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Literary Theory Discussion: Structuralist Criticism

January 15 @ 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

“Linguistic Relativity” refers to the concept that the structure of a language has an effect on the way we perceive the world, and it is often divided into a strong and weak hypothesis. The strong version declares that what we are able to perceive in the world is determined by the language we use to describe it or have it described to us, that linguistic categories determine cognitive categories. The weak version states instead that language only has a profound influence on the way we experience the world.

Structuralism is a systematic approach to understanding the fundamental structures that underlie human experience, and Structuralist Criticism looks for the rules that underlie language and govern how it functions. “Structuralism assumes that all surface phenomena belong to some structural system, whether or not we are consciously aware of what that system is.”

The question is, do those structures limit or augment our cognition? What is the value of experience that cannot be conceived or communicated through the medium of language? How do we understand the symbolic function of sign systems?

During this discussion, we’ll review Chapter 7, Structuralist Criticism, from Lois Tyson’s Critical Theory Today.


Critical Theory tries to explain the various forms of Literary Criticism and the assumptions and values upon which they rest. The focus of this chapter is to outline those areas of Structuralist Criticism––concepts such as narrative progression (the order in which plot events occur) and characterization (the functions each character performs in relation to the narrative as a whole––that are useful to literary criticism and to show how this view of human behavior is relevant to our experience of literature.

Chapter 7 – Structuralist Criticism by Lois Tyson

We request that our participants read the text in advance if possible, however, all are welcome to attend even if it wasn’t possible to read the text in advance. The first portion of our discussion will focus on understanding the text.

The second portion of the discussion will be devoted to answering the following question: What is the underlying strucutral system (archetypal, modal, narratological, etc.) by which we make sense of a text?

People’s Dialogues: Reading Critical Theory
Literary Criticism tries to explain the work to us in terms of its production, its meaning, its design, and its beauty. Critical Theory (or Literary Theory), tries to explain the assumptions and values upon which various forms of Literary Criticism rest. By familiarizing ourselves with the language each theory speaks, with the key concepts on which each theory is grounded, these discussions will prepare us to understand the ongoing debates both within and among critical theories.

With Lois Tyson’s Critical Theory Today as our textbook, we will study a number of theories in succession, not just because it’s important to consider multiple viewpoints if we want to see the whole picture, but also because grasping the process of understanding that underlies human experience can increase our ability to see both the value and the limitations of any method of viewing the world.

Theory, Criticism, and Society: 10/2018 – 3/2019
During this semester, we’ll explore ideas from theory and criticism focusing on art, literature, music, and culture, with the further intention of applying such ideas to the creation and organization of society. Our goal is to deepen our understanding of theory and criticism, and to broaden our perspective of the world we live in—and the possibilities open to us.


January 15
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Event Category:


Slide Inn
2342 SE Ankeny
Portland, OR us
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