Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences: Revie

1574 Words Oct 2nd, 1999 7 Pages
‘Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences' (Derrida, 1978: 278 –293) may be read as the document of an event, although Derrida actually commences the essay with a reservation regarding the word "event", as it entails a meaning "which it is precisely the function of structural – or structuralist – thought to reduce or suspect" (278). This, I infer, refers to the emphasis within structuralist discourse on the synchronous analysis of systems and relations within them, as opposed to a diachronic schemata occupied with uncovering genetic and teleological content in the transformations of history.
<br>The event which the essay documents is that of a definitive epistemological break with structuralist thought, of the
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Here Derrida claims a double-intention (284) on Levi-Strauss' part. Whilst continuing (eg in The Savage Mind) to challenge the worth of the opposition, he nonetheless presents in the same work the notion of bricolage – a type of borrowing of concepts of a ruined text, which borrowing may even be critical language itself.
<br>Derrida's following comments on Levi-Strauss' The Raw and the Cooked highlight two points:
<br>1. The "reference myth" of the book is an arbitrary choice. Levi-Strauss himself states that he could have taken any one myth as his starting point. But he has chosen this one because of its irregular position (286).
<br>2. "There is no unity or absolute source of the myth" (286). It all begins with an already given structure – hence we cannot invoke an absolute source or centre. Indeed "structural discourse on myths – mythological discourse – must itself be mythomorphic. Derrida quoting from The Raw and the Cooked: "It follows that this book on myths is itself a kind of myth."
<br>An important sentence follows shortly thereafter: "The musical model chosen by Levi-Strauss for the composition (my italics) of his book is apparently justified by this absence of any real or fixed center [sic] of the mythical or mythological discourse" (287). Musical composition like mathematical calculation is primarily, in post-modern culture even exclusively so I would argue, concerned with form – the

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