Guide The reading of theoretical texts: a critique of criticism in the social sciences

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A potential problem of structuralist interpretation is that it can be highly reductive, as scholar Catherine Belsey puts it: "the structuralist danger of collapsing all difference. Structuralist readings focus on how the structures of the single text resolve inherent narrative tensions. If a structuralist reading focuses on multiple texts, there must be some way in which those texts unify themselves into a coherent system.

Structuralistic literary criticism argues that the "literary banter of a text" can lie only in new structure, rather than in the specifics of character development and voice in which that structure is expressed. There is considerable similarity between structural literary theory and Northrop Frye 's archetypal criticism, which is also indebted to the anthropological study of myths. Some critics have also tried to apply the theory to individual works, but the effort to find unique structures in individual literary works runs counter to the structuralist program and has an affinity with New Criticism.

Throughout the s and s, existentialism , such as that propounded by Jean-Paul Sartre , was the dominant European intellectual movement. Structuralism rose to prominence in France in the wake of existentialism, particularly in the s. The initial popularity of structuralism in France led to its spread across the globe. Structuralism rejected the concept of human freedom and choice and focused instead on the way that human experience and thus, behaviour, is determined by various structures.

In Elementary Structures he examined kinship systems from a structural point of view and demonstrated how apparently different social organizations were in fact different permutations of a few basic kinship structures. In the late s he published Structural Anthropology , a collection of essays outlining his program for structuralism.

By the early s structuralism as a movement was coming into its own and some believed that it offered a single unified approach to human life that would embrace all disciplines. Roland Barthes and Jacques Derrida focused on how structuralism could be applied to literature. Structuralism is less popular today than other approaches, such as post-structuralism and deconstruction. Structuralism has often been criticized for being ahistorical and for favouring deterministic structural forces over the ability of people to act.

As the political turbulence of the s and s and particularly the student uprisings of May began affecting academia, issues of power and political struggle moved to the center of people's attention. In the s, deconstruction —and its emphasis on the fundamental ambiguity of language rather than its crystalline logical structure—became popular.

By the end of the century structuralism was seen as an historically important school of thought, but the movements that it spawned, rather than structuralism itself, commanded attention. Several social thinkers and academics have strongly criticized structuralism or even dismissed it in toto. Conversion was not just a matter of accepting a new paradigm.

It was, almost, a question of salvation. Sociologist Anthony Giddens is another notable critic; while Giddens draws on a range of structuralist themes in his theorizing, he dismisses the structuralist view that the reproduction of social systems is merely "a mechanical outcome". From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Theory that elements of human culture must be understood in terms of their relationship to a larger, overarching system or structure.


For other uses, see Structuralism disambiguation. See also: Structural linguistics. Main article: Structural anthropology.

Main article: Semiotic literary criticism. Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy , second edition revised. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. David Lapoujade. Michael Taormina. Semiotext e Foreign Agents ser. Los Angeles and New York: Semiotext e , Literary Theory and Criticism Notes. Retrieved Bally and A.

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PUF, Reading Capital trans. Ben Brewster. London: NLB, What critical frameworks allow us to perceive this aspect of the conceptual or representational work that novels do? We will use a series of American, French, and English novels to pursue these questions, reading in tandem with them a variety of classic sociological works, including work by Durkheim, Weber, Du Bois, Simmel, Bourdieu, and a few others, as well as some recent literary criticism.

To gain permission for this course, you must be a graduate student enrolled in UC Berkeley and write a letter of application to complitga berkeley. That letter should be one page single-spaced and include your background in literary studies, your proficiency in German not required , and your own reasons for wishing to take this course.

This course stems from my fascination with how often major philosophers idealized art by attributing to it powers that could promise versions of redemption from practical life. I want to read Hegel, Kant, Nietzsche, Pater, Bergson, Heidegger, and an anthology of statements by modernist paintings to get clear on what was argued and why people could believe or at least engage those arguments, as indeed most of the major modernist painters and poets did. Then we will look at some paintings and essays by Picasso and Malevich along with the poetry of at least Yeats, Pound, and Marianne Moore.

In one sense I think teachers in the arts need to know well the best possible accounts of the powers that they can mediate in their professional lives. In another I am amazed by agreement about the roles of art in cultural life of these philosophers coming at the questions from many perspectives. What cultural conditions led to their developing those perspectives? And does knowledge of the cultural conditions breed skepticism for us or tilt us toward sympathy with such projects? How can we make plausible counter arguments?

The history of science and the history of the scientific disciplines

How do twentieth-century writers manage to elaborate and defend similar idealizations in an age usually seen as deeply ironic? And can these perspectives make materialist arguments about the arts more difficult to make, even perhaps as they make them more necessary?

In this seminar, we will first explore the various meanings of writing History from a fictional point of view. In the second part of the seminar, we will analyze the contemporary transformations that have affected the Muslim world, and more specifically the Maghreb, in its relation to death, violence, and sacrifice in post-colonial times.

The course is taught in French, and discussions will be held in English or French. A growing body of scholarship reminds us of the many debts the Renaissance owed to the Mediterranean and the Islamic worlds while also examining the different ways in which Renaissance culture spread beyond Europe, and the responses it produced from Mexico to China. The course will look at theoretical trends in social sciences, humanities, and cultural studies influencing the reshaping of ethnomusicology, the cultural study of music and sound.

How is the vocabulary of ethnomusicology changing? Who is being read and why? What are the key words and key concepts emerging in this moment in contemporary academic discourse? In this seminar, we will explore the genealogies and evaluate the intellectual utility of new theoretical perspectives for planning research in ethnomusicology.

The areas of critical investigation will include subjectivity and personhood, affect and emotion, body and the senses, and violence, trauma, and social memory. Subjects like " philosophy of history " and other multi-disciplinary subject matter became part of social theory as taught under sociology. A revival of discussion free of disciplines began in the late s and early s. The Frankfurt Institute for Social Research is a historical example. Cultural Studies programs extended the concerns of social theory into the domain of culture and thus anthropology. A chair and undergraduate program in social theory was established at the University of Melbourne.

Social theory at present seems to be gaining acceptance as a classical academic discipline. Adam Ferguson , Montesquieu , and John Millar , among others, were the first to study society as distinct from political institutions and processes.


In the nineteenth century, the scientific method was introduced into study of society, which was a significant advance leading to development of sociology as a discipline. In the 18th century, the pre-classical period of social theories developed a new form that provides the basic ideas for social theory, such as evolution , philosophy of history , social life and social contract , public and general will , competition in social space, organismic pattern for social description.

Montesquieu , in The Spirit of Laws , which established that social elements influence human nature, was possibly the first to suggest a universal explanation for history. Philosophers, including Jean-Jacques Rousseau , Voltaire , and Denis Diderot , developed new social ideas during the Enlightenment period that were based on reason and methods of scientific inquiry. Jean-Jacques Rousseau in this time played a significant role in social theory.

He revealed the origin of inequality , analyzed the social contract and social compact that forms social integration and defined the social sphere or civil society. Jean-Jacques Rousseau also emphasized that man has the liberty to change his world, an assertion that made it possible to program and change society.

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Adam Smith addressed the question of whether vast inequalities of wealth represented progress. He explained that the wealthy often demand convenience , employing numerous others to carry out labor to meet their demands. Smith explained that social forces could regulate the market economy with social objectivity and without need for government intervention. Smith regarded the division of labor as an important factor for economic progress. John Millar suggested that improved status of women was important for progress of society. Millar also advocated for abolition of slavery , suggesting that personal liberty makes people more industrious, ambitious, and productive.

The first "modern" social theories known as classical theories that begin to resemble the analytic social theory of today developed simultaneously with the birth of the science of sociology. Auguste Comte — , known as the "father of sociology" and regarded by some as the first philosopher of science, [10] laid the groundwork for positivism — as well as structural functionalism and social evolutionism.

Karl Marx rejected Comtean positivism but nevertheless aimed to establish a science of society based on historical materialism , becoming recognised as a founding figure of sociology posthumously. At the turn of the 20th century, the first of German sociologists, including Max Weber and Georg Simmel , developed sociological antipositivism.

The field may be broadly recognized as an amalgam of three modes of social scientific thought in particular; Durkheimian sociological positivism and structural functionalism , Marxist historical materialism and conflict theory , and Weberian antipositivism and verstehen critique.

Karl Marx & the social sciences

Another early modern theorist, Herbert Spencer — , coined the term " survival of the fittest ". Vilfredo Pareto — and Pitirim A. Sorokin argued that "history goes in cycles," and presented the social cycle theory to illustrate their point.

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The 19th century pioneers of social theory and sociology, like Saint-Simon, Comte, Marx, John Stuart Mill or Spencer, never held university posts and they were broadly regarded as philosophers. Emile Durkheim endeavoured to formally established academic sociology, and did so at the University of Bordeaux in , he published Rules of the Sociological Method. Durkheim's seminal monograph, Suicide , a case study of suicide rates amongst Catholic and Protestant populations, distinguished sociological analysis from psychology or philosophy. Jean Baudrillard , Michel Foucault , and Roland Barthes were influential in the s in developing postmodern theory.