Why theory?

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Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Why theory?
« on: December 06, 2011, 12:09:38 PM »
You may see the world around you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds.  There is only one thing for it then… to learn.  Learn why the world wags and what wags it. 
   --T.H.White, The Once and Future King


The main reason for studying theory at the same time as literature is that it forces you to deal consciously with the problem of ideologies...There are many truths and the one you will find depends partly on the ideology you start with. [Studying theory] means you can take your own part in the struggles for power between different ideologies. It helps you to discover elements of your own ideology, and understand why you hold certain values unconsciously. It means no authority can impose a truth on you in a dogmatic way--and if some authority does try, you can challenge that truth in a powerful way, by asking what ideology it is based on... Theory is subversive because it puts authority in question.
    --Bonnycastle, In Search of Authority, p. 34



Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Re: Why theory?
« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2011, 12:11:35 PM »
The term ideology describes the beliefs, attitudes, and habits of feeling which a society inculcates in order to generate an automatic reproduction of its structuring premises. Ideology is what preserves social power in the absence of direct coercion.       (Ryan)

“Until lions tell their stories, tales of hunting will glorify the hunter.”
--African proverb
            truth told by the ones in power

Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Re: Why theory?
« Reply #2 on: December 06, 2011, 12:13:46 PM »
Literary theory can handle Bob Dylan just as well as John Milton.
      -Terry Eagleton

Paradigm shift

in the Structure of Scientific Revolution (1962), Thomas Kuhn demonstrated how all knowledge produced within communities condition the questions which might be posed. This framework of knowledge is termed as paradigm.
Radical reconstitution of facts occur within a community
Copernican shift


Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Re: Why theory?
« Reply #3 on: December 06, 2011, 12:15:16 PM »
The Name Game

Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. Genesis 2:19-20.


Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Re: Why theory?
« Reply #4 on: December 06, 2011, 12:16:46 PM »
Structuralist Philosophy

Language and history precede the self. We are born into a world where language is already there and history has already decided how language will be used. 
Before Saussaure, the study of language (philology) was essentially historical, tracing change and development in phonology and semantics within and between languages or groups of languages.
Diachronic linguistics or historical linguistics: Language, seen thus, is a word-heap gradually accumulated over time and its primary function is to refer to things in the world.
In other words, words are mere symbols that correspond to referents.
The Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure raised the following two questions that helped the development of structuralism:
--What is the object of linguistic investigation?
--What is the relationship between words and things?

Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Re: Why theory?
« Reply #5 on: December 06, 2011, 12:19:08 PM »
Linguistic turn

In a series of lectures given by Ferdinand de Saussure, the Swiss linguist proposed an abandonment of analytical perspectives in order to ‘use language as the norm of all other manifestation of speech’
Language is not simply a tool devised for the representation of a pre-existing reality
It is rather a constitutive part of reality, deeply implicated in the way the world is constructed as meaningful
--Langue and parole

Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Re: Why theory?
« Reply #6 on: December 06, 2011, 12:23:30 PM »
Language, seen thus, is a word-heap gradually accumulated over time and its primary function is to refer to things in the world.
In other words, words are mere symbols that correspond to referents.
Before Saussure, the study of language (philology) was essentially historical, tracing change and development in phonology and semantics within and between languages or groups of languages.

Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Re: Why theory?
« Reply #7 on: December 06, 2011, 12:26:25 PM »
Ferdinand de Saussure and structural linguistics Course on General Linguistics (1915).

He understood language as a differential system. 
Meaning is a function of difference, not identity. 
There is no "identity," no natural relation, between word and thing.

Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Re: Why theory?
« Reply #8 on: December 06, 2011, 12:30:09 PM »
The meaning of a word is a function of its signifier’s difference from other signifiers: 
Meaning is also a function of a word’s differential relationships between signifieds: 
And finally, meaning is a function of difference in the sense that the same word can mean different things depending on the context in which it appears
"the old man"
"The old man the boat"
We determine the meaning of the word man (or any other word) retroactively, by using the clues provided by the words that follow it; thus, meaning arises relationally, or differentially.  It is not immediately present in the word itself.
binary oppositions
the relation between the signifier and the signified is arbitrary, conventional, not natural, socially constructed.

Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Re: Why theory?
« Reply #9 on: December 06, 2011, 12:32:38 PM »
Structuralism as a method of classification
 a.      underlying or hidden principles
 b.      internalization of conceptual frameworks

Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Re: Why theory?
« Reply #10 on: December 06, 2011, 12:34:45 PM »
i.        a system of signs
ii.      Sign = signifier + signified
The sign (or word) is made up of two parts, a signifier (the acoustic image) and a signified (the mental concept).
iii, Any signifier that does not evoke a signified is not a word. 

Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Re: Why theory?
« Reply #11 on: December 06, 2011, 12:38:13 PM »
Signs don’t have to be words of course. For example, RED or GREEN light in a traffic signal.

Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Re: Why theory?
« Reply #12 on: December 06, 2011, 12:38:36 PM »
i.   If the basic units of language can be analyzed as sign systems, then it must be possible to categorize larger units of language
If words can be understood as signs, than can’t we do the same for all forms of meaning-making? 
Structural Anthropology.  An entry point for cultural analysis.
   Structuralists are interested in the interrelationship between UNITS ( also called "surface phenomena," )
            and
   RULES  (the ways that units can be  put together. )

Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Re: Why theory?
« Reply #13 on: December 06, 2011, 12:39:38 PM »
Structuralism

The structuralists drew an analogy between language systems and social systems
Language has a systematic (synchronic) as well as a historical (diachronic) form
They defined societies as complex systems ruled by a social contract
The participant are not always conscious of this (latent) contract
Structuralism is a unified theory that aims to establish the overall structure of society at large

Offline Gopa B. Caesar

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Re: Why theory?
« Reply #14 on: December 06, 2011, 12:41:05 PM »
Language and society

What is the status of words in society
Is literature to be compared to ritual, or does it work in a distinctively different way?
According to Geoffrey Hartman, these questions lead to two important discoveries:
Myths and arts, as models productive of social cohesion, have an exemplary role in society
All myths are homologous in structure as well as analogous in function.