Culler's Building Blocks

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Structuralism and Literature, Culler

Literary Criticism--EL312

Structuralism is not a new way of interpreting literary works, but an attempt to understand how it is that works do have meaning for us.

Remember the game Jenga...

Blocks are built to a certain height and you carefully remove a block from the middle and place it on the top. Everyone who call themselves an expert of Jenga should know that you never take a block from the bottom unless you want the whole structure to fall.

Culler's look at the structure of literature is kind of the same thing. Even though we know the language, if we don't know structure, how can we possibly know the difference between prose and poetry. The structure matters in this case. Think of Herrick using the Italian sonnet. Herrick had to know the sturcture in order to make his steamy poems about Julia. Culler explains structurism leads us to "think of the poem not as a self-contained organism but as a sequence which has meaning only in relation to a literary system, or rather, to the "institution" of literature which guides the reader."

Learining how to create a certain type of poem will teach you a lot about the poems itself. We have an expectation to how poems is supposed to look, sound, and feel like. However, the text in a poem could also be a factor in great poetry so here is a question:

What is more important in poetry? Structure or text.

2 Comments

I don't know how to answer your question. I feel that they are equally dependent upon one another (structure and text). The words can have all the meaning in the world and not get what you wanted your audience to get if your structure is off. In poetry more than any other form of writing, the structure can make or break the poem. Thats a good question and a very difficult one to answer by having to pick one of the two for an answer.

I, like Mitchell, don't think I can answer your question - I don't think either is more important, as they are both equally living and breathing parts of a poem. There are some instances where one might be more important than the other, but they are always at play with one another.