The Structure of Myth and the Structure of Western Film

Topics: Jacques Derrida, Structuralism, Ferdinand de Saussure Pages: 3 (745 words) Published: April 18, 2010

The Structure of Myth and the Structure of Western Film

Based on Saussure (1974), structuralism is a theoretical method derived from his theoritical work. He divides language into two component parts which together produce a third (signifier, signified and meaning). According to him, meaning is produced through a process of combination and selection. As Saussure insists, “In language, there are only differences without positive terms… language has neither ideas not sounds that existed before the linguistic system, but only conceptual and phonic differences that have issued for the system.” (1974: 120) Saussure divides language into langue and parole. Langue refers to system of language, the rules and conventions which organized it. Parole refers to individual utterance, the individual use of language. Structuralism takes two basic ideas from Saussure’s work. First, a concern with the underlying relations of cultural text and practices – the grammar which makes meaning possible. Second, the view that meaning is always the result of the interplay of relationship of selection and combination made possible by the underlying structure. According to Levi – Strauss, the myths are structured in terms of binary opositions. All myths also have similar social culture function within society. Their purpose is to make the world explicable, to magically resolveits problems and contradictions. In sixguns and society, Will Wright (1975) use both methodologies to analyze the Hollywood Western as myth. According to Wright, the western has evolved through three stages: classic, transition theme and professional. He also identifies a basic set of structuring opositions: inside society >< outside society, good >< bad, strong >< wilderness (49). In order to fully understand the social meaning of a myth, it is necessary to analyze not only its binary structure but also its narrative structure – the progression of event and the resolution of conflicts. The classic western...
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