Structuralism and Post StructuralismA Level Media
The difference between the signifier and signified is
StructuralismLanguage relies on a shared understanding of rules.Linguists study the structures of language.In media texts, structuralists would claim to work out the deep structures being employed.
Eg. In a film genre structuralists would work out deep structures that give meaning to the text.Neither the film maker or audience would necessarily be aware of these structures.
NarrativeStructuralists have investigated narrative using versions of binary oppositions (proposed by Strauss).They suggest all story telling has deep structures.Good/Evil Culture/Nature Man/WomanA structuralist analysis of a media text will look at how tensions between these oppositions are introduced and resolved.
Structuralist AnalysisFor exampleTitanic (1997)The narrative of Titanic works partly by differences such as upper deck/lower deck, upper class/lower class, American/European.We understand these oppositions through signifiers of music, dress, colour, type of character etc.
Narrative StructuresVladimir ProppTzvetan Todorov
The idea is that the surface structure of drama has a deeper underlying resonance which helps give the audience reinforcement of our cultures rules and expectations.
Media AnalysisStructuralism has informed the approach to media analysis through
1) NarrativeWe have stock characters in soap operas (the gossip, the bad boy, the loveable rogue etc )
2) GenreTexts can be categorised according to characteristics they have in common.
Post StructuralismPost Structuralists
Do NOT accept the basic idea of deep structures.Wonder what the point is in searching for meaning.Point out we cannot be sure meaning exists in the first place.Put emphasis on the interpretation of texts rather than the production.
Deconstruction The analytical technique used by post structuralists is called deconstruction.The intention is NOT to discover what the real meaning of a text.
Deconstruction involves a consideration of whats missingforegrounding
DeconstructionEg. A deconstruction of a magazine advertisement would include a discussion on the types of people who are missing from the images.Absences and gaps help reveal what the text is privileging.Eg.West over EastMan over WomanScience over Nature
AudiencePost structuralists argue that
Without an audience, a text has no meaning.To suggest there is meaning in a text before it is seen by an audience is ridiculous.The text has the meaning that the audience chooses to give it.This places the audience in a very powerful position.They are no longer passive receivers of meaning that has been determined by a producer.
Recap StructuralismThe search for deep structures that are universal to all cultures.Once we have discovered the underlying characteristics of a text, we can open it up to discover its meaning.Determines HOW texts produce meaning.Post structuralismMeaning in a text is uncertain and unreliable.Texts should be analysed through deconstruction look at what is missing/been omitted.Without an audience a text has no meaning.
ActivityWatch the episode from Sex and the City entitled Where Theres Smoke.
Looking at the text from a structuralist view, answer the questions on your worksheet.