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.
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.
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.
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.
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).