From Chapter 3, “Structuralism and Semiotics” of Terry Eagleton’s Literary Theory: An Introduction
“What is notable about this kind of analysis is that, like Formalism, it brackets off the actual content of the story and concentrates entirely on the form. You could replace father and son, pit and sun, with entirely different elements—mother and daughter, bird and mole—and still have the same story. As long as the structure of relations between the units is preserved it does not matter which items you select” (83).
I am having some problems differentiating between Structuralism and Formalism. I think (although, I could be mistake) that I have a better handle on the differences between the two now (although, I’m not sure I could put Structuralism into practice). The quote I chose above helped me understand the difference. While Formalism and Structuralism both focus on each part’s relation to the text as a whole, Structuralism focuses only on the relations between these things and not the things themselves. For example, in Formalism, the fact that a character is a father is important. It could be important because father rhymes with some other word later on in the poem, it could be important because it is alliterative with several other words in a sentence creating a certain feeling, etc. And it seems to be that this is where the difference is. In Structuralism, the character being a father cannot matter. Instead, the only thing that matters is the relation between the character occupied by the father and the other parts of the story. I really have no idea how this would actually work in an essay though. How would one determine these relations without basing it on what or who the character or thing is? How and why would this affect the story? I think maybe it would make more sense if I read an example of a critical essay employing Structuralism
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