Structuralism - In literary criticism, structuralism links various texts via a big idea about the elements and narrative shapes that are common among them. For example, one structure common to most (but not all) fiction is “a protagonist goes through some type of emotional change.” We can examine how the protagonist varies across genres and styles while serving, at a basic narrative level, the same structural function.

Structuralism may examine connections that define a genre (romance narratives feature certain types of protagonists facing certain types of challenges). Structuralism may also broaden out to look at how all texts, in general, function. Thus structuralism relates in some ways to mythology (what makes a story worth repeating? how do stories interact with society?) and psychology (why is the human mind given to crafting certain types of stories? what pleasures/useful outcomes does the mind derive from crafting/experiencing stories?).

One problem with structuralism is that it functions often as a top-down hunt for supposedly preexisting elements, while art and culture continue to move out from under its grasp, producing difficult to categorize hybrids (chimerae).

Still, structuralism provides us with a way of approaching texts that can be useful, especially for the student of literature for whom the elements of fiction and of writing in general are not yet internalized. From Wikipedia, my emphasis:

Structuralism argues that there must be a structure in every text, which explains why it is easier for experienced readers than for non-experienced readers to interpret a text. Hence, everything that is written seems to be governed by specific rules, or a “grammar of literature,” that one learns in educational institutions and that are to be unmasked.

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