AN INTRODUCTION TO STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS
: = using methods and ideas from structural linguistics and the structural analysis of literature in order to understand human meaning production wherever it might occur.
A STRUCTURE = a system or totality of relations which tends to maintain itself through changes of the elements, the elements getting their meaning and sense from their place in the totality.
E.g. a piano sonata, e.g. a human body.
(I) STRUCTURAL LINGUISTICS:
MEANING IN LANGUAGE is derived from the play of the elements within the system or code, rather than from the nature of the elements themselves.
Some useful distinctions derived from structural linguistics, applicable elsewhere as well:
1) la Langue: language as a system, e.g. the English language,
the French language
la Parole: speech, the actual manifestations of language in speech and writing.
Illustration (Levi Strauss, Cultural Anthropology)
2) syntagmatic connections/relations: spatial or temporal ordering.
paradigmatic: similarities or oppositions, membership in the class of things which can be put in the same spot.
Illustrations: "The old man chased the dog"
the architecture of a Greek temple.
furniture, clothing, food, football, boxing, wrestling
as meaning systems. (esp. Roland Barthes)
3) synchronic: with time, at a certain time slice
diachronic: through time.
It is not the history of a word which decides its meaning but its place within the presently operating language. Meaning is 'synchronically' rather than 'diachronically' determined.
Deconstructionism' arises when we realize that: meaning production itself, la parole, disturbs systems, la langue; so that systems also have histories. The systems themselves, unfortunately, do not stand still.]
4) sign versus signified
other signs sign other signs
(no natural relation: signs get to signify in a particular system, via relations to other signs.
(‘Deconstructionism’ comes into its own when it is realized that any naming or construction of the signified is just another sign. Reference is indefinitely deferred. “There is nothing outside the text.”)
(II) (a small example of ) STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS OF NARRATIVE LITERATURE
V. Propp on Russian fairy tales (functions and characters)
A. J. Greimas on Lithuanian folktales (functions and personages)
GREIMAS' ACTANTIAL SCHEME for analysing stories:
SENDER OBJECT RECEIVER
HELPERS SUBJECT OPPONENTS
top line horizontally = 'axis of communication'
the middle line vertically = 'axis of volition'
the bottom line horizontally = 'axis of power'.
(I) Passion narrative
GOD SALVATION HUMAN KIND
CROSS JESUS CHIEF
(II) Parable of Good Samaritan
SAMARITAN HEALING PERSON
WINE, OIL, SAMARITAN PRIEST
(III) Parable of Good Samaritan in its context in the gospel:
JESUS MEANING OF SCRIBE
PARABLE JESUS HARD- HEARTEDNESS AND LEGAL MINDEDNESS
(IV) The temptations in the wilderness
= Satan trying to put himself into the role of Sender in relation to Jesus as Subject, with pseudo-salvation as object, using Jesus' hunger and human desires and even the scriptures as helpers: to have Jesus put himself together as subject in relation to this other sending.
GREIMAS: THE 'DECONSTRUCTION' OF PERSONAGES IN NARRATIVES INTO 'ACTANTIAL ROLES' UNIFIED BY 'SYNTACTIC INVARIANTS':
Actantial Roles = functions or roles in the narrative
Syntactic Invariants = (usually) proper names.
This is how the meaning of a 'character' in a novel or other story is produced, nothing more than this, and provides a prime example of 'deconstruction' = just to show how the meaning is constructed.
(III) Structuralism also does interesting things to the Information Theory Triangle:
Normal Information Theory Triangle:
SENDER SIGN RECEIVER
Structuralist Information Theory Triangle:
OTHER SIGNS (systems of meaning production, codes)
SENDER SIGN RECEIVER
Structuralist insights mandate a strong emphasis on the syntactic axis. It is this, various public meaning production systems, which determines meaning produced, not the intention of the sender.
(IV) FURTHER APPLICATIONS IN DIVERSE FIELDS
LEVI-STRAUSS: IN CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY: culture as a kind of language, different cultures, e.g. different kinship systems, various concrete deployments of this language
JACQUES LACAN AND JULIA KRISTEVA: IN STRUCTURALIST PSYCHOANALYSIS: the unconscious is structured like a language. A conscious or remembered dream is the translation of another story in the unconsciousness, and in getting to this story it's the relations between elements which are important rather than the elements themselves (versus Freud on this point).
MARTIAL GUEROULT: INTRA-SYSTEMIC PHILOSOPHICAL HISTORY: architectonic history, understanding a system is like understanding how a cathedral is put together. What determines the setting in place of each of the elements, what is the foundation from which it flows and how does it flow out of that foundation.
MICHEL FOUCAULT**: 'ARCHAEOLOGICAL' HISTORY: each period has its own 'episteme' or historical a priori, it's own set of blinkers or glasses, and one object of history is to relate things to that set of glasses.
'SYSTEMS ANALYSIS' IN SOCIOLOGY AND ELSEWHERE
EVERYTHING IS SOCIALLY AND LINGUISTICALLY CONSTRUCTED, INCLUDING SEXUALITY, NOT JUST GENDER (though that too).
THE ONLY INTEREST IS IN WORKING OUT HOW THESE THINGS ARE CONSTRUCTED = 'DECONSTRUCTION'.
PRISONS, HOSPITALS, BOARDING SCHOOLS, POLICE ACADAMIES, MILITARY TRAINING CAMPS, seminaries, theological colleges
'MALE', 'FEMALE', FATHER, MOTHER, WIFE, HUSBAND, SON, DAUGHTER,
JUDGE, PRIEST, POPE.
TO THINK OF THESE NOT AS REALITIES OR CONCEPTS BUT AS CONSTRUCTS, OF LANGUAGE AND OF STORIES.
IS EVEN 'GOD' A CONSTRUCT? MOST OF THE TIME, YES! HOW TO STOP 'GOD' BEING A CONSTRUCT ALL THE TIME??
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE DECONSTRUCTING DISCOURSE ITSELF?
YES, THAT TOO IS CONSTRUCTED – AND THEN THINGS GET REALLY INTERESTING!