You are here:

Literature/structuralism and post structuralism


hello tue how are you and thankyou and god bless you for all the answers you have given it has been very helpfull indeed ..i need now to understand the full full concept for the 2 catergories 'structuralism' and 'post structuralism' in films and particularly 'books' thankyou very much you are the best tue   val dillon

Hello again, Val,

Well, I commented a bit on these things in one of my previous answers to you:

Structuralism is the idea that some kind of structure underlies everything.

Post-structuralism is the idea that there is *no* structure to anything, or that if there is, we cannot ever identify it because of the limitations on language and sensory perception.

I can't tell you much more about them than what is on Wikipedia, but there is a lot there, and I can see how you might find it confusing. So here are a few choice selections:

"In literary theory, structuralist criticism relates literary texts to a larger structure, which may be a particular genre, a range of intertextual connections, a model of a universal narrative structure, or a system of recurrent patterns or motifs. Structuralism argues that there must be a structure in every text, which explains why it is easier for experienced readers than for non-experienced readers to interpret a text. Hence, everything that is written seems to be governed by specific rules, or a "grammar of literature", that one learns in educational institutions and that are to be unmasked."

This means that a structuralist interpretation usually assumes a number of specific characteristics of a narrative (story) which will recur in most stories, and thus can be identified and interpreted by the reader who looks for these characteristics in the text.

"Structuralism rejected the concept of human freedom and choice and focused instead on the way that human experience and thus, behavior, is determined by various structures."

This means that structuralism tends to adhere very rigidly to the given theoretical structure outlined by the particular structuralist theorist or critic; sometimes so much so that the narrative is seen as following deterministic rules, because it can do nothing but follow a particular structure; a particular pattern. Thus, it leaves no room for free will.

As for film theory, Wikipedia has this to say about structuralism: "Structuralist film theory emphasizes how films convey meaning through the use of codes and conventions not dissimilar to the way languages are used to construct meaning in communication. An example of this is understanding how the simple combination of shots can create an additional idea: the blank expression on a person's face, an appetising meal, and then back to the person's face. While nothing in this sequence literally expresses hunger—or desire—the juxtaposition of the images convey that meaning to the audience. Unraveling this additional meaning can become quite complex. Lighting, angle, shot duration, juxtaposition, cultural context, and a wide array of other elements can actively reinforce or undermine a sequence's meaning."

It also says that structuralist film theory takes its point of origin in structural linguistics, where for instance the terms "the signifier" and "the signified" are used. The "signifier" is the "sound pattern" of a word, i.e. the way it sounds, while the "signified" is the concept or *meaning* of the word. Movies can play around with these terms in the dialogue and in the way the dialogue is acted out. A fantastic example is this Monty Python sketch: - they mention several words just for the way they sound (these are signifiers), and then they play around with the meanings (joining the signifiers with the signifieds!).

Post-structuralism is a response to structuralism, which argues that there are no determinism in the way a text is patterned by the author. And where structuralism looks to science as a example of admirable and strict structure, post-structuralism says that the preconceived notions (also a form of structure!) that we use when we investigate nature are messing up our hope of finding reliable structure in the world of science. In this sense structuralism represents classical physics, while post-structuralism represents quantum physics, where the very act of measurement makes it impossible to know both the speed and position of an elementary particle. So where structuralism can be described as being about rationality and causality, post-structuralism can be described as being about free will, counter-intuition and the *lack* of patterns and rules. Post-structuralism is also part and parcel with post-modernism, and what I wrote to you earlier about Jacques Derrida and "deconstruction" is also applicable to post-structuralism.

Hope these answers were helpful,
- Tue


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Tue Sorensen


I am an authority on the complete works of Shakespeare, and can answer any questions relating to his plays, poetry and life. I specialize in interpretation, double-meanings and translation into modern language.


I was a top-rated Allexperts expert on this same subject several years ago.

Former member of the Danish Shakespeare Society, as well as an active participant in the scholarly SHAKSPER mailing list.

Three years of studying English literature at the University of Aarhus, Denmark

©2016 All rights reserved.