While Saussure's theoretical work laid the foundation for structuralism, it was Roland Barthes who extended its application to literature and eventually ventured into post-structuralism. Barthes' seminal text, "Elements of Semiology," delves into the study of signs and their existence solely within language.
Four Elements of Semiology
Barthes classifies Saussure's discipline of semiology into four key elements:
- Language and Speech: Barthes argues that language is a social phenomenon and cannot be solely influenced by individuals.
- Signifier and Signified: While Saussure believed in the arbitrary connection between signifier and signified, Barthes claims it to be a necessity, where the connection is established through a process of contraction and naturalization.
- Syntagm and System: Barthes explores the relationship between elements within a sentence (syntagm) and the interchangeable relationship between elements of different sentences (system).
- Denotation and Connotation: This classification refers to the relationship between the signifier and the signified, revealing the functioning of language at the levels of denotation and connotation.
Barthes emphasizes that any system of signification involves three classifications, highlighting the working of language at denotative and connotative levels.
Structuralist Analysis of Texts
In order to conduct a structuralist analysis of a text, Barthes suggests identifying the text's structure through language, considering the above-mentioned classifications. By understanding the relationships between signifiers, signifieds, elements within sentences, and the interchanging elements between sentences, one can unveil the underlying structure of the text.
Barthes' work demonstrates how structuralism can be effectively applied to literary analysis, allowing for a deeper understanding of the language's role in shaping meaning and communication within texts.