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 turning on the opposition between tw o groups of m etony mies the actual and the possible Lodge2002 Binary opposition is not only an analysis device of structuralism but also w here Deconstruction starts to co m e in4Limitation On the w hole Structuralism is drawing so m e critics attention because it adds certain objectivity ascientific m ethodology to the realm of literary studies w hich have often been criticized as absolutely 112
  • 3. CELEA Journal 72subjectiveNonetheless is undeniable that there are m any aspects of Structuralism are expecting to be itim provedFirstly tends to be static rather than dyna mic itis also ahistorical because it so m etim es it andignores the way history effects the presentSecondly does not m ake m uch difference for structuralist itcritics on defining w hether literary w ork is the m asterpiece or rubbish because Structuralism in m any waysonly prefers the structural analysis of textto the literary evaluationFurtherm ore individuality of the thetext disappears in favor of exa mining patterns syste ms and structures Inevitably Structuralism w ouldbe replaced by another critical school Levi Strauss predicted that Structuralism w hich was based on linguistic revolution w ould take existentialism s place however was replaced by Deconstruction itIIIDeconstruction1Definition and Origin Deconstruction initiated by French philosopher and critic Jacques Derrida the particular m ethod isof textual analysis and philosophical argu m ent involving the close reading of w orks in literature philosophy psychoanalysis linguistics and anthropology to reveal logical or rhetorical inco m patibilitiesbetween the explicit and im plicit planes of discourse in a text and to de m onstrate by m eans of a range ofcritical techniques how these inco m patibilities are disguised and assimilated by the text2 Main Activities2 Deff 1 rance Jacques Derrida s Structure Sign and Play is delivered as a conference paper at the height of theStructuralism w hich contains his Deconstruction of Saussure s theory of the sign and announcesStructuralism s death Poststructuralist theory denies the distinction between signifier and signified Derrida follows Saussure in describing language as a series of supple m ents and substitutions but arguesthat the theory of the sign a self sufficient union of signifier and signified is itself an instance of logocentrism To indicate this shift in theory Derrida introduces the im portant term diff rance Derrida 2001 to de m onstrate that language and m eaning have no point of origin and no end the m eaning is always the product of the difference between signs and it is always deferred by ate m poral structural that never co m es to an endTo m ake the step further texts for Derrida exhibit alldiff rance He thinks that the literary w orks keeps its m eaning changeable and indefinite under the spatial difference and te m poral deferm ent alltexts have a m biguity and because of this the possibility of afinal and co m plete interpretation is im possible Deconstruction is therefore regarded as a new New Criticism in textual a m biguitiesIn addition Derrida puts forward the theory of iterability altersCuller 2004 based on diff ranceIterability is the ability of a sign to be repeated again in a newcontext Iterability alters just as its na m e im plies refers to repeated sign in a new context w hichstands for new set of literary m eanings w hich are both similar to and different fro m the previous Repetition in text consequently creates the possibility of a divergence or opposition within a unity of m eaning2 The Dissolution of the Binary Opposition 2 Derrida says that the history of western thought is always built on the basic units the binaryopposition or pair in w hich one part of that pair is always m ore im portant than the other such as lightdark asculine minine m fe right The superior ism arkedas positive and the inferior as negative left Derrida called such kind of syste m of philosophy that has rank structure and centers on structure...