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In literary theory, structuralism is an approach to analysing a narrative material by examining the underlying unchanging structure
The structuralists claim that there must be a structure in every text
Hence, they say that everything that is written is governed by a specific set of rules, a "grammar of literature”.
Structuralism is an approach to the human sciences that attempts to analyse any specific field as a set of separate interrelating parts forming a pattern or complex system
At the time it was considered a breakthrough intellectual theory and was widened to relate to many other fields such as sociology, anthropology, psychology, psychoanalysis, literary theory and architecture.
Structuralism was intended as a method of critical investigation, a scientific rational or mathematics for literary and cultural theorists
The ambition of structuralists, just like that of archeologists was to dig out codes systems and structures which could govern cultural activity and all it produced. This extended to language and all other discursive and symbolic systems - If meaning exists, it had been because it was made possible by an underlying convention or system of distinction.
“ Wherever there are two posts, one can kick a ball between them, but one can only score a goal within a certain institutional framework” - Jonathan Culler.
the structuralist view was in danger of collapsing all difference.
An example is the possible structuralist conclusion that the authors of West Side Story did not write anything "really" new, because their work has the same structure as Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
Structuralism was soon disregarded for only acknowledging the existence and implementation of systematic conventions disregarding humanity or specifics in text. Which suggesedt that t here is no truth to find besides the structure of any text -(Many people interpreted this as the death of the author). Structuralism came under fire as a post modern, marxist, ahistorical and even anti- human movement.
By the end of the century structuralism was seen as a historically important school of thought, but it was the movements it spawned, rather than structuralism itself, which commanded attention. Such as semiotics and the analysis of narrative.
Semiotics The Science of Signs
Semiotics is the study of sign processes, signification and communication, signs and symbols. It is usually divided into three branches:
* Semantics: Relation between signs and the things to which they refer; their denotata
* Syntactics: Relations among signs in formal structures
* Pragmatics: Relation between signs and their effects on those (people) who use them
Semiology aims to take in any system of signs, whatever their substance and limits; images, gestures, musical sounds, objects, and the complex associations of all of these, which form the content of ritual, convention or public entertainment. All of these constitute a system of signification.
Semiotics & Communication
Semiotic signs or sign systems relate to the way codes are transmitted to convey meaning. This ranges from the individual sounds or letters humans use to form words, the physical movements used to demonstrate attitude, or emotion and even things as passive as the clothes one may where.
Differences between Structuralism & Semiotics
It is difficult to establish basic differences between structuralism and semiotics, because their objects and methods have become almost symbiotic.
In the study of cultural, society and there are two fundamental insights which hold this two social theories so close together
Differences between Structuralism & Semiotics
First, that social and cultural phenomena are objects or events that have meaning, due to that meaning (explicit or not) those events are signs and second, that they are defined by a network of relationships connected to both the internal and external. Things like perception and context.
Whilst structuralist search for 'deep structures' underlying the 'surface features' of phenomena. Contemporary social semiotics has moved beyond the structuralist concern with the internal relations of parts seeking instead to explore the use of signs in specific social situations and contexts.
Narratology The Theory and Study of ‘ The Narrative’
Narratology is the theory and study of the narratice structure and the way in which it affects our perception.
The study of the narrative is a field which seems particularly appropriate for structuralist or semiotic approaches, as notions such as sequentially, gradation, resolution, rhythm, suspense and so forth render it liable to a kind of logical, “scientific” analysis.
From the creation of narratology, the role and visiblility of the narrator was under much debate. Traditionally the narrative was apart of the structure and was left invisible it wasn’t until Henry James & Percy Lubbock used characters to reveal features of their own behaviour and tell stories. Revolutionising what narrative meant to literature and media.
In 1927 still long before structuralism had taken become a popular movement English theoretician and novelist F.M Forster proposed a new distincion of narratology which was - An expansion on what russian scholars where called sjuzet: A narration of event with an empahsis on chronolgy, which he called “STORY” - A narrative with empahsis on casuality called “PLOT”
“ The king died and then the queen died” is a kernel example of a story, and “the king died and then the queen died of grief” represents a plot.
Narratoloy pre structuralism
This isnpired the creation of PLOT TOPOLOGY
Plot of action -which involve a change in the protanginsts situation
Plot of character - involving a characters morals
plot of thought -Which bring about a change in the protagonists thoughs and feelings)
Structuralism in Narratoloy
In the 1960s and 1970s, Structuralis t Narratology further refinied these narratological concepts, establishing new formulae and distinctions. Recognising the insides of both “story” (what is narrated, what is recounted) and “discourse” (the way in which the semantic structure of the story is presented).