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Structuralism was imported into Britain mainly in the 1970s and attained


Academic year: 2021

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Structuralism is an intellectual movement which began in France in the 1950s.

Structuralism was imported into Britain mainly in the 1970s and attained

widespread influence, and even notoriety, throughout the 1980s.

The idea that things cannot be

understood in isolation - they have to be seen in the context of the larger

structures they are part of.


The linguistic sign is composed of

these two elements. A word does not represent a thing in the world but a concept in our mind.

the signifier ( a written or spoken mark)

signified (a concept)

Signs of the fathers – Saussure


Arbitrariness: The meanings given to words are purely arbitrary, and those meanings are maintained by convention only. There is no inherent connection between a word and what it designates.

Relationality: The meanings of words are relational; that is, signs just gain their meaning from their relationships with other signs. No word can be defined in isolation from other words.

hovel shed hut house mansion palace

'In a language there are only differences, without fixed terms'

Constitutiveness: Language constitutes our world instead of just recording or labelling it. Meaning is always attributed to the object or idea by the human mind, and constructed by and expressed through language: it is not already contained within the thing. 'terrorist' or 'freedom fighter'

What exactly did Saussure say about linguistic structures which the Structuralists later found so interesting?


Saussure's thinking stressed the way language

is arbitrary, relational, and constitutive, and this

way of thinking about language greatly

influenced the Structuralists, because it gave

them a model of a system which is self-

contained, in which individual items relate to

other items and thus create larger structures.


language as a system or structure

novel as a genre, as a body of literary practice (Langue)

any given utterance in that language the novel Middlemarch


Langue- Parole


1. They analyse (mainly) prose narratives, relating the text to some larger containing structure, such as:

(a) the conventions of a particular literary genre,

(b) a network of intertextual connections, or

(c) a projected model of an underlying universal narrative structure, or

(d) a notion of narrative as a complex of recurrent patterns or motifs.

What structuralist critics do


What Structuralists Look For

The factors they are

looking They expect to find









Situation/Circumstanc e

Language /Imagery


Analysis of a particular text in the framework of a particular genre


Analysis of a particular text as a whole in itself

Syntagmatic or Paradigmatic



Certain elements of tragedy since ancient times:

*Identity crisis: Who am I?

*Five stages of crisis


Oedipus the King and The Room


Romeo and Juliet

Symmetry in the Scenes


Symmetry in



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