Introductory concepts to Project 3

Key terms and basic research


Creative Arts Today, page 122

‘Structuralism, developed in the 1950s, proposed that human culture can be understood through its relationships within underlying structures such as language’.


Structuralism aims at ‘identifying and analyzing the structures that underlie all cultural phenomena—and not just literature’. Structuralists ‘want to understand the “deep structure” of football games. Of families. Of political systems. Of fashion. Of chemistry classes and of theory study guides … Structuralists got the notion that everything could be analyzed in terms of a deep structure’

‘According to structuralist theorists there’s some sort of structure underlying all cultural phenomena. Language has a deep structure, families have a deep structure, literature has a deep structure.’

Source: Palmer, Donald D. (1997) Structuralism and Poststructuralism for Beginners. Danbury (USA): For Beginners

‘Structuralism is … a method of studying language, society, and the works of artists and novelists … it is a philosophy … that provides an ORGANIC as opposed to an ATOMISTIC account of reality and knowledge … reality is composed not of “THINGS”, but of “RELATIONSHIPS”‘.

‘An object … is determined by its relation to the whole system of which it is a part … and the total system is present in each of its parts’.


Creative Arts Today, page 122

‘Late twentieth-century post-structuralists critiqued and deepened the idea of structuralism and brought to it many of the concerns of postmodernism, such as acknowledgement of bias and the possibility of multiple interpretations’.


‘One of the basic assumptions that shapes poststructuralist thinking is that every aspect of human experience—our modes of communication, social habits, values, wallpaper preferences, even our personal identities—are textual. That means that everything we think we know about our selves and our world is based on language.

In fact, poststructuralists believe that our realities are created by the languages we use. Poststructuralism takes us well beyond the world of New Criticism, which asks us to think about “the text and nothing but the text.”‘


Creative Arts Today, page 122-123

‘We draw meaning from images or from language through systems of signs.’

‘Semiotics is the study of how signs are constructed and interpreted


‘A sign is composed of a signifier – the form the sign takes – and the signified, the concept to which it refers or represents … Signs operate within systems of other signs that give them value and meaning’.

Source: Hall, Sean (2007) This Means This, This Means That: A User’s Guide to Semiotics. London: Laurence King

Cultural signs are those that we have invented to communicate with each other in complex ways … we have to understand the convention that is being used in order to grasp the meaning that is being communicated. All of these signs, then, reflect aspects of the society in which they are pieces of communication’. (page 10)

‘In the case of human beings, signs are shaped by the sources and resources that are used to make them, formed by the cultural structures into which they are woven, communicated through a series of diverse channels, and understood in terms of the nature of the societies that created them.’ (page 8)

In the Introduction to his book, Sean Hall organizes the study of signs under the following headings:

Sources of Meaning = where the message comes from –  two basic sources, the first natural, the second is cultural

Ways of Meaning = what kind of message it is – signs can be literal, analogical or metaphorical

Structures of Meaning = how the message is framed – signs are given meaning by the way they make use of certain structures that may be surface structures or deep structures

Contexts of Meaning = where the message is situated – signs take their meaning from the contexts in which they are produced and consumed

Channels of Meaning = how the message is communicated – channels are important because they are the delivery systems for signs

Types of Meaning = how the message is communicated – signs can be divided into two basic types: those that appeal to our rational side and those that appeal to our emotional side


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