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Transcript of Structuralist Criticism
The Structuralism Perspective
light vs. dark, up vs. down
-character's inner thoughts vs. dialogue
-Fairy tales and folktales
The study of signs and their use and how meaning is created.
How these signs enable us to understand complex cultural elements.
Non-linguistic objects/behaviors tell readers something.
Structuralist criticism originates from anthropology and linguistics. It suggests that language is based upon an arbitrary and differential system of signs that is used to convey meaning.
"Language is not a function of the speaker; it is a product that is passively assimilated by the individual"
Ferdinand de Saussure
The origins of structuralism connect with the work of Ferdinand de Saussure on linguistics, along with the linguistics of the Prague and Moscow schools. In brief, de Saussure's structural linguistics propounded three related concepts.
How Structuralism Works
In literary theory, structuralist criticism relates literary texts to a larger structure, which may be a genre, a range of inter textual connections, a model of a universal narrative structure, or a system of recurrent patterns or motifs.
Searching literary texts for opposites is a common method of structuralism.
Cinderella is pretty, while step-sisters are ugly.
Cinderella is penniless, while step-sisters have money.
Cinderella is good, while step-sisters are evil.
Cinderella loses one slipper, but keeps the other.
Cinderella has a complete change in luck as do her step-sisters.
"But the shrub soon stopped growing and began to get ready to produce a flower. The little prince, who was present at the first appearance of a huge bud, felt at once some sort of miraculous apparition must emerge from it.But the flower was not satisfied to complete the preparation for her beauty in the shelter of her green chamber. She chose her colors with the greatest care. She dressed herself slowly...
"Oh! How beautiful you are!"
"Am I not?" the flower responded, sweetly.
"And I was born at the same moment as the sun..."
The little prince could guess easily enough that she was not any too modest-but how moving-and exciting-she was!"
The Little Prince
Romeo and Juliet
An archetype for many more love stories
Any more stories influenced by Romeo and Juliet?
"From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes, a pair of star-crossed lovers take their life."
• De Saussure argued for a distinction between language (an idealized abstraction of language) and parole (language as actually used in daily life).
Structuralism is interested in the interrelationship between language
1. UNITS (also called phenomena) are words
2. RULES (the ways that units can be put together.) are the forms of grammar which order words.
In different languages, the grammar rules are different, as are the words, but the structure is still the same in all languages: words are put together within a grammatical system to make meaning
Units are princess, stepmother, and prince.
Rules are stepmothers are evil, princesses are victims, and princes and princesses have to marry. That's exactly what structuralist analyzes of literature are analyzing.
1. "Signifier" (the "sound pattern" of a word, either in mental projection—as when one silently recites lines from signage, a poem to one's self—or in actual, any kind of text, physical realization as part of a speech act)
2. "Signified" (the concept or meaning of the word)
The linguistic sign is arbitrary as there is no interior link between the concept and the acoustic image.
When the signifier and the signified are joined together they produce a sign which is of positive order, and concrete rather than abstract.