All terms

What is Structuralism?

Literary theory that examines the underlying structures and systems in literature.

Breaking Down the Hidden Structures of Literature: A Look into Structuralism

Structuralism is a literary theory that examines the underlying structures and systems in literature. It focuses on analyzing how literary elements like characters, plot, and themes relate to one another within a text. Through this analysis, structuralists aim to uncover the deeper, hidden structures and patterns that give meaning to a literary work.

This theory originated in the early 20th century and was heavily influenced by the work of Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure. Saussure believed that language was made up of various binary oppositions–such as good vs. evil or male vs. female–and that these oppositions were part of a larger system of language. Structuralists applied this idea to literature, examining how different elements within a work interacted with one another to create meaning.

One of the main goals of structuralism is to move beyond a surface-level analysis of literature. Instead of simply describing what happens in a story, structuralists seek to understand why it happens and how it fits into the larger structure of the text. This approach allows for a deeper understanding of a work and the cultural context in which it was created.

Peeling Back the Layers of Literature: Examples of Structuralism in Practice

Structuralism is a literary theory concerned with the underlying systems and structures within literature, and here are two examples which demonstrate its use.

The Structural Elements of a Sonnet

A structuralist reading of a sonnet would focus on how the different elements of the poem—such as the rhyme scheme, meter, and turn—fit into a larger structure within the work.

The Patterns of Symbolism in 'The Great Gatsby'

A structuralist reading of 'The Great Gatsby' might analyze how the symbols of the green light, the Valley of Ashes, and the billboard all relate to one another and fit into a larger structure within the novel.