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E 341 (23)
Lecture

Jonathan Culler, Structural Poetics, structuralism, Barthes, Mythologies, signs, semiology

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Department
English
Course
E 341
Professor
Aparna Gollapudi
Semester
Fall

Description
4 September Jonathan Culler Structural Poetics (1975) Draws analogy between Structuralist description how language functions and human culture functions Culture (like language) is a system of signs Just as Saussure starts off with separating speaking from language, Culler compares the individual speech act (which he calls by Saussure’s word – la parole) with individual action/behavior, and the broader linguistic system of grammar and syntax rules etc. with cultural rules and structured social systems (which is la langue) So, langue – language/culture as system Parole – individual speech/individual’s behavior or action Meaning of parole is determined by langue Culler notes that all social/cultural objects/events/phenomena (p. 56) Are “objects or events with meaning and hence, signs” “Do not have essences” (like linguistic signs are arbitrary) Are “defined by a system of relations” (i.e., like linguistic systems in binary, paradigmatic modes, etc.) So let’s think about what it means that the meaning of cultural events/objects/phenomena is a result of a ‘system of relations’ (relational). If human actions or productions have a meaning there must be an underlying system (langue) of distinctions (binary, paradigmatic) and conventions which makes this meaning possible. You might understand the meaning of individual actions synchronically, in the context of the specific structures within which the action takes place (remember the chess analogy here with the value of the piece dependent on the positioning of other pieces on the board at any particular time.) You can also approach the meaning of an action diachronically (the analogy here is with the movement of the chess piece over time – you trace its value over the various positions it has occupied over the board). Just as language does not merely ‘convey’ “reality” but constitutes it, so too culture does not only dictate or determine behavior but constructs identities and behaviors. “The cultural meaning of any particular act or object is determined by a whole system of constitutive rules; rules which do not regulate behavior so much as create the possibility of particular forms of behavior.” (p. 56) The langue and parole are the most interesting ideas for Cullers’ examination of culture as parallel to institutional system via-á-vis individual action. (p. 57 – 58) Following rules and breaking rules shows an attitude towards the rule – making a statement Something only gets meaning from having a grammar surrounding it Barthes Mythologies (1957) What does Barthes mean by mythology? Myth: a fictitious, illusory narrative Mythologies: about
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