Wednesday, June 23, 2021

The failure of structuralism and linguistics: Why did academic literary criticism turn its back on intellectual opportunity in the mid-1970s? [and why did I ignore the profession?]

6.25.21: Revised and updated with new material.

I’ve been through this before, I know, but I keep coming back to it. Maybe this time I can get it right, or at least inch beyond were I got the last time. However, I’m not going to take the time to link to specific posts or working papers that are relevant. I’m just going to talk this one straight through.

However, I did update a post where I’ve been keeping track of my thinking on this issue. Here it is:

The profession of literary criticism as I have observed it over the course of 50 years [& related matters],

I will say this, after having drafted this essay, I think I’ve got it right, more or less. This satisfies my curiosity about this matter, though no doubt there are details to be nailed down, etc.

Two Perspectives

We have two perspectives, two aspects to examine: 1) the profession in general, and 2) my history in particular. Let us assume that by my senior year in college, 1968-69 at Johns Hopkins, I had internalized some version of a standard academic approach to literary criticism. The object of criticism was to interpret the text. There was some question as to whether or not interpretations were unique, whether or not they could be objective, at least in principle. This was quite problematic and extensively debated. But there was no doubt that interpretation was the name of the game.

That’s the period when structuralism, not post-structuralism or deconstruction, was getting attention, what with its codes, little diagrams, and formulae. Perhaps, some thought, structuralism will clear up some of the debates about the nature of the text, meaning, and interpretation and, at the same time, open avenues of collaboration with neighboring disciplines. I grabbed ahold of that and had worked my way to computational semantics by early 1974. But the profession tossed structuralism over in favor of Derrida and friends. Why the divergence? And why did it take me so long – roughly two decades, into the mid-1990s – to realize that it had been form that had my attention all along that, in effect?

Lévi-Strauss and the logic of myths

I suppose it was in my sophomore year that I first encountered the work of Claude Lévi-Strauss. It would have been in a class I took with Richard Macksey. He’d assigned the following text as optional reading:

Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Structural Study of Myth, The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 68 No. 270, Oct-Dec 1955, pp. 428-444.

I read it and was fascinated. I did a paper on Oedipus at Colonus – so it must have been his Idea of the Theatre course – in which I drew a table modeled more or less after something I’d seen in that article. It’s important that I’d internalized the article to the point where I did draw a table.

I forget what kind of table it was. I may still have the paper – I’ve kept some of my undergraduate work (just as Jerry Seinfeld has all his notes back to the first bit he ever performed) – but it would be in storage along with the rest of my library. It might have looked something like this, from the article:

That’s about the logic underlying the Oedipus stories. I sometimes talk of ‘myth logic.’

Then there’s this intriguing diagram:

It looks a bit like a slice through some kind of machine, a myth machine, no? Notice that we’ve got “life” at the upper left and “death” at the lower right. In between we’ve got some linkage between “animal food” and “life destroyed.” What’s going on?

Lévi-Strauss was working out a theory/model whatchamacallit that myths work by resolving binary oppositions. The big one, of course, is life-death. You then substitute mediating terms for each side of the opposition until you reach a point where you’ve got a common term, or something like that. That’s what that horizontal slot is about.

He argued that in myth after myth after myth for several years, until he adopted a somewhat different and more elaborate whatchamacallit in Mythologies, the first volume of which was The Raw and the Cooked, which are mediating terms for nature and culture, respectively.

That’s what caught the attention of the folks who organized and attended the (in)famous structuralism conference at Hopkins in the fall of 1966. Though I was on campus at the time, I didn’t attend any of the sessions, nor would it have done me any good as they we all in French, one of many languages of which I know little to nothing. But I was in Dick Macksey’s orbit, and that was enough. I read that essay, wrote that paper, and was hooked on Lévi-Strauss for the next few years.

But why?

The word illusion and the problem of meaning

When I talk of the word illusion I’m alluding to the fact that when we see words on the page – or for that matter, hear them, but mostly we see them on the page in our work – we think we’re seeing the whole word in the way that we see the whole cat when we look at it. In the case of the cat, of course, we may be looking at it from, say, its left side, but it has a right side that is invisible to us, not to mention the belly and back, as well as its interior organs. But that’s not quite what I have in mind.

We see a word on the page and we know how to spell it, how to pronounce it, how to conjugate it (if it is a verb) and so on. And we know its meaning, or perhaps meanings. We feel that we grasp of that when we see it there on the page. The word.

But the word, the whole word in full, isn’t on the page at all. All that’s on the page is the word form. We hold all the rest of that in our heads. That all the rest of it is somehow inherent in those marks on the page, that’s a perceptual-cognitive illusion. The word illusion. If meaning inhered in the marks, then you could look at a text in a foreign language and grasp the meaning immediately, from the marks. Obviously language doesn’t work like that.

Well, linguists have quite a bit to say about word forms, and about phonology, morphology, and syntax. And the structuralist movement latched on to this domain primarily through the structuralist linguistics Ferdinand de Saussure. He talked of the sign as consisting of a signifier (the word form) and signified (meaning), where the signified was explicitly understood as being different from the referent, the thing (out there) in the world to which the word referred.

It’s easy enough to say all that, and even to believe it. But how do we work with, think about, those signifiers? We can’t get at them directly. They’re not physically present in the speech stream or inscribed on the page with written symbols. They’re in the mind, or brain, but we can’t observe them directly.

We have to get at them indirectly. Obviously they form some kind of system. Perhaps it’s a differential system, like the phonemes, which have binary features. We can work with phonemes directly. Perhaps we can detect the workings of a differential system of meanings in texts. That’s what Lévi-Strauss was doing in his work on myth. He was examining myths, how they unfold through some system of categories, how those categories reflect off one another, and deducing the likely terms in the underlying system of meaning. Those diagrams, those little formulas, they’re all representations of a system of signifiers in the mind, your mind, my mind, every mind. Those representations make the hidden and invisible world of signifiers real and tractable.

That’s what made structuralism so appealing to a generation of scholars who, having entered into the business of interpreting texts, were beginning to fear it to be a somewhat dodgy business.

Well, members of the profession gave it a try from the mid-1960s and into the 1970s. Robert Scholes produced a little book on structuralism. Jonathan Culler produced a somewhat bigger book, Structuralist Poetics, and lectured it across the country in ‘75 or ‘76. But, in a review of Mythologiques in Diacritics at that time, Eugenio Donato said we can set aside the analyst of ethnographic materials; it’s Lévi-Strauss the enigmatic philosopher who interests us, the Lévi-Strauss who believes his analysis of a myth is but another variant of the myth, and so forth. [I had little interest Lévi-Strauss the philosopher.] In the title essay of The Fate of Reading (1975), Geoffrey Hartman pronounced an interdiction on semiotics, linguistics and “technical structuralism” in literary criticism. And behind it all was Derrida’s deconstruction of Lévi-Strauss in “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences,” the paper he delivered at the 1966 structuralism symposium at Hopkins.

Derrida had won. Structuralism and linguistics lost. But I went with losers. I went beyond them. It was clear to me from my careful study of The Raw and the Cooked, that if there was that much structure there, there must be more. I was going to look for it.

Trees in “Kubla Khan”

But it wasn’t at all obvious in 1968-69 that structuralism and linguistics had lost. What’s when I took a two-semester course in Romantic Literature, taught by Earl Wasserman. He praised my Wordsworth paper as exhibiting a “mature approach” to whatever poem I’d analyzed, I forget which. I’d also done a paper on “Kubla Khan,” and that poem would come to dominate the earliest phase of my career. I was told that that paper prompted Wasserman to ask a question in my name (they did that back in those days, do they still do it?) at some presentation where I wasn’t present. I believe that I’d proposed that the poem achieves completeness by asserting its own completeness and he asked about that.

This was at the height of the Vietnam war and the exigencies of the draft were such that it made more sense for me to stick around Hopkins and do a master’s degree in Humanities than to go off somewhere for a Ph.D. and then get drafted. I’d been granted status as a Conscientious Objector and was allowed to do my alternative service in the Chaplain’s Office at Hopkins. I did that while working on a master’s thesis on “Kubla Khan.”

Now, structuralism and semiotics weren’t all I’d studied. I’d learned about Chomsky in a psycholinguistics course taught by James Deese, so I knew about the use of tree diagrams in depicting the syntactic structure of sentences. Mary Ainsworth had introduced me to the work of Jean Piaget, who regarded himself as a structuralist. He didn’t produce diagrams, but he did articulate a theory of mental operations and how they matured in stages. Finally, I’d taken a course in computer programming. I’d even written a program to play tic-tac-toe. That gave me another way of thinking about what minds do, and, of course, there were a lot of people going down that particular rabbit hole.

I set out to do a structuralist analysis of “Kubla Khan” for my masters thesis (1969-1972). The idea was to take all the cool stuff I’d learned as an undergraduate, toss it into a bag along with “Kubla Khan,” shake it up and out would come a structuralist analysis embedded in some kind of theoretical justification. Alas, it didn’t work out that way.

Finding binary oppositions in the poem was easy: Kubla vs. the dome, Kubla vs. the wailing woman, Kubla vs. the damsel with a dulcimer, the dome vs. the caves, Kubla vs. the caves, Kubla vs. the fountain, the wailing woman vs. the fountain, Paradise vs. Xanadu, and so on. The poem was teeming with binary oppositions. But I couldn’t order them into some kind of coherent form. They weren’t like those myths Lévi-Strauss worked on.

And that, I suspect, is one reason structuralism didn’t take hold in the profession. Binary oppositions did not prove to be a very powerful analytic tool for examining literary texts. Finding oppositions was easy; doing something interesting with them was hard.

I regrouped and had an idea. Why not treat line-end punctuation marks like parentheses, brackets, and braces in a mathematical equation, or a computer program? That is, why not treat the poem as a string of characters, which it is, that is composed of an orderly arrangement of strings and substrings. So that’s what I did. Here’s what the first part of “Kubla Khan” (36 lines) looked like:

Notice that the whole breaks into three parts, the middle of those into three, and again, the middle of those into three. Like nested Russian dolls. All other divisions are binary. And the last 18 lines looked pretty much the same. Moreover all those binary oppositions that had looked like some inchoate pile of plumbing fixtures or children’s blocks now fell into a coherent order.

But this is not the place to explain to explain all that. I’ve done that in two papers, both with diagrams, and the second one much longer, with many more diagrams (and in color):

Articulate Vision: A Structuralist Reading of "Kubla Khan", Language and Style, Vol. 8: 3-29, 1985.,

“Kubla Khan” and the Embodied Mind, PsyArt: A Hyperlink Journal for the Psychological Study of the Arts, Article 030915, November 29, 2003,

The point is simply that this made sense. It wasn’t what I was looking for, and I didn’t quite know what to make of it. But I could smell that there was order there, and that order smelled like computation. Why? because of those nested triple structures. They had the feel of nested loop constructions in computer programming.

Thus, as I explained in my autobiographical piece, “Touchstones” [1], it took me two years from the time I discovered that nested structure sometime early in 1970 to the time, early in 1972, I decided that I had no choice but to write it up. Why the two year delay? As I said, I hadn’t been looking for a structure like that and didn’t know what to make of it. 

For one thing, I was dealing with that fact that “Kubla Khan” was and remains one of the best known and most studied poems in the English language. I read everything the Hopkins library had on the poem. No other critic had come close to a structure like that.

Was I hallucinating? That after all was the BIG question before the profession at the time: Are our interpretations real or are we just making them up? It’s pretty hard to conjure up commas, colons, semi-colons and periods out of whole cloth. They’re definitely there in the text. But it DID require several months of work before I decided to attend to them and the order they delineated. It’s not as though they were proclaiming, “Look at me! Look at me!” Could it be possibly that scholars had missed it because they just weren’t looking? If so, what else is there in the text that no one is looking for? You can see where that leads: Is the whole profession culturally blind to certain formal aspects of texts?

What was I to do? I’d found something in this much-studied text that no one else had. Is it real? And so I read extensively in linguistics and cognitive science, looking for clues about what to make of that structure. Alas, that’s all I found, clues, but nothing that gave me a mental mechanism that would actually produce such a linguistic structure.

I was stumped.

Then in January of 1972 that I took LSD, for the first time in my life (there was a second time a few years later, but that’s it). It was in the wake of that that revelatory scramble-fest, which also prompted me to sign up for trumpet lessons at the Peabody Conservatory, that I decided to write up my results and turn my thesis in. I decided that the best I could do was to say, in effect: I’ve found this thing. I think it’s real, but I don’t know what to make of it. Here it is, make of it what you will. That decision changed my intellectual trajectory forever.

From trees to computation

What is it, in the end, that made that work seem REAL to me, aside from the fact that I had nowhere else to go? Here, in hindsight, is what I think. 

Structuralism talked of the paradigmatic axis of language and the syntagmatic axis. All those categories arrayed in opposition to one another, that organization belongs to the paradigmatic axis. The succession of symbols in a string, that’s the syntagmatic axis. When I decided to analyze the text of “Kubla Khan” into those trees, I was analyzing it along the syntagmatic axis. And when those binary categories feel into a neat arrangement of slots in that tree structure, I had a mapping or projection from the paradigmatic to the syntagmatic axis. I was looking at the operations of a grammar. I couldn’t tell you what the rules were, but I could detect their effects.

I was hooked. I had somehow obtained access to the operations of that mysterious realm of signifiers. I went off to graduate school to investigate them. Now, it wasn’t at all obvious that there was anyone in the English Department at SUNY Buffalo who could help me with this, and there wasn’t. But there was a man in the Linguistics Department, David Hays, and the English Department was happy to have me study with him.

And from Hays – who had been a first generation researcher in machine translation and, as such, was a pioneer in computational linguistics – I learned a real computational model for semantic structures, one his students used in their work, one much like computational investigators around the country and the world were using at the time. I didn’t write code, but I drew hundreds of diagrams, for these models lend themselves to diagrams. As things worked out I wasn’t able to produce a convincing set of diagrams for “Kubla Khan,” but I was able to produce them for a Shakespeare sonnet, 129, “Lust in Action,” and those diagrams went into one of my earliest publication:

Cognitive Networks and Literary Semantics, MLN 91: 1976, 952-982,

I built on that in a later publication:

Lust in Action: An Abstraction, Language and Style 14, 1981, 251-270,

I was committed. I’d gone through the door at the back of the wardrobe and found my way to another world. It was easy enough to come out of that world for a visit, but that’s where my intellectual life was to unfold.

In this other land the world of signifieds was not an elusive morass of wisps and sighs, smoke trails and blinking lights. It had form and substance, rules and mechanisms. You could work with it. Even built the bones of a sonnet. But a play, a novel, ah well, we’ve got much to learn. And we still do.

But what happened to literary criticism?

In a way, it went on as before, leaving the realm of signifiers as something one approached, not through explicit construction, as in computational Narnia – let’s be clear about this, to you it is an imaginary world, Narnia, but not to me; to me it is real, tractable, concrete, like Peoria, Barcelona, or Seoul – but through indirect means, through interpretation. A thousand interpretive flowers bloomed.

Many of them were about politics, in the largest sense. Let us not forget that the academic discipline of literary studies was supposed to educate students in the ethos of the nation, whether America, France, Germany, Spain, or, for that matter, Russia or China. By the mid-1970s the American national ethos had been badly splintered by the Civil Rights movement (eventually leading to African-American studies), the anti-war movement, the rise of the so-called counter culture, second wave feminism, and a proliferation of identity based discourses. This was much more pressing on the profession than the paradigmatic and syntagmatic axes of structuralist theory, much less the computational mechanisms I was playing with, and, by the way, surely those must be the work of neoliberal devils – we’ll return to them in a bit.

Moreover, there is the fact that Lévi-Strauss was working with the myths of preliterate people, texts to which literary critics had no existential connection. To use the standard metaphor of space and distance, the critics lived at a distance from those myth texts, as did Lévi-Strauss himself, while they were close to, lived among, the (national) texts for which their discipline was responsible. They had an existential connection with those texts.

But they had no way to achieve such distance from them. Distance requires more than will, it requires method. And saying, let’s play Martian anthropologist, isn’t much of a method. Lévi-Strauss’s conceptual tactics ¬– those oppositions, arrayed in diagrams, and compressed into quasi-formal expressions – allowed him, and those of us who liked those tactics, to maintain contact with those texts even at a distance. But, as I mentioned in the case of my initial work on “Kubla Khan,” those tactics didn’t seem to yield much when applied to the canonical texts of the Western literary canon.

So, on the one hand, critics had little no reason to question Hartman’s interdiction, nothing to gain analytically. On the other hand, the political pulled them toward their own texts in an irresistible way. The nation was bleeding, the sky was falling, and perhaps literary critics could somehow serve as a bridge over troubled waters. And, yes, some critics would see those technical and quasi-technical methods as worse than useless, as actually destructive, but such sentiments weren’t as widespread back in the 1970s as they are now.

Thus no one either at Hopkins, where I began this work, or at SUNY Buffalo, where I completed a Ph.D. on the basis of that work, thought I was doing something dangerous or crazy. Things were wide-open in those days in a way that they are not now. No one cautioned me to save the crazy stuff for when I’d become safely tenured in – a piece of advice I hear all too often these days.

Yes, faculty in the English Department at Buffalo thought this was a bit far out. They recognized that there was nothing else like it going on in literary studies, not that they knew about. But that department was explicitly established with the mission to innovate, to “boldly go where no man has gone before,” as William Shatner intoned at the beginning of each Star Trek episode.

On the one had, then, I was pretty much alone in literary studies in exploring these ideas. Judging from what has in fact happened, it seems to me that the computational Narnia will not become real unless you plunge as deeply into it as I have. No one else attempted to do that, at least not that I know of.

It would be two decades before a sizeable number of literary scholars would decide to investigate the cognitive sciences and by that time it became easy to do so without confronting computation. And so you have cognitive criticisms that-side step computation in one way or another. These newer cognitive and even evolutionary criticisms (e.g. Joseph Carroll’s Darwinian literary criticism) allowed critics to set politics aside and yet feel as though they were moving forward intellectually. These methods left the world of signifieds as obscure as it was and is for Theory, critique, and, I strongly suspect, post-critique as well.

That leaves me with a final issue: Why did it take me so long to focus on the analysis and description of form?

From form to ring-form

On the one hand, I had other things to do. We’re in the mid-1980s and into the mid-1990s. In the mid-1980s I was working on a book on computer graphics with Richard Friedhoff, eventually published as Visualization: The Second Computer Revolution (Abrams 1989) and then took a job as a technical writer with MapInfo, a software start-up hived from an entrepreneurship class at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where I’d held a faculty position. Between Hays’s book, Cognitive Structures, written in 1975 but published later (HRAF Press 1971) and my dissertation, Cognitive Science and Literary Theory (1978), we had taken the diagram-drawing phase, if you will, of our semantic model as far as we could. We did a paper on metaphor [2], one on the brain [3], and a series on cultural evolution [4, a-e], which took us into the 1990s. I managed to squeeze in a paper on Shakespeare, but one quite different from my early work on Sonnet 129 [5]. Along with everything else we were doing, making a living, and Hays had become interested in the ballet, that was quite enough. Thus while I was doing quite a bit of intellectual work during that period, relatively little of it was focused on literature.

Then in 1994 the Stanford Humanities Review published an article about cognition and literary criticism by Herbert Simon [6], the cognitive scientist and economist, which came accompanied by comments from some 20 or 30 literary critics. Once I got over the shock that I’d not been invited to this party – for I’d been exploring that territory longer than any of those commentators ¬– I did some looking around and found a school of cognitive literary criticism that seems to have arisen around West Coast cognitive linguistics. More Than Cool Reason (1989), by George Lakoff and Mark Turner was a key text, but there were other texts and other schools.

It immediately became obvious to me that these critics knew little to nothing about the cognitive science I knew, though it was buried in the references of some of their key texts. The cognitive science I knew, and espoused, was built around the idea of computation. This newer cognitive science, this second wave, was not. In that context, calling myself a cognitive critic was very misleading, as what I had been doing was quite different from what interested them.

It was in the context of working through those issues that I realized that, all the time I’d been exploring meaning, (and had gone deep into computational semantics while so doing), those explorations almost always had a strong formal element in them. That’s obvious in the case of “Kubla Khan,” and it was obvious in an unpublished analysis of Yeats’s “The Cat and the Moon” that I had done in graduate school. An early paper on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight concentrated on the form of the third fitt [7], my narrative paper [4c] and my paper on Shakespeare plays [5] took their point of departure from an analysis of formal structure.

During the late 1990s, however, my main intellectual energies were devoted to a book on music that I published in 2001, Beethoven’s Anvil: Music in Mind and Culture. After publication I initiated a correspondence with the late Mary Douglas, who had written a blurb for the book, and she got me interested in ring-form composition [8]. Such texts were symmetrically organized about a central unit such that the first and last units mirrored one another, the second and penultimate units mirrored one another, and so forth:

A, B, C...X...C’, B’, A’

This was a more or less traditional topic, (once) common enough in classics and Old Testament studies (Douglas’s interest), but more or less neglected (if not ridiculed [9]) in recent years. I’d first encountered it in a review essay published in PMLA in 1976 and noted a resemblance between this ring-composition and the nested structures in “Kubla Khan.” But I didn’t pursue it.

Mary Douglas got me to pursue it. But I didn’t go looking in classical texts or Biblical, I went looking in more modern texts, and I found rings [11]. If I’ve chosen to investigate ring-composition, it is not because I believe it is a key to all literary forms, or any such nonsense, but simply because it is a fairly specific formal structure I can search for.

And that, more or less, is where I am today.

I could say a great deal more about my thoughts on form in relation to the structures and mechanisms of meaning, and about what those mechanism are and how we should pursue them. But that is way beyond the scope of this article, which I wrote just to get from there, the early 1970s, to here, the early 2000s, with an account of how I came to take one path and mainstream literary criticism took another. By “mainstream literary criticism “I mean pretty much everything else.


During the 1960s and 1970s literary critics took a look at structuralism and linguistics as a source of conceptual tools for dealing with problems that had arisen in the enterprise of interpretative criticism. There was no way to directly examine the world of signifieds so it had to be approached indirectly, though interpretation. Alas, critics did not seem to agree in their interpretations. Perhaps the structuralists, semioticians, and linguists could help. They couldn’t. Their tools were too weak while the interpretive need, with a nation in turmoil, was pressing. And so, under cover of the word illusion, which was rationalized with the aid of sophisticated philosophical reasoning (or was it and is it sophistry?) the profession continued on as it had been going before it had allowed structuralism, semiotics, and linguistics to tempt it with new possibilities.

During that period I undertook an analysis of “Kubla Khan.” While the standard tactics of structuralist analysis left me with an unordered pile of semantic elements, if you will, I took another step and analyzed the text into as collection of strings and substrings. That produced a coherent order and those semantic elements fit into that order nicely. I had discovered a coherent mapping from paradigmatic structure to syntagmatic. I then took another step forward and learned computational semantics under the tutelage of David Hays. I now had a coherent way of thinking about the realm of signifiers. I could never return to the world of mainstream literary criticism. Instead, I built a practice on analysis of description. In particular, I sought out ring-form texts.

I don’t know where mainstream criticism will go next. That’s not my problem. I know what I am doing.


[1] William L. Benzon, Touchstones • Strange Encounters • Strange Poems • the beginning of an intellectual life, November 2015, (Revised from a version originally published in Paunch 42-43: 4-16, December 1975)

[2] William L. Benzon and David G. Hays, Metaphor, Recognition, and Neural Process. American Journal of Semiotics 5: 59 - 79, 1987,

[3] William L. Benzon and David G. Hays, Principles and Development of Natural Intelligence. Journal of Social and Biological Structures 11, 293 - 322, 1988,

[4a] William L. Benzon and David G. Hays, A Note on Why Natural Selection Leads to Complexity. Journal of Social and Biological Structures 13, 33-40, 1990,

[4b] William L. Benzon and David G. Hays, The Evolution of Cognition. Journal of Social and Biological Structures 13, 297-320, 1990,

[4c] William L. Benzon, The Evolution of Narrative and the Self. Journal of Social and Evolutionary Systems, 16(2): 129-155, 1993,

[4d] William L. Benzon, Stages in the Evolution of Music. Journal of Social and Evolutionary Systems, 16(3): 283-296, 1993,

[4e] David G. Hays, The Evolution of Expressive Culture. Journal of Social and Evolutionary Systems, 15: 187-215, 1992,

[5] William L. Benzon, At the Edge of the Modern, or Why is Prospero Shakespeare's Greatest Creation? Journal of Social and Evolutionary Systems, 21 (3): 259-279, 1998,

[6] Herbert Simon, “Literary Criticism: A Cognitive Approach,” Stanford Humanities Review 4, No. 1, 1994, pp. 1-26.

[7] William L. Benzon, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the Semiotics of Ontology, Semiotica, 3/4, 1977, 267-293,

[8] Mary Douglas, Thinking in Circles: An Essay on Ring Composition, Yale UP, 2007.

[9] J. J. Paxson, “Revisiting the deconstruction of narratology: master tropes of narrative embedding and symmetry.” Style 35, 1, 2001: 126-150.

[10] R.G. Peterson, “Critical Calculations: Measure and Symmetry in Literature,” PMLA 91, 3, 1976: 367-375.

[11] You will find much of this work, but not all of it, at the Ring Composition link on my Academia site, You should also look at my working paper, Heart of Darkness: Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis on Several Scales, Version 5, 2019,

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