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Structuralism Literary Approach Theory
Critics must be able to develop general conclusions about individual works and the systems from which language and linguistics have emerged from. Underlying elements in culture and literature can be connected in order to carry out this theory. Structuralists believe that everything we do is expressed in the form of language but extends far beyond written or oral communication.
These are just a few of many examples of language as a generalization.
• one’s social life depends on gestures and signals of the body (body language – most common)
• one’s economic life is rewarded in the form of symbols, such as cash, checks, stock, and certificates
• music requires complex notation
Patterns and Experience
Language exists in patterns to which certain underlying elements are common to all human experiences.
Structuralism in Literary Theory
Structuralism relates to literary works of art when examining the structure of short stories to discover the underlying principles that govern their composition.
Northrop Frye, a literary theorist and critic, developed a different approach to structuralism by exploring ways in which genres of Western literature fall into his four mythos:
1. The theory of modes, or historical criticism (tragic, comic, and thematic)
2. The theory of symbols, or ethical criticism (literal/descriptive, formal, mythical, and anagogic)
3. The theory of myths, or archetypal criticism (comedy, romance, tragedy, irony and or satire)
4. The theory of genres, or rhetorical criticism (epos, prose, drama, lyric)
Peirce and Saussure
Charles Sanders Peirce and Ferdinand de Saussure are two important theorists from the framework of structuralism.
They define and follow one through their experiences.
1. iconic signs (such as the stick figures on washroom doors that signify 'Men' or 'Women')
2. indexes (like fire and smoke)
3. true symbols, what is signified is completely arbitrary and conventional (just as the sound ‘kat’ and the written word cat are conventional signs for the familiar feline)
Semiotics plays an important role in structuralist literary theory. It applies structuralist insights to non-linguistic objects or behaviours to help analyze them as if they were languages. Language is one of a variety of sign systems and can be expressed in many different ways, which is explored in the structuralism literary approach.
Brizee, Allen, & Tompkins, J. Case. Owl Purdue Online Writing Lab. The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue, Purdue University. 19 October 2012. Web. 22 October 2012.
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