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Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Shift From Structuralism to Poststructuralism by Anuradha Acharjee (1324119)

There is seen to be an ''exact'' shift from structuralism to poststructuralism. The basis of Structuralism is Linguistics and Structuralism puts emphasis on 'how to look at language'. The notion is same between the structuralists and poststructuralists but there was a change or shift in the attitude of the Poststructuralists which made them different. From 1973, one can see the pressure of the text on yhe writers and the readers. Barthes Structuralist perspective changed and became Poststructuralist.

Structuralists look at language as a sign system which is natural and has no essence. Each woed is a sign and gives a particular meaning. The nature of meaning is relational and arbitrary. Structuralists basically look for a stable meaning in everything or various concepts they come across. The new version, still being stable, gives a better understanding of the reality. In Poststructuralism, there are no signifieds, only signifiers. E.g. When the word tree is uttered, everybody does not get the same concept or meaning in their minds.

So th basic differences one may find in Poststructuralism is that there are a chain of signifiers, no signifieds. The concept of having a fixed or constant meaning is nullified. All this leads to anxiety about language and Poststructuralists cannot believe that language is reliable to communicate at the first place. They believe that texts also communicate certain meaning.

The time frame of Structuralim and Poststructuralism is demarcated as such, from 1930s to 1940s structuralism existed appoximately and from 1960s onwards, it was Poststructuralism in the scenario. It happened in france first and then in England.

Earlier, there used to be a God centred society. There was a gap between language and reality. It was later found out that reality is just a construct and there was no one to one correspondence. Poststructuralism however, widened this gap. According to Poststructuralism, there is nothing like unified eternal reality in the world. Reality itself is textual and everything is a construct. Then during REnaissance Humanism when man was made the centre of the society, all these absolute facts were subverted. This can even be proven by Literature. Also, rationality and reasoning power or man was developed and Science was born.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, there was a war between religion and science. This can be best understood by reading Mathew Arnold's works, how man was caught between the two worlds. The First World War eradicated the notion of moving forward to a perfectly perfect, materialistic life. Also, European countries were emerging at that time. After the Second World War, faith was lost in everything.

Fragmentation in writing can be seen very clearly in T.S. Eliot's works. There is a fragmented and disordered structure. The shift had continued till thousands of years, undoing of whatever you have learnt so far.

There is no fixed meaning in the text. Feminism also incorporated some of these ideas. Male language per se was replaced with feminine viewpoints. Gynocriticism emerged where woman becomes the centre of the society and everything is for women. Classical feminism is seen to be replacing the centre and it all emerged against a male dominated society.

Structuralism was a step by step process, based on methodology and linguistics whereas Poststructuralism had a sceptical nature and was based on philosophy. Structuralists had a coherent and structured style of writing but Poststructuralists wrote with a lot of puns, allusions, metaphors, multiple interpretations. Their writing was basically constituted with a play of words.

Poststructuralists believe that language or reality is a construct. The Structuralists know this but they live with it without questioning anything. They do not want to look at the uncertainity and totality of meanings. Reality id textual for Poststructuralists. The writers do not follow a linear mode of narration.

References :
1.class taken on 20th December' 2013 by Mr. VijayaGanesh.
2. A basic reading of 'The Death of the Author' by Roland Barthes and some other preceeding texts.

Notes prepared by Anuradha Acharjee (1324119)

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