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Moving from Structuralism to Post-Structuralism

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As the North American intellectual society developed over the 1950s, by growing more rigidly scientific and managerial in its modes of thought and intellect, a more ambitious form of critical approach seemed demanded which was the structural one. Undoubtedly, ‘new’ ideas often provoke anti-intellectual reactions and this has been especially true of the reception of the theories of ‘structuralism’ (Selden 51). Structuralism has had a profound impact on disciplines ranging from literary theory to sociology; from history to psychoanalysis. Structuralist approaches to literature challenge some of the most cherished beliefs and assumptions of the ordinary reader. For a long time, readers have long felt that any literary work is seen as the child of an author’s creativity and it expresses the author’s inner thoughts and feeling. Moreover, the literary work has been evaluated as ‘good’ if it tells the truth of the human life. However, the main premises of structuralist theories have tried to convince the readers that the author is ‘dead’ and the literary work has no truth function. Structuralism distinguishes between a work and a text. A work presupposes the author and his control over the meaning. In contrast, a text is self-contained and self-sufficient which is looked at independently from the author and with structural theories, the meaning is interpreted from the text. Hence, this paper aims at tracing the development of Structuralism, its main premises, and its shift to Post-Structuralism.
In his “Introduction” to Structuralism: Critical Concepts in Literary and Cultural Studies, the English theorist Jonathan D. Culler (1944- ) identifies structuralism as “a broad intellectual movement in the humanities and social ...

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