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This review is taken from PN Review 60, Volume 14 Number 4, March - April 1988.

URBANE STRUCTURALIST John Sturrock, Structuralism (Paladin Movements and Ideas Series) £3.95 pb.

John Sturrock's book provides the clear, concise guide to structuralism that has been lacking in England up to now. His survey is valuable because it does not confine itself to structuralism and literature but considers a complex, sometimes contradictory range of concepts and procedures extending over linguistics, the social sciences and semiotics as well as literary studies. Sturrock is favourable to structuralism, sometimes excessively so, but he is not uncritical. His account helps to correct the view, now prevalent in England due to the delayed assimilation of 'alien' ideas, that structuralism has been, in any simple sense, superseded by post-structuralism. He does, however, give a chapter to post-structuralism and recognizes it as both an intelligible extension of structuralism and a powerful challenge to some of its assumptions.

Sturrock's exposition of Saussurean linguistics is especially helpful on those basic but sometimes confusing distinctions between 'signified' and 'referent', and between a sign's 'value' and its 'signification'. He sums up Saussure's notions of language as a system of differences, and of the arbitrariness of the sign, by an apt quotation from John Passmore: 'Languages differ by differentiating differently'. He reminds us that a kind of structural linguistics, primarily associated with Leonard Bloomfield, was practised in the USA before the influx of European ideas, and that the work of Noam Chomsky today, despite its strong reaction against Bloomfield's behaviourism, has structuralist aspects, although Chomsky's radical humanism stands against structuralism's proposed 'dissolution of man'.

One of the first to propose ...


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