Comparative study of structuralism & deconstruction

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  • 1. 2007 4 Apr2007 30 2 CELEA JournalBim onthly Vol30 No 2 THE COMPARATIVE STUDY OF STRUCTURALISM DECONSTRUCTION Li Wei Ding Yan InnerMongolia University of Science and TechnologyAbstract Deconstruction and Structuralism are tw o of the twentieth century western criticism schools their andrelationship still is an issue that needs to be syste matically clarifiedThe paper presents a review study on theparticular relationship of Deconstruction and Structuralism by co m paring these tw o criticism schools fro m therespects of their origins features and limitations in the chronological view It tends to prove that Deconstruction ste ms fro m the Structuralism wever Deconstruction differs itself fro m Structuralism in hocertain key features and bases itself upon a certain characteristic critique of Structuralism Key w ordsstructuralism Deconstruction relationshipIIntroduction Criticism is for nothing but w orks of art hich is one of the pro minent featuresin twentieth century wwestern criticism schools To so m e extent Russian form alism Anglo erican New Criticism AmStructuralism and Deconstruction run through the w hole twentieth century western criticism history andexert great influence on literary criticism There is a close relationship a m ong the m especiallyDeconstruction and Structuralism Deconstruction ste ms fro m the Structuralism but breaks withStructuralism in certain key features and bases itself upon a certain characteristic critique ofStructuralism Structuralism were father If Deconstruction might be regarded as son best way to So theunderstand Deconstruction is to understand Structuralism IIStructuralism1Definition and Origin What is Structuralism Definitely speaking Structuralism is a m ode of thinking and a m ethod ofanalysis practiced in 20th century socialsciences and hu m anitiesMethodologically analyzeslarge it scalesyste ms by exa mining the relations and functions of the sm allest constituent ele m ents of such syste ms w hich range fro m hu m an languages and cultural practices to folktales and literary texts Structuralism hadits originsin the linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure Swisslinguist hose Course in General Linguistics a wpublished in 1916 and beca m e the m ostim portant source of Structuralism Saussure s insight was centerednot on speech itself but on the underlying rules and conventions enabling language to function Byanalyzing the social or collective dim ension of language rather than individual speech pioneered and hepro m oted the study of gra m m ar rather than usage rules rather than expressions m odels rather thandata langue languagerather than parole speech Saussure was interested in the infrastructure of language that is co m m on to all speakers and that function on an unconscious level His inquiry wasconcerned with deep structures rather than surface pheno m ena and m ade no reference to historicalevolution In structuralistterminology was synchronic it existing now rather than diachronic existingand changing over tim e 111
  • 2. The Co m parative Study of Structuralis m Deconstruction Wei Ding Yan Li2Structuralism and Literature Although Saussurian linguistics is Structuralism s illustration hat is of interest is how Structuralism wanalogically extends Saussure s terms into the analysis of literatureStructuralist critics believe that allele m ents of literature m ay be understood as parts of a syste m of signs Roland Barthes French ase miotician and literary critic was one of the first to apply the structuralistideas to the study ofliterature w ho once saidLiterature is sim ply a language syste m of signs being is not in its m essage a Its trebut in this syste m Similarly is not for criticism to reconstitute the m essage of a w ork it but only itssyste m exactly as the linguist does not decipher the m eaning of a sentence but establishes the form alstructure w hich allows the m eaning to be conveyed Brow n 2006 Barthes using Saussure s linguistictheory as a m odel and e m ploying se miotic theory akesit possible to analyze literary text syste m atically meven scientifically So m e structuralist critics followed Barthes propose that all narratives can be considered variations oncertain basic universal narrative patterns The text therefore a function of a syste m is and everysentence the author writes is m ade up of the already written other w ords In any literary w orks has noorigin and authors m erely base on pre existing structures that enable the m to m ake specific sentence orstory hich parallels closely the relations between langue and parole w3 Main Activities3 Dissection and Articulation 1 What should a critic do if the text is a function of a syste m the Structuralist Activity In Barthessuggests that the structuralist activity consists of tw o essential parts dissection and articulationBarthes2001 Dissection is to cut the initial text into several parts and find certain m obile frag m ents w hose differential situation causes a certain m eaning the frag m ent has no m eaning in itself the slightest butvariation w ould change the final m eaning of the w hole text Next the dissected units have to berearranged according to certain rules of association hich is called articulationSuch reco m bination of wso m e of the ele m ents in the pre existing syste m can be regarded as an im portant operation of greatoriginality in literary evaluationStructuralist activity therefore to aim at revealing the structure of a isco m plex thing and the abstract fro m its pheno m enal form This allows attention to be focused onstructural similarities between different pheno m ena in spite of superficial differencesFor exa m ple Inthe 1950s Claude L vi Strauss the Belgian French anthropologist first adapts the technique of languageanalysis to analytic m yth criticism L vi Strauss the study of m ythology in discovers so m e unchangingele m ents or ordered patterns w hich are called m ythe m es He finds eleven m ythe m es fro m three Greektales and arranges the m into tw o groups of binary oppositions to deal with the illustration of the Greek MythologyL vi Strauss 2001 3 Binary Oppositions 2 Structuralists including L vi Strauss generally rely on the search for underlying binary oppositionsas an explanatory device They stress that m uch of our im aginative w orld is structured by binaryoppositions such as being and nothingness jungle and village and culture and nature and etc Consequently the structuralist critics like to engage in the structures of opposition particular binaryoppositions and convince that the detailed study of binary oppositions do greatly help to facilitate theunderstanding of the textTo illustrate mingway s short story Cat in the Rainunderstood fro m a He w o m an s point of view presents a corner of the fe m ale w orld in w hich the m ale is only slightly involved The Am erican girl is the referee between the actual and the possible The actual is m ade of rain boredo m preoccupied husband a and irrational yearnings the possible silver spring fun new acoiffure and new dressesBetween the actual and possible stands the catThe w hole story can be seenas turni