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[ Literary Criticism / Internet Assisted Courses / English Department ]

Issues and Discussion

Key words for Structualist and Semiotic approaches:

I. Following language as a model
II. Disclosing the deep/basic structure of a text,
which is a (combination or selection)  system of meaning composed of basic elements such as:
-- binaries, or semiotic rectangles,
-- roles/actant and functions, or narrateme,
-- story and discourse,
-- narrator- narratee,
-- metaphor and metonymy,
-- grammatic parts of speech, or lexemes,
-- signs or signification on different levels (signifier and signified).


  1. How different is this approach to other kinds of criticism you are familiar with?
  2. Is the structualist impulse part of a general critical impulse to reduce individual elements to thematic constants? Or is the approach to reductive?
  3. Is there a critical position we can take that leaves us outside the semiotic system that we are analyzing? In other words, can we resist the influence of the prevailing signs around us? If so, how?
  4. Structuralists have been accused of endangering literature by "decentering" the text, by insisting that a text*s language, not its author, produces meanings, not meaning. What do you think?
  5. Do we really think in terms of binaries?
  6. How is our social existence modeled after language as a system of relations?
(Cf. Coursebook pp. 72, 84; Literary Theory in Praxis 194)

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