Structure and system as basic metaphors in literary studies : a criticism of one aspect of contemporary structuralism

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The subject of this essay is Structuralism, and the point of view, that of a student of literature. And this much the title conveys. However, there are points which need to be made by way of a preface in order to clarify what this essay attempts and what it does not. First, there is the problem faced by any writer on Structuralism - definition of his subject. This problem has been sufficiently talked about in the text, along with how a recognition of it generated the essay's form, and no more need be said on this matter here. But, second, it must be stressed that, though this is an essay in criticism of a style of thought, it has no pretensions to being an essay in philosophy. Rather than progressing by way of a rigorous analysis of a set of concepts, its motivating spirit is more justly characterized as that of a critical review. The hope is to illuminate and, as well, to suggest points of weakness which, I believe, deserve the probing for soundness which rigorous analysis provides. However, though this is itself not an essay in philosophy, I have attempted to treat the abstractions I deal with, and the argument-forms I deal with them in, with respect. The same might be said of my treatment of ideas belonging to the other disciplines - mathematics and linguistics - in which I could not be considered a specialist.

Bibliography: p.181-191.