Note on Structuralist criticism

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Structuralist Criticism

Structuralist criticism is a critical theory that attempts to analyze the underlines pattern of various disciplines such as linguistic anthropology, sociology, psychology and literary studies. Structuralism believes that everything’s has its underline pattern. It does not try to evaluate the structure of a single object but evaluates deeper and surface structures of them in general. When we see the thousands of buildings in any city, more or less they have the same patterns of constructing. In this sense all, they have the same deeper structure. But their surface structure is different. In the same way, structuralism tries to find out some deeper structure in literature. If we analyze many more short stories of different culture or localities we find some commonalities like character, settings, conflicts, and action. All of them are made in same way. Structuralism aims to view these common features as an underline pattern that governs their structure. These theories try to teach us how everything is made of some deeper structure. Structuralism shows that there are two structures in everything that is surface structure and invisible structure or underline structure. The surface structure is visible and deeper structure is unseen but that shapes the surface one.

Structural linguistic

Structural linguistic is a concept developed by Ferdinand De Saussure. It views language as a system of the system. Before Saussure, there was a tendency of diachronic study of language. It was assumed that words somehow imitated the object for which they stood. A diachronic study or analysis concerns itself with the evolution and change over time of that which is studied thus diachronic linguistic is also known as historical linguistics and is a concern with the development of a language or languages over time. A synchronic study or analysis, in contrast, limits its concern to a particular movement of time. The synchronic linguistic takes a language as a working system at a particular point in time without concern for how it has developed to its present state. Saussure through the synchronic study of language establishes the possibility of a structural linguistic.

Structural anthropology

Structural anthropology is a concept of studying human culture, myth etc. in a different culture there are different kinds of myth. The cultures are different in different societies. Claude Levi Strauss developed the concept of structural anthropology to study the cross-cultural side of human civilization. He has brought Saussurian structural linguistic to reveal the underlying structure of culture and myth. Claude Levi Strauss is mainly interested in the similarity of culture and myths. Sameness in all these cultures. His idea about kinship or marriage or initiation or scarifies that is universal human practices time and space might affect the content of culture bit their structural sameness remains constant. For example, the ideas of kinship, marriage, initiation, and teaching or learning etc prevailed, are prevailing and will prevail throughout all ages and places.


Semiotics is the study of sign and symbol as elements of communicative behavior the analysis of the system of communication as language gesture or clothing. It is the general theory of sign and symbolism usually divided into the branches of fragments, semantics and syntactic. Semiotics is the study of symbols, sign, and signification. It is the study of how meaning is created not what it is. It is important is structuralism because it also functions as a language. Every sign is a word in its function because it passes some message to somebody. Semiotics studies and including semiology is the study of science and sign processes, indication, designation, likeness, analogy, metaphor, symbolism and signification and communication. Semiotics is closely related to the field of linguistic which studies the structure and meaning of language more specifically. Semiotic frequently seems as having important anthropological dimension.

Language usually uses words but it uses signs to convey the messages. A sign has also two basic elements that are signifier and signified. The sign itself is a signifier and the concept given by it is a signified. So a sign has also deeper like a word. There are different types of sign like our dress up, our language; our way of speech, even our names, and every sign is like a word. In its function because it passes the message to somebody. Even the name of wrestlers and the all the name of the sports players are also signs. Even a traffic sign has given much more meaning. The sign of traffic light is signifier and the concept we get is signified. Basically, there are three different signs that are an index, icons, and symbols. The index is the kind of signs that has a concrete link with its meaning. Smoke is the symbol of fire, knocking on the door is the symbols of some bodies’ arrival. The icon is the sign or mark that represents some message.

Structuralism and literature

Structuralism and literature are closely related to each other this is because as the structuralism is based on language so is the case of literature. Literature is basically verbal art that makes use of language. So, structuralism has very wide implication in the study of literature. It is a method of analysis of literature. Structuralism is based on the theory of language that contains a structural system that is surface structure and underlying structure. However, structuralism does not attempt to interpret what individual text mean or whether or not a given text is good that is surface phenomena or parole, the formula itself known as langue. Literature makes use of language so it imitates the structural system of language. So, structuralism presupposes that literature contains to an essential structure that is a surface structure which contains individual text and deep structure that is the formula of an individual text. Structuralist approaches to literature remain to focus on the narrative dimension of the text and try to find out the formula. This is because structuralism presupposes that every individual takes content a story one way or the other within it.

The structure of literary genres

The structure of literary genres has been clearly illustrated by famous critics and theorists Northrop Frye in his theory of myth is the theory of genres that seek to find put the structural principle underlying in the western literature. According to him, there are four basic narrative patterns that are structure every kind of myth. These four narrative patterns are comedy, romance, tragedy and irony or satire. Frye thinks that human beings project their narrative imagination in two basic ways that are in the representation of the idol world and in the representation of the real world. Idol is better than the real world in contrast the real world is the world of experience, uncertainty, and failure. The irony is a real world seen through the tragic lens. Satire is the real world seen through a comic lens. Romance occurs in the idol world and irony or satire represents the real world. Frye does not limit the narrative structure only to these basic genres he again generalizes them in one narrative structure. He says that each of these genres contains a master plot that has a quest. Frye observes that the traditional quest has four structural components and they conflict catastrophe, disorder, and triumph.

The structure of the narrative

The structure of the narrative involves a story. Structuralism presupposes that every kind of literature contains a story within it so the structuralist analyses of narrative that examine the inner working of literary text to find out the fundamental units that govern narrative of operation of the text. The narratology means the structure of the narrative. Hope the narrative is structure is the basic concern in the narratology. The story, the characters are the surface phenomena which are structure through narrative.


Tyson, L. (2013). the critical theory today. Kathmandu: Ekta Publication.

  • <!-- [if !supportLists]--><!--[endif]-->Structuralism is the way of thinking about the world which predominantly concern with the perception and description of structures.
  • <!-- [if !supportLists]--><!--[endif]-->Semiology is the study of sign and symbols as elements of communicative behavior.
  • <!-- [if !supportLists]--><!--[endif]-->Structuralist criticism is a critical theory that attempts to analyze the underline patterns of various disciplines.
  • <!-- [if !supportLists]--><!--[endif]-->The narratology means the structure of the narrative.
  • <!-- [if !supportLists]--><!--[endif]-->Northrop Frye has analyzed the structure of literary genre through myth.

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