[xmca] Actants, Greimas, Levi-Strauss

From: Tony Whitson <twhitson who-is-at UDel.Edu>
Date: Sun Jul 08 2007 - 14:17:55 PDT

In putting together a couple final posts on toolforthoughts, I noticed a
post early in the thread (pasted below) from Paul Dillon re: Levi-Strauss
which is actually very much related to "actants," so I thought I'd call
attention to the connection.

As noted in my post below, "actants" are part of Greimas' theory of
narrative structure (not of ontology). Greimas' work here grows directly
out of that of Propp (and others) on the structure of folk tales, for
example, which builds directly and explicitly on the structuralism of
theorists such as Levi-Strauss, following Saussure.

So folk tales, like totems, are toolforthoughts in a sense that's
independent of such things as computers, although computer technology may
now give rise to a situation that opens questions of the sort posed by
Shaffer & Clinton.

--------------
From: Paul Dillon <phd_crit_think who-is-at yahoo.com>
Date: Wed Jun 13 2007 - 17:13:26 PDT

mike and all,

   I haven't read the article, just the abstract. I couldn't help but think
that the idea "toolsforthought" was really invented 50 years ago when
Levi-Strauss (Claude not denim) proposed that totems (e.g., animals and
other natural objects) were not chosen because they were good to eat, but
because they were good to think with . . . Totemism/Savage Mind.

   Paul
--------------

On Sat, 7 Jul 2007, Mike Cole wrote:

> Thanks for the clarification, Tony.
> David, are there some web-accessible games that members of
> XMCA might try out? My impression is that when we try to talk
> about "serious gaming" we have no solid grounding in a common
> referent.
> mike
>
> On 7/7/07, Tony Whitson <twhitson@udel.edu> wrote:
>>
>> Mike,
>>
>> David Shaffer's post was helpful in many ways. It clarified the
>> commitments motivating the article (for him, in any case, being careful
>> not to speak for his co-author). A commitment to Latour's ontology does
>> not seem so important for David's project.
>>
>> It might help clarify to note that the idea of "Actant" (at least in
>> Greimas' work, which is where it comes from in Latour) is not part of a
>> position on ontology. Greimas formulates "actants" as part of a theory of
>> the logic of narrativity. Our deep personal and cultural theories about
>> how the world is structured and ordered are expressed in narrative form,
>> with "actants" figuring in the narratives we tell and think. These
>> narratives may express our ways of making sense about ontology, but
>> "actants" are part of the theory of how sense-making is ordered
>> structurally, not part of an ontology as such.
>>
>> On Sat, 7 Jul 2007, Mike Cole wrote:
>>
>> > There for sure MANY varieties of English, Michael. If, as I suspect,
>> > we can all agree to that,(I am sure I will be corrected if I am wrong!)
>> > it might provide a good spring board for pursuing the important issue
>> > of "starting from an ontology of difference."
>> >
>> > In this regard, I was puzzling over the point that David Shaffer made
>> > about the ontology of Latour's symmetry position. I am not well trained
>> > in philosophy, which is certainly part of the problem, but in what
>> senses
>> > in the ontology that accompanies the symmetry position can artifacts
>> > and humans both be actants and have symmetrical agency but be
>> > (in some/what?) sense different?
>> >
>> > mike
>> >
>> > On 7/6/07, Wolff-Michael Roth <mroth@uvic.ca> wrote:
>> >>
>> >> Hi,
>> >> I find it interesting for you to note that there are "several
>> >> varieties of English ...." I think this is astonishing from a
>> >> particular ontology, but from an ontology of difference, an ontology
>> >> that the philosophers I have repeatedly referred to, are not
>> >> astonished about. I articulate such a different perspective on
>> >> language in a couple of upcoming pieces, one that shows how language
>> >> never is identical with itself, and therefore always different, not
>> >> only a few. . . and another paper that picks up on an article Jean-
>> >> Luc Nancy writes about culture, language, identity, each as a form of
>> >> mle...
>> >>
>> >> We need to begin rethinking our approaches and take non-self-identity
>> >> as a starting point, and then all the arguments about difference are
>> >> problematized in very different ways, sameness is constructed, even
>> >> self-sameness is the result of a constructive process, which has
>> >> interesting consequences for theorizing Self, language, cognition,
>> >> culture, and so on....
>> >>
>> >> Cheers,
>> >> Michael
>> >>
>> >>
>> >>
>> >> On 6-Jul-07, at 6:34 PM, Phil Chappell wrote:
>> >>
>> >> Hi David,
>> >>
>> >> Many interesting points (with some interesting sign/symbol
>> >> combinations thrown in:-) My main concern was that on a public forum
>> >> you were appearing to represent others' points of views on the global
>> >> status of English. "The Americans say this...the Brits say that".
>> >> Your arguments for teaching English as school subject are sound and
>> >> reflect what goes on in bilingual and international schools in places
>> >> that I am familiar with, although don't forget the large and growing
>> >> demand for adult programs; and from my experience, many students in
>> >> those programs practice what Kumaravadivelu describes as self-
>> >> marginalisation (or similar term) by demanding "native-speaking
>> >> teachers", even though the likelihood is that they'll be
>> >> communicating with others who are not "native-speakers", and their
>> >> learning experiences are likely to be more enriching if they were to
>> >> have an expert-novice relationship with someone more familiar with
>> >> the social practices that the novices are learning to engage in -
>> >> using English to get things done with other people who do not use
>> >> English as their main language.
>> >>
>> >> In an interesting twist, the macrostrategic framework of
>> >> Kumaravadivelu was criticised by BANA applied linguists as not
>> >> representing anything innovative in ELT, to which Canagarajah
>> >> responded that it has been in use in outer and expanding circle
>> >> contexts for a long time, but the framework has not been stored in
>> >> the academic literature. I tend to think they're maxims that
>> >> sensitive language teachers have likely been practicing for a few
>> >> decades now. I've pasted them below for any interested readers, but I
>> >> think discussions of other matters are waiting in the wings!
>> >>
>> >> One side note, having recently returned to my BANA home country after
>> >> 12 years in a country where English is big in demand but low on the
>> >> everyday usage scale, I am struck every day at how bi- and multi-
>> >> lingual the population has become. There are several varieties of
>> >> English inside this "inner circle" BANA country that I am not sure
>> >> have been documented. I am becoming a public eavesdropper...the whole
>> >> constructs of ESL/EFL/EIL/ELF/EI-EI-O need dismantling!
>> >>
>> >> Cheers,
>> >>
>> >> Phil
>> >>
>> >> Macrostrategies for achieving situation-specific, need-based
>> >> classroom techniques: (Kumaravadivelu, 2003)*
>> >>
>> >> 1. Maximise learning opportunities,
>> >> 2. Minimise perceptual mismatches,
>> >> 3. Facilitate negotiated interaction,
>> >> 4. Promote leaner autonomy,
>> >> 5. Foster language awareness,
>> >> 6. Activate intuitive heuristics,
>> >> 7. Contextualise linguistic input,
>> >> 8. Integrate language skills,
>> >> 9. Ensure social relevance,
>> >> 10. Raise cultural consciousness
>> >>
>> >> *Kumaravadivelu, B. 2003, 'A Postmethod Perspective on English
>> >> Language Teaching', World Englishes, vol. 22, no. 4, pp. 539-550.
>> >> _______________________________________________
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>> >>
>> >> _______________________________________________
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>> >>
>> > _______________________________________________
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>> >
>>
>> Tony Whitson
>> UD School of Education
>> NEWARK DE 19716
>>
>> twhitson@udel.edu
>> _______________________________
>>
>> "those who fail to reread
>> are obliged to read the same story everywhere"
>> -- Roland Barthes, S/Z (1970)
>

Tony Whitson
UD School of Education
NEWARK DE 19716

twhitson@udel.edu
_______________________________

"those who fail to reread
  are obliged to read the same story everywhere"
                   -- Roland Barthes, S/Z (1970)

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Received on Sun Jul 8 14:26 PDT 2007

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