Structuralism in Literary Criticism

structuralism-literary criticism

Structuralism in literary criticism is a movement that began in early 1900’s and affected a number of fields like Sociology, Linguistics, Anthropology, Literature, Psychology, Semiotics, and so on.  Structuralism is based on the belief that each of human constructions must have an underlying structure. In case of literary criticism, for instance, a critic believing in structuralism will try to locate a structure in every text. Being experienced in identifying and understanding such structures would make interpretation of a text easier.

However, some scholars like Catherine Belsey believe that depending entirely on the tenets of structuralism forFerdinand_de_Saussure analysis of different texts may force to overlook some basic difference between two texts. Some texts having similar interrelationships between characters or similar beginning and ending, for instance, could be compared on the basis of this similarity ignoring the differences between the two. Structuralism prefers to analyse one text in terms of its similarity or contrast with another rather than analysing it in an independent manner.

Structuralism considers even human experience and behaviour to be based on certain fixed structures. Structuralism became a strong movement in France during 1960’s and got spread throughout the world following its popularity in France.

Some of the major names in the field of structuralism include Vladmir Propp, Claude Levi-Strauss, Roman Jacobson, Jacques Lacan.


Multiple Choice Questions

  1. The linguist generally associated with the initiation of ‘Structuralism’ as a movement is:
  1. Ferdinand de Saussure
  2. Simon Blackburn,
  3. Noam Chomsky
  4. Levi-Strauss


2. Structuralism originated in:

  1. 1890’s
  2. 1900’s
  3. 1960’s
  4. 1970’s

3. The observation that Structuralism is “the belief that phenomena of human life are not intelligible except through their interrelations” was made by:

  1. Jacques Derrida
  2. Simon Blackburn
  3. Vladmir Propp
  4. Claude Levi-Strauss

4. France saw a particular rise in structuralism in:

  1. 1960’s
  2. 1900’s
  3. 1970’s
  4. 1930’s

5. Consider the following statements about structuralism:

  1. Structuralism got spread all over the world following a rise in its importance in France.
  2. Structuralism is related mainly to criticism in the fields of literature and painting.
  3. Structuralism began in 1960’s.
  4. Structuralism tries to identify some already known structures in all new creations.
  1. I, II, III and IV are correct
  2. I, III and IV are correct
  3. III and IV are correct
  4. Only I and IV are correct

6. Which of the following critics is not considered to have dealt basically with Structuralism?

  1. Jacques Derrida
  2. Vladmir Propp
  3. Claude Levi-Strauss
  4. Roman Jacobson

7. The literary movement that began in response to structuralism was :

  1. Romanticism
  2. Colonialism
  3. Post structuralism
  4. Post-colonialism

8. Post structuralism particularly observes the following shortcoming in structuralism:

  1. The structures it considered were not credible
  2. The structures it includes are not self-sufficient
  3. It overlooked a number of basic structures
  4. The theory of structures itself was not credible

9. Which of the following critics is associated with post-structuralism rather than structuralism?

  1. Michel Foucault
  2. Vladmir Propp
  3. Roman Jacobson
  4. Jacques Lacan

10. Consider the following statements about structuralism:

  1. It was a movement concerned to intellect
  2. It believed in identifying the structures in products like texts
  3. It was used in a number of fields like linguistics, psychology, anthropology, etc.
  4. It came into prominence with the works of Jacques Derrida
  1. I, II and III are correct
  2. I, II, III and IV are correct
  3. III and IV are correct
  4.  II, III and IV are correct

11. The ‘Gang of Four’ regarding structuralism did not include:

  1. Lévi-Strauss
  2. Lacan
  3. Barthes
  4. Propp

Answer keysof  MCQ

  1. a
  2. c
  3. b
  4. a
  5. d
  6. a
  7. c
  8. b
  9. a
  10. a
  11. d

Further Reading


Ferdinand de Saussure