Language, Culture, and Literariness

Theory whether it be scientific or literary, serves the purpose to question the various interpretations of the world around us by using language to structure our perceptions to convey our beliefs. Moran defines scientific theory as being an advancement in knowledge within a specific discipline in a systematic form so as to propose a law about the natural world, resulting in verification. This is most typically done through the scientific method. The scientific method serves as a universal means to test a question with a universal language of hypotheses, materials, method, results, and conclusion. After any given experiment it done, it is understood that the results must be done so that it is repeatable to be accepted or else, the question is still posed. Literature on the other hand has a different and more malleable meaning according to Moran’s writing.

Theory within the discipline of humanities serves as an analytic means to interpret literary texts or historic documents. The goal is to encourage various ways of thinking, posing questions to the assumed meanings as well as analysis of differences in assumed meanings. Language plays a vital role in our understanding of literature. It is because of our cultural difference that we assume differences in the meanings of literariness. “Structuralism, a movement that gathered momentum among French literary and cultural theorists in the 1950s and 1960s, has its roots in the discipline of linguistics, and specifically Ferdinand de Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics He argues that language does not have a direct relationship to reality but functions as a system of differences: words (signifiers) have no inherent relation to the concrete things that they describe (signifieds), but generate meaning as a result of their differential relationship with other signifiers.”

Again, language allows us to structure our ideals, beliefs, and allow literariness to stem off of such things so that an author may convey their thoughts, feelings, or ideals to their audience. After which their audience may converse and interpret the authorial intent, meaning, or belief within a given text. By using structuralism to shape our views and interpret texts, Moran assumes the position of being for the change in literariness. Allowing film, fair tales, or even audible narration to encompass what we view as literature. By doing so,  we change the humanities disciplines and allow for a new form of language and interpretation to arise. Moran writes, “structuralism is interdisciplinary because all kinds of artefacts and phenomena can be interpreted as ‘texts’: for Barthes, a text is simply a vehicle for the production and dissemination of cultural meanings,‘at issue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture’ (Barthes 1977: 146).”

Moran believes that we may be able to teach the same ideals while using different forms of “texts” So perhaps Serial, Lying and Sherman’s March will be taught to students more in the future, though what then happens to the classics? Do they just fall off the face of the earth? With this cultural change, by accepting new forms of literature, can we appropriately teach our students to analyze and formulate their own interpretation of these new ‘texts,’ I believe we can in moderation. We need to teach both within the classrooms. We need to discuss both scholarly as well as institutionally the meanings of Shakespeare, Plato, Slater, and Koenig.

Tony Bennett points out, many of the formalists came to the eventual conclusion that ‘literariness’ was always a social effect determined by historical and cultural forces, and therefore not an unchanging constant (Bennett 1979: 34–5). So we have accepted the change in ‘texts’ culturally. We, like science, are always adapting, so why not change the way in which we interpret literature or change what counts as literature. Narratology too serves as a means of interpretation of literary texts as it places importance not on content but on form. By doing this, we as student may be able to read and interpret texts such as Lying by Slater who’s content is quite possibly made up of facilities. Although with her artful form and ability to derive interpreted meanings from her metaphoric writing Slater merits literariness if viewed through Moran’s definitions of literature, language, structure and culture.


One Reply to “Language, Culture, and Literariness”

  1. I love that you include narratology towards the end of your blog post. Personally, that was one of the more interesting sections of the chapter to me because—and I’m not sure whether Moran mentions this or not—its basic theoretical framework as a literary investigative tool can be traced back to Aristotle, but just recently has it been classified as such. It seems as though, in the past, many methodologies like narratology, for instance, have been been explored without there being delineated academic categorizations attached to them. The study of how stories are told has been a phenomenon more present in society, both small and large, than we think, and for longer than we think: this is because of how imbued we are as a species with storytelling tendencies. We as people, in listening to others narrate creative and endearing stories, can’t help but think of the structural/formalistic apparatuses used to illustrate characters, plot devices, setting and so on, so we might do the same in the future if circumstances do so call for it—and, in doing so, we perform implicit acts reminiscent of this “new” literary analysis of narratology. How interesting…

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