UW in the Classroom

Binary Oppositions

     The word “binary” means two.  Since the beginning of oral and literary history in the Western Tradition, stories have been told in what modern critics call binary oppositions, simply meaning opposites.  For example, in the Bible, darkness existed all over the world until God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.”  Since that time, Light and Dark exist, archetypally, against each other, literarily speaking.  In the same way, the argument goes, every expression human beings have, has a contrasting binary opposition — good/bad, rich/poor, smart/dumb, etc. — that either exist along or battling against the other.

     In his lecture, City as a Container, professor Arnold Weinstein discusses the elements of a cityscape novel where all the elements of the Western Binaries exist simultaneously.  This becomes your first introduction to Post-Modern theory; the idea that society is fractionalized, and, therefore, is not either-or but all things equally at one time.  

     You will see this dynamic at play in Martin Dressler as Martin looks to change the world, only to realize the world — that he has indeed changed — operates just fine without him.  In this section, you will see an outline of Professor Weinstein’s argument that we will read to critically analyze Martin Dressler.