SIGNS relationship to each other. Ex: woman vs. ladyMuch of our imaginative world is structured in binary sets (opposites) which assign structure and meaning to signs. Ex: cruel vs. humane

  • Principles of StructuralismForms the basis of SEMIOTICS, the study of signs.Sign = union of SIGNIFIER and SIGNIFIED. Ex: c-a-t, fuzzy critter that goes meowCODES provide signs with context - cultural context, literary context, etc.

  • Principles of StructuralismEmphasizes that humans create meaning. Structuralism, then, allows us to examine our relationships with literature, art, society, etc.Our sense of self -- our consciousness -- exists in relation to outside collective influences. We are NOT self-contained!

  • Principles of StructuralismReality is conventional; our perceptions of the world around us are bound up in conventions, codes, signs, etc. The social construction of reality.Structuralisms ultimate argument is this

  • There is a connection between our concept of reality, the self, society, consciousness, and unconsciousness. They are all connected to each other and are bound by the same laws, signs, and conventions.

  • When reading a text:Look forParallels in plotEchoes in structureReflections/repetitions in character/motiveContrasts in situation/circumstancePatterns in language/imagery

  • Barthes five codesBarthes identifies five codes which he says provide the underlying narrative structures for all literature.When reading, attempt to place a work in the system of codes.

  • The codes are:Proairetic - provides indications of actions; reality. Ex: The ship sailed at noon.Hermeneutic - poses questions or enigmas that provide narrative suspense and involve the reader. Ex: if the narration indicates a knock on the door, the reader asks herself, Who is it?

  • Codes continued3. Cultural - contains references beyond the text which are considered common knowledge (allusions, metonymy). Ex: if a character is described as driving a hybrid car, there are certain cultural assumptions attached to that character.

  • Codes continued4. Semic - linked to a theme on the character level, when a series of signs and ideas surround an individual.5. Symbolic - linked to theme on a larger level. Consists of contrasts and pairings related to the most basic binary polarities - man/woman, good/evil, lost/recovered, etc. **

  • Fryes fictional modesMYTH - the hero is superior in kind to other men and the environment of other men; generally a story about a godROMANCE - the hero is superior in degree to other men; ordinary laws of nature are suspended; often has supernatural powers

  • Fictional modes continuedHIGH MIMETIC - superior to men, but not to the environment; hero is a leader. (Often found in epic and tragedy.)LOW MIMETIC - Jane Austens bread and butter. Everyday hero; appeals to our common sense of humanity. Romantic comedies.

  • Fictional modes continuedIRONIC - hero is inferior to other men or his environment. Ben Stillers lifeline. Includes satire.

    Apply these modes to tragedies and comedies. Thus, you can have a high mimetic tragedy (Macbeth) or a low mimetic comedy (Pride & Prejudice).

  • ArchetypesDefinition: a symbol, usually an image, which recurs often enough in literature to be recognizable as an element of ones literary experience as a whole (individually and collectively)

  • Apocalyptic vs. DemonicApocalyptic: archetypes that reflect ultimate human desire (roughly equated with our sense of heaven)Demonic: archetypes that reflect everything that society rejects; a total inversion of the apocalyptic (roughly equated with our sense of hell)

  • Archetypal formsDivine world = society of godsHuman world = society of menAnimal world = domesticated flocksVegetable world = gardenMineral world = cities, construction

  • Apocalyptic imagery: divineOne GodAll ultimate unityIdealized worldMagicEmphasis on heavenly bodies

    ** Mythical AND analogical

  • Apocalyptic imagery: humanOne manChrist (though he operates in a divine context as well)3 types of fulfillment: individual, social, and sexualPhilosopher-kingsSexual symbolism - two bodies become oneChaste people, like Sir Galahad

  • Apocalyptic imagery: animalOne flockKing as shepherdBirds (esp. doves)Horses and hounds (romance)Unicorn (emblem of virgins)Ass

  • Apocalyptic imagery: veggieOne Tree (of Life)Fruit and leaves on a tree = bread and wine (communion)Flowers (esp. flowers)Enchanted forests of Shakespeares comedies, Robin Hood, etc.

  • Apocalyptic imagery: mineralOne Building, Temple, or StoneCity = house of many mansionsGeometrical and architectural imagesStairways, ladders, even Rapunzels hair

  • Demonic imagery: divinePerversions of apocalyptic imagery are called MODULATIONS.

    Vast, menacing powers of natureFateSense of human remoteness and futility

  • Demonic imagery: humanEgo runs rampantPerversion of the 3 areas of fulfillment in apocalyptic imageryLoyalty to a tyrant diminishes the individualSacrificial victim, scapegoatMob violence blends the first 2

  • Demonic imagery: animalMonsters, beasts of preyWolf, traditional enemy of sheepTigerVultureSerpentDragon (soooo contextual)

  • Demonic imagery: veggieSinister forestHeath (recall Macbeth)Waste landScaffold (as a modulation of the tree of life)

  • Demonic imagery: mineralWaste land (again)Cities of sin and destruction (Babel, Reno, etc.)Images of perverted work (instruments of torture or war)Sinister spirals (maelstrom)

  • Archetypes and CyclesImages fall into cyclical movements.Divine = death/rebirthFire-world = heavenly bodiesHuman = dreaming/wakingAnimal = life/deathVeggie = natural cycles (seasons)Mineral = golden ages, etc.Water cycles

  • Cycles and Genres4 Mythoi: generic plotsThese 4 mythoi can be seen as aspects of a single unifying myth, which corresponds this wayAgon - conflictPathos - catastropheSparagmos - anarchyAnagnorisis - recognition/triumph

  • Mythos of Spring: ComedyYoung man wants young woman.Resisted by some opposition.Twist enables the hero to have his will.Appearance/adoption of a new society or social order.Often paternal figures provide opposition.

  • Mythos of Summer: RomanceQuest/adventurePerilous journey, crucial struggle, exaltation of the hero. (Notice how the 3-part structure parallels that of comedy.)Archetype: dragon-killing, leviathanCan be applied to ExodusConnected to fertility rites

  • Mythos of Autumn: TragedyTragedy actually moves cyclicallyHero is on top of the wheel of fortune; when he declines, his subordinates do his living for him. In some tragedies (Adam), the hero creates new life after the fall.Sense of natural law and justiceBinary structure instead of tertiary

  • Mythos of Winter: Irony/SatireRemember that irony is realistic; we are supposed to look down on characters and events from a higher position.Satire is militant irony: wit founded on a sense of the absurd, and an object of attack

  • Wheeee! Youre done!