'Snowed Up': A Structuralist Reading
by Julian Cowley

binary opposition


  Major Approach: "[he does not seek] to produce a rigorous structuralist reading of Jefferies' story, but to explain some of the basic assumptions of the approach, while indicating how it can furnish tools for literary analysis, focusing the reader's attention on aspects of the text which might otherwise have remained concealed" (54).  (Therefore he does not really have a major argument.)

  Development of Ideas: 
I.
Cowley starts with two linguistic details, the dates of the diary and the fire, to make clear the idea that the signs in a text produce merely "referential illusion." 

II. He then (on p. 43 with "Now let us turn to the structuralist adventure of how 'Snowed Up' comes to have meaning")goes on to examine how some structures of the text produces meanings--on the syntagmatic pole with the help of 
1) Gerard Genette's categories of "order, duration and frequency";
2) (on p. 46) on the paradigmatic role, Vladimir Propp's 'spheres of action' (or actants).     While discussing how some characters play different roles at once (for instance, Edie as both sender and reciever), Cowley teases out the different ways of communication (through roads of commodities, through discussion or gestures of desires,), done in different kinds of social games (chess, snowballing).  

III.  With the discussion of the meanings of the crowd, Cowley consciously touches on, and even moves beyond, the limitations of structuralism.  
1) First, it is not "political or ideological" analysis; also, he consciously "preserv[es]" the referential illusion, "attributing  thoughts and feelings to to the 'paper beings.'   
2) Structuralism's exclusion of historical dimension is also defended with 1) Saussure's comparison of language to chess.  2) Roland Barthes semiotic practices in Mythologies.  

Finally, he admits that "Richard Jeffries remains the donor; for 'Richard Jeffries' authored Edie's story, even if we dispel the referential illusion of the Author. And so the snow begins to melt, and we may admit the noise once more . . ." (implying that the snow is just another layer of language, and that extra-textual can still be brought in the language or the text to disrupts its unity and structure.)

  Introductions of Structuralist approaches:
1.
Structuralist approaches regard the text as a literary system, and aim to clarify how that system produces meaning.  The structuralist reader attends to sets of differences within a work, or works, and identifies a structure for consideration--this might be, for instance, genre, narrative, or character.  p. 43

2. Structuralism posits a homology, a corresponding formal organization between the sentence and the structure of more extended signifying systems, such as the textual narrative.  Barthes: "a narrative is a long sentence," although it cannot be reduced to 'the simple sum of its sentences.'  p. 46.

3.  Reading is not just a matter of moving from one word to the next, but crucially involves movement across levels of meaning. p. 46.

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