Cultural studies 1Lecture 4 Structural ism

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Information about Cultural studies 1Lecture 4 Structural ism

Published on November 13, 2007

Author: liamgr


Cultural studies 1:  Cultural studies 1 Lecture 4 Structuralism and the ‘turn to language’ Structuralism:  Structuralism Theoretical method Analytical not evaluative Based on linguistic theory Developed in France Anthropology (Levi-Strauss) Psychoanalysis (Lacan) History & Philosophy (Foucault) Cultural Theory (Barthes) Ferdinand de Saussure Course in general linguistics (1916):  Ferdinand de Saussure Course in general linguistics (1916) Separation of language from speech Langue – the linguistic system Parole – actual utterance Language as a system of relations based on difference (le langage) Arbitrary nature of the sign ‘Nothing can reside in a single term’ Diachronic and Synchronic:  Diachronic and Synchronic Saussure identifies 2 dimensions for the study of language The ‘diachronic’ – historical dimension of language (a flower from root to blossom) The synchronic – the ahistorical, here and now dimension (a cut through the stem) Saussurean linguistics focuses on the synchronic Language as difference:  Language as difference In language there are only differences without positive terms…language has neither ideas nor sounds that existed before the linguistic system, but only conceptual and phonic differences that have issued from the system Saussure 1916 The structure of the sign:  The structure of the sign 2 Components The signifier (noise, marks on paper) The signified (the concept or idea, but not the thing itself) The meaning of signs is sought in relations of similarity or contrast Sign, signifier, signified:  Sign, signifier, signified Signifier/signified relationship is arbitrary and conventional No correspondence between signifier and signified Meaning emerges out of difference Meaning results from combination and selection Sign, syntagm, paradigm:  Sign, syntagm, paradigm Language is a system of difference based on selection Selection occurs along two dimensions The ‘syntagmatic’ is the linear/sequential dimension (the ‘menu’ sequence) The paradigmatic is the range of items from which choices may be made (starter, main courses, deserts) The ‘binary opposition’:  The ‘binary opposition’ Universal structuring principle in all languages Consists of 2 opposing terms (e.g. black/white, male/female, culture/nature) ‘Deep’ structure of all linguistic systems Levi-Strauss and Anthropology:  Levi-Strauss and Anthropology Cultures are structured and analysed like a language Search for the ‘unconscious foundations’ of culture Different activities (, dress, ritual, folk tales) are expressions of unconscious structures based on binary opposition The study of myth:  The study of myth Individual myths are acts of parole which reflect the underlying structure They are composed of ‘mythemes’ analogous to the units of language Structured in terms of binary oppositions Meaning produced by the division of the world into mutually exclusive categories All myths claimed to have similar structure and social function – to make the world explicable and resolve its contradictions Understanding myths:  Understanding myths Myth is a diachronic representation of a set of synchronic oppositions An orchestra score in which the component harmonising parts of the arrangement have been mixed up into a single linear thread The de-coding of folk and fairy tales reveals the universal underlying structure of the human mind Beyond Levi-Straus:  Beyond Levi-Straus The study of myth not restricted to ‘primitive’ cultures Principles can be applied to cultural phenomena of western society Will Wright on the cowboy movie Roland Barthes on fashion and the photographic image Sixguns and Society:  Sixguns and Society Will Wright (1975) Structuralist analysis of the Hollywood western to reveal American social beliefs 3 stages 4 binary oppositions 16 ‘Narrative functions’ Structuring oppositions in the Western:  Structuring oppositions in the Western Inside - Outside society Good - Bad Strong – Weak Civilization –Wilderness The Western narrative functions to address these oppositions, to state or re-state them, to resolve them or leave them open Narrative functions in the Hollywood western:  Narrative functions in the Hollywood western Hero enters a social group Hero unknown to society Hero revealed to have exceptional ability Difference is recognised and special status is given Hero is not completely accepted Conflict between villains and society Villains are stronger society is weak Respect or friendship between hero and villain Villains threaten society Hero avoids getting involved Villains endanger a friend of the hero Hero fights villains Hero defeats villains Society made safe Society accepts the hero The hero loses or gives up his special status The western as a cultural tool:  The western as a cultural tool Classic western (1930s-1950s) Hero and society form a temporary alignment against the villains Transitional Western (1960s onwards) ‘Shane’ ‘Outlaw Josey Wales’ ‘Dances with Wolves’ The structure of the ‘Transitional’ western:  The structure of the ‘Transitional’ western Reversal of classical oppositions Hero/society Outside/inside society Good/bad Weak/Strong Wilderness/Civilisation Hero starts as member Society is the villain Escape to the Wilderness as resolution Societal pre-occupations in the Western:  Societal pre-occupations in the Western The Western reflects social values and pre-occupations of American culture and society at any time Reflects the relationship of the individual to society Reflects changing attitudes to nature/culture binary Offers solutions to and perspectives on basic existential issues around relationships, masculinities, right and wrong etc.

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