STUDY SHEET FOR STRUCTURALISM AND POSTSTRUCTURALISM

1. Whom do we usually credit with the terms “signified” and “signifier”? What is the title of his book
which after his death his students put together from lecture notes? When was the book
published?
2. What general field does structuralism analogize?

a. psychology
b. philology
c. linguistics
d. archeology
3. What does Genette mean by literary criticism being a “metalanguage”?
4. Give an example of how clothes or fashion can work in terms of semiotic codes. To do this, place
the item within a wider structure of values, beliefs and symbols, showing how the item “fits” in (or
doesn’t fit).
5. Discuss the relationship of “meaning,” text and reader for a structuralist. Where is the
“meaning”—in the word itself or in the mind of the reader. Do you agree or disagree? Why?
6. In 1970, a book appeared which took Balzac’s story “Sarrasine” and broke it into some 560 “units
of meaning” which were further classified under 5 “codes.” This author further claimed that these
codes were the “underlying structures of all narratives.” Who is the author, what is the title of the
book, and what are these 5 codes? What is the term usually given to these “units of meaning”?
7. What is the difference between narration and narrative?
8. Which cultural anthropologist took a structuralist approach to mythology, dividing the myths into
“mythemes,” as if they were individual linguistic “phonemes” to show how each related to the
whole system of myths?
9. What is the difference between langue and parole? Whom do we credit with these terms? How
is this difference analogized into the field of literature?

10. What is meant by “signs are arbitrary,” based on cultural and historical contexts? Give an
example.
11. Content is more important to a structuralist than form.
TRUE FALSE
12. What is meant when post-structuralists speak of a “decentred universe”?
13. Poststructuralism trusts the notion of reason and the idea of the human being as an individual
entity.
TRUE FALSE
14. Who are the two key figures usually cited with the emergence of post-structuralism in France in
the late 1960s?
15. If the author is “dead,” according to the post-structuralists, then who is more important than
the author? Do you agree or disagree with this perspective from your own experiences with
reading texts?
16. According to poststructuralists, there is no “artistic unity” as formalists argue. Texts can be
analyzed and shown to be “fragmented, self-divided and centreless.”
TRUE FALSE
17. Paraphrase the following text from Jacque Derrida’s Of Grammatology:
“And the reading must always aim at a certain relationship, unperceived by the writer, between
what [the reader] commands and what [the reader] does not command of the patterns of the
language that he uses. This relationship is not a certain quantitative distribution of shadow and
light, of weakness or of force, but a signifying structure that critical reading should produce.”

18. What specifically does a deconstructuralist look for in reading a text?
19. What does a deconstructive reader mean by “aporia”?
20. Apply these questions briefly to the following Emily Dickinson poem: (a short exercise in
deconstructing). Notice that the questions come from the Module 6 in our Course Resources and
from Dobie, page 170.
a. What is the primary binary opposition in the text?
b. What term in the binary opposition is privileged (is seen as “better”)?
c. What images in the poem support the privileged opposition?
d. Is the privileged opposition consistent in seeming “privileged”? Does the poem present conflicting
meanings? Explain.
e. What associations do you have with the oppositions that complicate the opposition? That is,
what associations keep you personally from accepting the privileged opposition is all good or all bad?
f. Give an example of a figure of speech in the poem that is so ambiguous

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