Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Introduction to structuralism

A historical document from some time in August 1979. I was thinking of returning to graduate school; I asked a friend who had recently finished his PhD at a good program in the Northeast (and who has since earned a reputation for himself in Victorian studies) for an introductory list of titles on structuralism, which is what literary theory was called at the time. Here is what he jotted down, in his own handwriting, in the commonplace book that I was keeping at the time. Abbreviations are his:

• Barthes, S/Z
• F. Jameson, Prison House of Language
• Foucault, The Order of Things
• Derrida, “Structure, Sign, & Play . . .” in The Structuralist Controversy
• Bataille, Death & Sensuality
• Edward Said, “Abecedarian Culturae” (Last Chapter of Beginnings)

Bataille was a personal eccentricity; Barthes has since been demoted to a literary journalist; Said’s Orientalism, published the year before, had yet to make its splash. Otherwise, though, the necessary pieces were in place.