IDEA

                Structuralism

History Structuralism appeared in academia for the first time in the 19th century and then reappeared in the second half of the 20th century, when it grew to become one of the most popular approaches in academic fields concerned with analyzing language, culture, and society. The work of Ferdinand de Saussure concerning linguistics is generally considered to be a starting point of 20th century structuralism. The term "structuralism" itself appeared in the works of French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, and gave rise, in France, to the "structuralist movement," which spurred the work of such thinkers as Michel Foucault, Louis Althusser, the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, as well as the structural Marxism of Nicos Poulantzas. Almost all members of this so-called movement denied that they were part of it. Structuralism is closely related to semiotics. Post-structuralism attempted to distinguish itself from the use of the structural method. Deconstruction was an attempt to break with structuralistic thought. Some intellectuals like Julia Kristeva, for example, took structuralism (and Russian formalism) for a starting point to later become prominent post-structuralists. Structuralism has had varying degrees of influence in the social sciences: a great deal in the field of sociology, hardly any in economics Structuralism in psychology (19th century) At the turn of the 19th century the founding father of experimental psychology Wilhelm Wundt tried to confirm experimentally his hypothesis that conscious mental life can be broken down into fundamental elements, which then form more complex mental structures. In this part of the 19th century, researchers were making great advances in chemistry and physics by analysing complex compounds (molecules) in terms of their elements (atoms). These successes encouraged psychologists to look for the mental elements of which more complex experiences were composed. If the chemist made headway by analysing water into oxygen and hydrogen, perhaps the psychologist could make headway by considering a perception, e.g., the taste of lemonade, to be a "molecule" of conscious experience which can be analysed into elements of conscious experience: e.g., sweet, sour, cold, warm, bitter, and whatever else could be identified by introspection. A major believer was the psychologist Edward B. Titchener who was trained by Wundt and worked at Cornell University. Since the goal was to specify mental structures, Titchener used the word "structuralism" to describe this branch of psychology (Atkinson, R.L. 1990, Introduction to Psychology. (10th Ed) New York, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, p767). Wundt's structuralism was quickly abandoned because its objects, conscious experiences, are not easily subjected to controlled experimentation in the same way that behavior is. Structuralism in literary theory and literary criticism In literary theory structuralism is an approach to analyzing the narrative material by examining the underlying invariant structure. For example, a literary critic applying a structuralist literary theory might say that the authors of the West Side Story did not write anything "really" new, because their work has the same structure as Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. In both texts a girl and a boy fall in love (a "formula" with a symbolic operator between them would be "Boy + Girl") despite the fact that they belong to two groups that hate each other ("Boy's Group - Girl's Group" or "Opposing forces") and conflict is resolved by their death. The versatility of structuralism is such that a literary critic could make the same claim about a story of two friendly families ("Boy's Family + Girl's Family") that arrange a marriage between their children despite the fact that the children hate each other ("Boy + Girl") and then the children commit suicide to escape the arranged marriage; the justification is that the second story's structure is an 'inversion' of the first story's structure: the relationship between the values of love and the two pairs of parties involved have been reversed. Structuralistic literary criticism argues that the "novelty value of a literary text" can lie only in new structure, rather than in the specifics of character development and voice in which that structure is expressed. One branch of literary structuralism, like Freudianism, Marxism, and transformational grammar, posits both a deep and a surface structure. In Freudianism and Marxism the deep structure is a story, in Freud's case the battle, ultimately, between the life and death instincts, and in Marx, the conflicts between classes that are rooted in the economic "base." Literary structuralism often follows the lead of Vladimir Propp and Claude Levi-Strauss in seeking out basic deep elements in stories and myths, which are combined in various ways to produce the many versions of the ur-story or ur-myth. As in Freud and Marx, but in contrast to transformational grammar, these basic elements are meaning-bearing. There is considerable similarity between structural literary theory and Northrop Frye's archetypal criticism, which is also indebted to the anthropological study of myths. Some critics have also tried to apply the theory to individual works, but the effort to find unique structures in individual literary works runs counter to the structuralist program and has an affinity with New Criticism. The other branch of literary structuralism is semiotics, and it is based on the work of Ferdinand de Saussure Reactions to structuralism Today structuralism is less popular than approaches such as post-structuralism and deconstruction. There are many reasons for this. Structuralism has often been criticized for being ahistorical and for favoring deterministic structural forces over the ability of individual people to act. As the political turbulence of the 1960s and 1970s (and particularly the student uprisings of May 1968) began affecting academia, issues of power and political struggle moved to the center of people's attention. In the 1980s, deconstruction and its emphasis on the fundamental ambiguity of language - rather than its crystalline logical structure - became popular. By the end of the century structuralism was seen as a historically important school of thought, but it was the movements it spawned, rather than structuralism itself, which commanded attention


































































































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