Structuralism: How is it used in America

Blagovest Zlatanov

The present paper has the following grammar of hypotesises:

First: Because of many and diverse reasons Literary Structuralism realizes an extreme version of building and managing Literary Theory. Literary Structuralism solves three global theoretical questions. First – how could theoretical discourse be organized and managed? Second – how could literary texts be described by principles and techniques which define comprehensively and finally their identity, i.e. how could we describe not only what Theory is, but also what Literature is? Third – what kind of relation should Literary Theory and Literary Text accomplish so that their functioning could be secured? This attempt for a comprehensive accomplishment of the |Project for Literary Theory is discussed by texts of the American literary theorists Eduard Said, Jonathan Culler and Geoffrey Hartman.

Second: In its theoretical extremality Literary Structuralism starts isolating the literary texts in a radical way. Suspending the pragmatics of Literary Work and the Reader as a theoretical instance Structuralism turns to be incomprehensible in the dominating literary tradition of the USA. This and many other reasons forced in 1993 Schleifer and Con Davis, who at that time published a study on the history of Structuralism, to notice that it was a subject of hostility in America during the 60ies and 70ies. Under these circumstances Structuralism faces the dilemma, on the one hand, to talk too empirically and systematically about Literature, and on the other hand, to be a wonderful explication of “the literary”. Structuralism must find the way out this dilemma.

Third: The way out was found explicitly or implicitly in the following three directions. First – If Structuralism is a subject of hostility in America by the studying of Literature and if it mirrors some basic features of the Literary Theory in general it could be used as a discursive strategy in describing and systematizing the very field of Literary Theory. Second – Since Structuralism includes various complicated and sometimes contradictory hypothesizes, its oppositions, models and concepts are used in America for different apologetical or critical goals. And third – I propose the hypothesis that although Structuralism in general, because of its “globalism”, is not accepted, it has defined some topics of great importance for the later development of the Literary Studies in the USA.

Published 30 October 2003
Original in English
First published by Critique & Humanism

Contributed by Critique & Humanism © Critique & Humanism / Eurozine


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