Structuralism theory is a literary approach that studies the inner workings of literary works It examines the structure of literary works and how its elements interact with one another to imbue meaning. Structuralism is rooted in the notion that language and literature are made up of elements that are combined in certain ways to convey unique meanings. It focuses on the analysis of the structure and arrangement of the elements of written works, rather than on their meaning. Structuralism assists in the development of interpretation and understanding of the underlying meanings of a text by exploring the structural elements of the work as a whole.
One of the most well-known applications of Structuralism theory in literature is in the works of Russian Formalist Roman Jakobson. His theories revolved around the idea that the meaning of a literary text was found in the interaction between its structural elements, such as plot, character, and setting. He argued that no one element of a literary work should be examined in isolation; rather, all the elements need to be considered in relation to one another to understand the true meaning of the text. His theories had a major impact on the development of structuralism and provided a starting point for further study.
Another major contributor to the development of structuralism was the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. He argued that literature was a form of expression and should be analyzed as such. He proposed that a structured, symbolic language should be used to interpret the meaning of a literary work. Lacan's ideas had a major influence on contemporary literary theory, especially in the analysis of psychological aspects of a text.
Structuralism has been used to great effect in many literary works. Here are five examples of works that have applied the principles of Structuralism theory in a significant way.
1. “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald: This classic novel is an example of how structuralism can be used to analyze the psychological motivations and symbolic meanings within a text. The novel uses intricate symbolism and structure to explore themes such as the power of money, the nature of love, and the American Dream.
2. “Ulysses” by James Joyce: Joyce’s masterpiece is an example of how structuralism can be used to examine the complex structure of a text and the multiple layers of meaning it contains. The novel’s structure is based on Homer’s “Odyssey”, and the characters and storylines represent the different aspects of life and the human condition.
3. “Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Beckett: Structuralism is used in this play to analyze the nonlinear structure of the narrative and its use of symbols, metaphors, and repetition to explore the meaning of life and existence.
4. “Atonement” by Ian McEwan: McEwan’s novel is an example of how structuralism can be used to explore a character’s internal struggles and their impact on the narrative. The novel’s multiple storylines and nonlinear structure illustrate the protagonist’s journey of self-discovery and inner transformation.
5. “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare: Shakespeare’s play is another example of how structuralism can be used to analyze the structure of a text and the role of language in conveying meaning. The play’s intricate structure and symbolic language illustrate the concepts of power and justice, as well as themes of revenge and forgiveness.