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  • >>Narrator: What is poststructuralism?

  • Poststructuralism is a set of twentieth-century ideas about language and

  • representation that have been very influential in the humanities,

  • especially in literary criticism.

  • We'll look at these ideas by focusing on one key concept in poststructuralism,

  • the chain of signification.

  • Poststructuralism as an extension or evolution of an earlier movement called

  • structuralism.

  • Literary critics often trace structuralism's beginnings to the work of the Swiss linguist

  • Ferdinand de Saussure.

  • Saussure looked an element of language,

  • let's say in a word,

  • and divided it into two parts:

  • the sound of the word,

  • and the concept it represents.

  • He called the sound of the word the "signifier,"

  • and he called the concept the "signified."

  • The union of these two he called the "sign."

  • This diagram appears in Saussure's book The Course in General Linguistics.

  • Saussure pointed out that the association of a given sound or signifier

  • with a given concept or signified is arbitrary.

  • There's nothing simple or permanent about it.

  • Saussure wrote: "the arbitrary nature of the sign dominates all the linguistics of language;

  • Its consequences are numberless."

  • This line and its emphasis on the arbitrary association between these two halves

  • suggested on uncertainty

  • or slippage in language

  • that would become a key tenet of poststructuralism.

  • How does that slippage arise?

  • Well, in place of this idea that signified and signifier were closely tied to one another,

  • Saussure observed that each term is defined in relation to other similar terms nearby.

  • For example,

  • the sound of the word "horse" differs only slightly from "horn" and "hearse."

  • Saussure pointed out that the concept--the signified--was also defined

  • differentially in the same way.

  • Defining me not positively but negatively--as a kind of gap between

  • adjacent terms--this also contributed to this sense of slippage, and it would have

  • far-reaching implications for later critics.

  • In fact,

  • Saussure had another diagram to express the blurry boundaries between terms.

  • He redrew the series of signifiers as a continuum.

  • And up here is another stream that corresponds to the continuum of concepts,

  • or signifieds.

  • It's language's role to delineate units of meaning,

  • and map between these two streams.

  • "It is mysterious," Saussure wrote, "that language works out its units while

  • taking shape between two shapeless masses."

  • But Saussure's model remained simple in the sense that it was essentially

  • one-dimensional.

  • What happens when we introduce additional layers of signification?

  • For example, the word "lion" in signifies a particular animal,

  • but on another level the lion can signify another meaning like courage,

  • nobility, or MGM Studios.

  • Here is Saussure's sign.

  • The sound of the word "lion" is the signifer, and the concept of the

  • animal lion is the signified.

  • The two together form the sign Lion.

  • Let's turn this on its side and redraw it slightly,

  • and here we'll put a label for the whole box or the whole sign.

  • On another level,

  • this whole sign is a signifier for something else--say a king.

  • We now have two nested signs with one taking the role of signifier in the other.

  • This diagram is adapted from one drawn by the literary critic Roland Barthes.

  • And while Barthes focused on this two-term system,

  • later critics extended it further, noting that these boxes could be nested infinitely.

  • Radical poststructuralism suggests that the chain of signification has no end.

  • Language never points to a concrete signified outside the chain that would

  • anchor it in an external reality.

  • Instead, language only ever points to additional layers of language

  • further down the chain.

  • The French philosopher Jacques Derrida played on Saussure's idea that meaning lies

  • in difference

  • by adding the idea that meaning is also defered endlessly down this chain.

  • It's worth noting that while Saussure and Barthes actually used the diagrams we

  • looked at earlier,

  • Derrida's writing never includes this image.

  • In Derrida's text it is prose,

  • not diagrams, that has the upper hand.

  • And perhaps this is because the idea of reducing meaning to something simple,

  • like a line drawing, is exactly what radical poststructuralism rejects.

  • Paul de Man wrote about the dangers of using a simple illustration to

  • represent the complexity of representation itself:

  • "From the experience of reading abstract philosophical texts

  • we all know the relief one feels when the argument is interrupted by what we

  • call a 'concrete' example.

  • Yet at that very moment

  • when we think at last that we understand, we are further from

  • comprehension than ever.

  • De Man was talking about examples used illustrate an argument,

  • but what he says could apply equally to visual diagrams.

  • Fair warning!

  • Literature influenced by poststructuralism may reproduce these recursive structures

  • in itself, through devices like metafiction, in which the narrative contains other

  • narratives nested within it.

  • The opposite of this might be something like literary realism--

  • literature believes it can clearly and faithfully represent a reality that lies

  • outside language.

  • Poststructuralist critics tend to be skeptical of that belief,

  • and even wary of it.

  • Whatever literature they look at,

  • critics working in the wake of poststructuralism have embraced the

  • ambiguity of language

  • by searching for ways that the smallest details of a text can be read to

  • generate new meanings--particularly surprising, even playful meetings that

  • are at odds with the more obvious interpretations of a text.

  • These conclusions about the slipperiness of meaning

  • can be applied to non-literary language as well.

  • Media theories influenced by poststructuralism suggest that the

  • mass media no longer portrays real external events, but that events now

  • mimic the media or are staged for it.

  • From the self-referentiality of popular culture

  • to the way politics is staged for the television cameras--

  • these things are taken as evidence that electronic media have lost any referent

  • or anchor in reality,

  • and only ever point at other layers of media.

  • Derrida famously declared that "There is nothing outside of the text."

  • Naive critiques of this idea sometimes suggest that Derrida is denying the

  • importance of a physical reality.

  • But it might be more accurate to say that poststructuralism is about

  • recognizing the power of language to shape and reshape our own individual

  • realities in important ways.

  • Realizing that there is nothing outside of the text

  • means recognizing that we can never get outside these boxes--

  • We can never get to the end of this chain--

  • because there is no meaning or referent

  • that cannot in turn be reinterpreted

  • to mean something else.

  • This idea that meaning is endlessly postponed may sound like a bleak conclusion.

  • But many literary critics see it as an optimistic one.

  • The more freedom or play in this chain,

  • the more room for a reader to generate his or her own meanings from the text.

  • This term "play" was a key one for Barthes.

  • He used it to refer to a flexibility or movement in the text that allowed it to

  • be interpreted in different ways.

  • He also used it to refer to the act of reading and interpretation, which was

  • playful, like a game,

  • and also creative, active,

  • and virtuosic, like a musician playing a score.

  • This is a short definition of postructuralism.

  • But as you may be able to see, an even more concise definition could be

  • that poststructuralism is a suspicion of concise definitions.

  • It's a consciousness that literary language and maybe language more broadly

  • do not point simply or a reliably to a stable meaning,

  • but only over defer meaning by pointing to other language.

  • Poststructuralism encourages a way of reading that is aware of the gaps in

  • meaning that inevitably exist in language.

  • It is a way of reading that does not try to get outside language to nail down

  • meaning or close those gaps.

  • Rather, it revels in the play of language

  • and plays at constructing new meanings

  • in the spaces these gaps open up.

  • >>Bolton. So we'll transition from the flash animation to the live action footage

  • of me drawing. [Music]

  • Uh...but just when the audience thinks that they're seeing the reality

  • behind the scenes

  • that footage will actually retreat into a box in the upper left, uh, the signifier box,

  • reminding them that this footage too is just one more signifier.

  • Then the thing that we're signifying, these critical texts like Derrida, will appear in the

  • upper right in the signified box.

  • Uh...and the production credits, the people who produced this whole sign

  • of the film, will appear below.

  • And eventually we'll zoom out to show a second camera...ahh...to remind people that no

  • matter how many layers of signification you peel away,

  • there's always another layer underneath.

  • Maybe we can even run this voiceover under the credits.

  • And fade to white.

>>Narrator: What is poststructuralism?

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ポスト構造主義のアニメーション化 (Animating Poststructuralism)

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    VoiceTube に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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