1. It refers to an analytical method that
came to the fore in France
during the 1950s. It
influenced the Anglo-American writers
2. It has its roots in the linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure.
3. Saussure replaced the prevalent historical and comparative study of language with a more analytical method which would examine language synchronically at any given moment as opposed to historical study.
4. Three basic notions developed by De Saussure are to be adapted by Structuralists.
(a). The importance of considering language as a system which Saussure called ‘Langue’ as opposed to the individual speech act or ‘Parole’.
(b). The recognition of language as system of signs in which the relationship between the signifier(the sound-image) and the signified (the concept or thing) is essentially arbitrary.
(c). The need to define linguistic entities relationally, that is , in terms of the ways in which they combine with or are opposed to each other.
Saussure himself felt that his conclusions about sign can be applied to other social and cultural phenomena what he called Semiology which has more popularly come to be known as Semiotics.( a philosophical theory of the functions of signs and symbols)
5. The crucial insight guiding structuralist approaches is the notion that the codes governing other systems can be studied with the same precision and by using many of the same concepts as of language.
6. The various kinds of systems – whether literature, kinship, relationship, clothing or traffic signals are said to operate according to a set of rules or ‘ a code’ equivalent to the ‘langue’ distinguished by Saussure.
7. This code like the grammatical rules governing language is not visible. It is precisely the task of the linguist, or literary critic or anthropologist to discover and elucidate the inner workings of the system.
8. The structuralist method goes beneath the surface to examine the dynamic and complex relationship among the various structural entities.
9. The archetypal instance of such criticism is the article by Levi-Strauss and Jakobson on Charles Baudelaire’s sonnet ‘Les Chats’ in which the two scholars devote about twenty pages of printed text to analyzing the syntactic, rhythmic and phonological qualities of this fourteen line poem.