How Does Structuralist Criticism Work?


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Will Martin answered
Structuralism originated in the field of linguistics, particularly in the work of Ferdinand de Saussure, who developed the idea of language as a system with arbitrary rules which only work in the context of the system. He defined the phoneme, or sound unit, as the basis of language, making the crucial point that the phoneme has no independent existence, but is defined only by its difference from other sounds. In Spanish, for example, the difference between "b" and "v" sounds is unimportant; in English they can make the difference between "bars" and "vase."
This basic ideas about rules and systems have been applied to literature, art and (by anthropologists) social systems, as well as language. Developing these theories, structuralists like Roland Barthes have even argued that there is no real connection between the author of a text and its reader. The "author" is a construct, a created persona,, who cannot control the interpretations of his/her text; the text has no intrinsic meaning but is given meanings imposed on it by its readers.

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