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European critical movement of the mid-20th century. It is based on the linguistic theories of Ferdinand de Saussure, which hold that language is a self-contained system of signs, and the cultural theories of Claude Lévi-Strauss, which hold that cultures, like languages, can be viewed as systems of signs and analyzed in terms of the structural relations among their elements. Central to structuralism is the notion that binary oppositions (e.g., male/female, public/private, cooked/raw) reveal the unconscious logic or grammar of a system. Literary structuralism views literary texts as systems of interrelated signs and seeks to make explicit their hidden logic. Prominent figures in the structuralist movement are Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, Roman Jakobson, and Roland Barthes. Areas of study that have adopted and developed structuralist premises and methodologies include semiotics and narratology. See alsodeconstruction.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on structuralism, visit Britannica.com.