structuralism, theory that uses culturally interconnected signs to reconstruct systems of relationships rather than studying isolated, material things in themselves. This method found wide use from the early 20th cent. in a variety of fields, especially linguistics, particularly as formulated by Ferdinand de Saussure and Roman Jakobson. Anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss used structuralism to study the kinship systems of different societies. No single element in such a system has meaning except as an integral part of a set of structural connections. These interconnections are said to be binary in nature and are viewed as the permanent, organizational categories of experience. Structuralism has been influential in literary criticism and history, as with the work of Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault. In France after 1968 this search for the deep structure of the mind was criticized by such "poststructuralists" as Jacques Derrida, who abandoned the goal of reconstructing reality scientifically in favor of "deconstructing" the illusions of metaphysics (see semiotics).

See J. Culler, Structuralist Poetics (1976); J. Sturrock, ed., Structuralism and Since: From Lévi-Strauss to Derrida (1979).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Structuralism: Selected full-text books and articles

Structuralism and Semiotics
Terence Hawkes.
Routledge, 2003 (2nd edition)
Fifty Key Contemporary Thinkers: From Structuralism to Postmodernity
John Lechte.
Routledge, 1994
A Short History of Structural Linguistics
Peter Matthews.
Cambridge University Press, 2001
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "Structuralism in 2000"
The Human Enterprise: A Critical Introduction to Anthropological Theory
James Lett.
Westview Press, 1987
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 11 "The Paradigm of Structuralism"
Culture and Critique: An Introduction to the Critical Discourses of Cultural Studies
Jere Paul Surber.
Westview Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Formalist, Structuralist, and Semiotic Analyses of Culture"
Uses of 'Structure' in Communication Studies
Richard L. Conville.
Praeger Publishers, 1994
Claude Levi-Strauss: Social Psychotherapy and the Collective Unconscious
Thomas Shalvey.
University of Massachusetts Press, 1979
Librarian’s tip: "Structuralism: The Death of Man?" begins on p. 99
Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word
Walter J. Ong.
Routledge, 2002
Librarian’s tip: "Structuralism" begins on p. 161
Oral Traditions and the Verbal Arts: A Guide to Research Practices
Ruth Finnegan.
Routledge, 1992
Librarian’s tip: "Structure and Structuralist Methods" begins on p. 165
Concepts in Film Theory
Dudley Andrew.
Oxford University Press, 1984
Librarian’s tip: "Beyond the Limits of Structuralism" begins on p. 88
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