Disciplines and Interdisciplinarity in Foreign Language Studies

By Hans Lauge Hansen | Go to book overview

Towards a Sociocritical Theory of the Text

by Edmond Cros

If we look back to the 1960s we observe a radical reconfiguration of the idea of the text, resulting from the rapid expansion of general linguistics and literary semiology. This idea was detached from the 'philosophy of truth'; it defined a 'new object' that was described as a 'translinguistic device' and considered as a signifying practice that never ceases to work and is irreducible to objective signification. While retaining the theoretical concepts implicit within this idea, sociocriticism is essentially concerned with what the text transcribes; that is to say, with the modalities of the incorporation of history, not at the level of content but at the level of forms. For sociocriticism, this plurality is the product of the dynamic and dialectical process of history. It is because it incorporates history in a way that is specific to it that the text presents itself as a translinguistic device. In the present article I seek to map out these paths of complex, heterogeneous and contradictory meaning and to identify both their nature and their effects.

Sociocriticism aims to bring out the relations existing between the structures of literary (or cultural) work and the structures of the society in which this work is deeply rooted. This theory claims that the encounter with ideological traces and with antagonistic tensions between social classes is central to any reading of texts. However, unlike most sociological approaches to literature, which leave the structures of text untouched, it assumes that the social nature of the literary work must be located and investigated within the text and not outside it. A patient and exact reconstruction of the semiotico-ideological elements must therefore be elaborated in order to show how the historical process is deeply involved in the writing process. Indeed, it is necessary to consider the different ways of incorporating history in the text. On this point, a series of questions must be emphasized:

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