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This review is taken from PN Review 26, Volume 8 Number 6, July - August 1982.

ELUCIDATIONS Jonathan Culler, The Pursuit of Signs: Semiotics, Literature, Deconstruction (Routledge) £7.95, £3.95-pb

Jonathan Culler's book is in many ways a continuation of Structuralist Poetics (1975). The earlier book confirmed Culler's ability to expound clearly a body of largely unfamiliar, largely Continental European, literary theory. His brief study Saussure (1976) added to his reputation. Continuing enquiry though The Pursuit of Signs may be, a few changes in its surrounding contect need to be recorded.

In the first place, so much that is relevant to Culler's work has been published in the last few years that new terms, reflected in his sub-title, have emerged to jostle with 'structuralism' and baffle empirical academics who, in the mind of a general public only marginally interested in this kind of thing, the revolutionaries of a new wave of literary theory seem anxious to destroy. Press coverage of events at Cambridge last year (incomplete and irresponsible as it was in many ways) had the effect of suggesting that it is possible to be refused tenure if you get too involved with this sort of stuff. A loose and uneasy association formed in the public mind between contemporary literary theory and left-wing agitation. It is necessary therefore to stress that Culler is a 'moderate', and that, though he did teach for a while at Cambridge in the early 1970s, he has now returned to the United States. This is a Cornell volume. As a result, there is a certain change in the nature of the material forming the basis of the book's discussion; several of the ...


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