If you’ve been following me for a while now, you might have noticed my tendency to
absolutely adore write deconstructive criticism. But in order to understand Deconstruction, it’s important to learn a bit about Structuralism first.
Some people stop here at Structuralism and never move on to Deconstruction. These people are Structuralists, and like most other people in the world, they are looking for love. So here’s some handy dandy tips from a Decontructionist on how to date a Structuralist.
First, like we’ve done before, let’s define Structuralism. Lois Tyson, in her brilliant Critical Theory Today defines Structuralism as:
A human science whose effort is to understand, in a systematic way, the fundamental structures that underlie all human experience and, therefore, all human behavior and production…
A method of systematizing human experience that is used in many different fields of study: for example, linguistics, anthropology, sociology, psychology, and literary studies.
Okay, now let’s break this down into some practical advice for your structural romantic endeavors.
Tip #1) Don’t focus on the surface phenomena. Your structuralist bf/gf will hate it if you focus on the things that make up life and not how they relate to each other. Surface phenomena exist only in the visible world, and if you can transition from a discussion of the visible to the invisible, how the little things all relate to each other and rely on each other to have meaning, then you will be able to intrigue and amuse your significant other. Also, by going beyond the surface phenomena, you will exist in a realm of conversation that doesn’t focus on the physical appearance of your date. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad idea to compliment a beautiful person. But if you stay at the place of physical beauty, your Structuralist date will go home wanting. A Structuralist wants to be engaged in the mind.
Tip #2) Everything is text. And I mean, everything. Structuralist Roland Barthes once famously declared that pro-wrestling ala Monday Night Raw and striptease were social texts that could be analyzed. So everything you do with your date will be considered a text that reveals how you (as a surface phenomena) emerged from the structure of society. So don’t do things that you hate just because you think that your date will like them. Everything that you do will be read into with the consideration of society’s effect on you (which is a lot less intimidating than having everything read into as if you’re just trying to make a sexual move somewhere, as many people are prone to do). An advantage to everything being text will come in your ability to dissect everything that you do and see with your date. It is never wrong to analyze something when you’re dating a Structuralist.
Tip #3) Everything’s in relationship to everything else. This goes hand in hand with Tip #2. If everything is a text in a structural system, and there is one main overarching structural system, then everything is in that same system, and thus related. I had a conversation today about how Romance languages are connected to each other through Latin, and how Latin originates in Sanskrit. Everything is related. Use this to your advantage. Read books and watch movies and boil them down to their structural elements. How do the same stories keep cropping up time and again? Why these structures? Have these discussions with your Structuralist companion. You’ll have fun together and feel enriched in the brain.
Tip #4) Wholeness, Transformation, Self-Regulation. A structure has this conceptual framework. Wholeness means that the system functions as a unit, Transformation means that the system can change, and Self-regulation means that the changes can’t change the system so much that the system is no longer the same system. You can apply this framework to your relationship (if you’re in it pretty serious) to experience a growing, dynamic closeness with your significant other. Aim for wholeness in your relationship by focusing on being whole individuals and being wholly together. Allow each other to transform the other into increasingly more mature versions of yourselves. But never lose the sense of self that makes you a unique individual (why individual wholeness is important for joint wholeness). Challenge each other to grow and advance in life. Rely on each other for some things, but not all things.
Tip #5) Think synchronically, not diachronically. Things studied diachronically are studied in chronological order. Things studied synchronically are studied as they are happening. So do everything as it is happening. Don’t get caught up in the past; focus on the here and now, and how everything that’s going on right now is related to everything else that’s going on right now. Go to eight restaurants in the course of a week and take pictures of all of the menus. At the end of the week, compare the menu items to each other. Also, make a note of what you order at each restaurant. What patterns can you see in current culinary practices in your town? Talk about it. Under no circumstances should you go to one restaurant and ask to see every single menu that has ever existed. That just doesn’t matter any more. What’s going on right now, that’s all that counts.
Tip #6) Parole reveals langue. We have Ferdinand de Saussure to thank for even more fancy French! Basically, langue is the structure of language and parole (French for speech) is the separate surface phenomena (aka words) that are used to describe langue. A Structuralist is only concerned with parole when it is being used to reveal langue. You can use this with your bf/gf if something is bothering them and you can’t figure it out. Examine their parole to reveal what’s really upsetting them, their langue, as it were. A Structuralist will be so impressed with your ability to get past the surface phenomena into the heart of the matter, that they won’t even care that they told you to leave it alone for the zillionth time.
Tip #7) Live life like a Northrop Frye romance; always move toward summer. Northrop Frye, a Canadian literary critic, came up with a couple of different theories about the structure of literature that can help you with initial wooing of a Structuralist or with the continuous spicing up of a lengthy relationship with a Structuralist. In Frye’s theory of myths, there are four different narrative patterns in Western literary tradition, the mythoi (plural of mythos). Each mythos is represented by a season, and the mythos of summer is the ideal world. It is the world of plenty and fulfillment, the world of quests and adventures, the world of heroes. The protagonists (you and your beloved) are those heroes, superior in degree to both men and their environment. Your lives are larger and more important than those around you. You are epic. Live this way, like your partner is heroic and that your lives are epic, and you will have a much more exciting relationship. I promise.
Tip #8) Watch Wes Anderson movies. I know, it’s starting to sound a little silly. How can Wes Anderson be the perfect choice for the Postmodernist, the Impressionist, AND the Structuralist? He is. Trust me. For example, The Royal Tenenbaums is all about the family structure and the relationships between the people. So go rent the DVD, puff up some Jiffy Pop, and enjoy the film. Then discuss the movie as text, the mythoi present in the story line, and what types of protagonists exist (based on Frye’s chart).