Differences between Structuralism and Post-Structuralism | Discourse | Philosophical WorksWhen printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use. This resource will help you begin the process of understanding literary theory and schools of criticism and how they are used in the academy. Note: Structuralism, semiotics, and post-structuralism are some of the most complex literary theories to understand.
An Introduction to Poststructuralism - 1 of 3 (Derrida)
Differences between Structuralism and Post-Structuralism
In that sense, they are very similar. They both reject the empiricist view of language as a transparent medium between our mind and the world, and they both claim that language is rather to be seen as a system of signs existing independently from both the mind and physical reality. In fact, they go as far as to argue that language precedes the world in that it makes it intelligible though differentiation. Similarly, both structuralist and post-structuralist thinkers who often are the same ones, shifting their view will agree with Jacques Lacan that the subject is only possible through language. From there, it follows that language supersedes the human being as the source of meaning, action and history.
Post-structuralism is either a continuation or a rejection of the intellectual project that preceded it— structuralism. Structuralism was an intellectual movement in France in the s and s that studied the underlying structures in cultural products such as texts and used analytical concepts from linguistics , psychology , anthropology, and other fields to interpret those structures. Post-structuralism rejects the structuralist notion that the dominant word in a pair is dependent on its subservient counterpart and instead argues that founding knowledge either on pure experience phenomenology or systematic structures Structuralism is impossible because history and culture condition the study of underlying structures and these are subject to biases and misinterpretations. This impossibility was not meant as a failure or loss, but rather as a cause for "celebration and liberation". Some scholars associated with structuralism, such as Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault , also became noteworthy in post-structuralism. Some observers from outside the post-structuralist camp have questioned the rigour and legitimacy of the field.
By literary theory we refer not to the meaning of a work of literature but to the theories that reveal what literature can mean. Literary theory is a description of the underlying principles, one might say the tools, by which we attempt to understand literature. All literary interpretation draws on a basis in theory but can serve as a justification for very different kinds of critical activity. It is literary theory that formulates the relationship between author and work; literary theory develops the significance of race, class, and gender for literary study, both from the standpoint of the biography of the author and an analysis of their thematic presence within texts. Literary theory offers varying approaches for understanding the role of historical context in interpretation as well as the relevance of linguistic and unconscious elements of the text. Literary theorists trace the history and evolution of the different genres—narrative, dramatic, lyric—in addition to the more recent emergence of the novel and the short story, while also investigating the importance of formal elements of literary structure. Lastly, literary theory in recent years has sought to explain the degree to which the text is more the product of a culture than an individual author and in turn how those texts help to create the culture.