Structuralism in Mid-Twentieth Century Literary Criticism

The mid-twentieth century saw the rise of critical theory stemming from literary criticism. One influential figure was Northrop Frye, a Canadian theorist whose ideas found resonance in America and shared similarities with structuralism. The theorists of structuralism, such as Levi Strauss, built upon Northrop Frye's new critical theories to develop the theory of structuralist criticism.

Understanding Structuralism

Structuralism, as the name suggests, focuses on studying the structures within language to uncover meaning and truth. It involves the analysis of literature through the patterns of language to derive meaning.

Ferdinand de Saussure's contributions shed light on the functioning of language in terms of signs and signifiers. Building on Frye's theories, Levi Strauss applied Saussure's theory to the study of literature, giving rise to structuralist criticism.

Structuralist Analysis of Myths

Levi Strauss delved into the structuralist study of myths and proposed that myths from various cultures share a common pattern or structure. Despite having different characters and plots, myths possess a central meaning that transcends geographical and cultural boundaries.

Moreover, Strauss introduced the concept that myths have both langue (the underlying system of language) and parole (the individual expressions or instances of language), which are combined by a third element. He believed that myths created long ago have a timeless quality, making them both historical and ahistorical.

Form-Based Reading of Literature

Structuralism is a form of criticism that disregards historical, political, and social contexts of the text. Instead, it focuses solely on the formal aspects of the text to appreciate its timelessness. Structuralists do not consider information about the author or the socio-political context, as they believe that the text itself contains all the necessary elements for analysis.

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