Phenomenology, Structuralism, Semiology
Essentially, structuralism was the avant-garde of critical theory and practice (more theory than practice) during the past decade; that of the coming decade may well be semiotics. This is therefore a particularly appropriate moment at which to assess the achievements of phenomenology and structuralism and their role in philosophy and in preparing for the emergence of semiotics. In the early 70s, "Classical" structuralist analysis was still being applied in masterly fashion by virtuosi like Michael Riffaterre and Gerard Genette, but the termination of Levi-Strauss's great four-volume Mythologiques closed an era, After being attacked in the late sixties by Derrida and others, structuralism in the 70s has experienced several new developments: it has been bypasses for other concerns (such as new theories of schizophrenia: Deleuze, Girard), modified by genetic theory (drawing on Chomsky, Piaget, or Goldmann), or transformed into semiotics (Kristeva, Lotman, Uspensky). In theory and practice, Julia Kristeva seems to be the central figure in the latter-day emergence of semiotics, following Todorov, Lotman, and Uspensky in disseminating Russian formalist and structuralist ideas. The articles in this volume reflect the preoccupations of the past decade. The investigation of the relationships among anthropology, psychoanalysis, and myth (Caldwell), and of religion and sociology (Filstead) was intensified by interest in the work of scholars like Dumenzil (Stewart) and Levi-Strauss (Bernstein and Schwimmer). Modern criticism is highly conscious of its philosophical dimensions, notably the movement from empiricism to structuralism to semiotics, the first two phases of which are examined here (Gillis). The essay by the late Ludwig von Bertalanffy gives a larger perspective through which to consider these theories. The critical scene has been full of agitation and polemics since World War II, dominance passing from Sartrean existentialism to Kristevan semiotics (Girard and Wittig), via earnest attempts at systematizing the discipline of criticism on the part of thinkers like Todorov (Bennett). But no amount of theorizing can replace practical critical analysis, of which are included three demonstrations that reflect the influence of these recent theoretical preoccupations: studies on Donne (Welch), Keats (Pison), and Sarraute (Wright).
Contributors: Madeline Wright, Thomas Pison, Dennis Welch, William J. Filstead, Richard Gillis, Gene Bernstein, Rene Girard, James R. Bennett, Susan Wittig, Ludwig von Bertalanffy, E. G. Schwimmer, Douglas Stewart, and Richard S. Caldwell.
About the editor:
Harry R. Garvin was John P. Crozer Professor of English at Bucknell University.
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