Binary Oppositions (1728 words)

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

Sorcha Fogarty (University College Cork)
Download PDF Save to Bookshelf Tweet Report an Error

Context

Other Resources

In order to gain a clear understanding of the term “binary opposition” it is of primary importance to acknowledge its origins in Saussurean structuralist theory. According to Ferdinand de Saussure, the binary opposition is the “means by which the units of language have value or meaning; each unit is defined against what it is not”. Essentially, the concept of the binary opposition is engendered by the Western propensity to organize everything into a hierarchical structure; terms and concepts are related to positives or negatives, with no apparent latitude for deviation: i.e. Man/Woman, Black/White, Life/Death, Inside/Outside, Presence/Absence, and so on. Thus, the binary opposition is fundamentally a structurally derived …

Citation: Fogarty, Sorcha. "Binary Oppositions". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 15 February 2005 [https://www.litencyc.com/php/stopics.php?rec=true&UID=122, accessed 30 September 2022.]

122 Binary Oppositions 2 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

Save this article

If you need to create a new bookshelf to save this article in, please make sure that you are logged in, then go to your 'Account' here

Leave Feedback

The Literary Encyclopedia is a living community of scholars. We welcome comments which will help us improve.