Peter Barry
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Though structuralism began in the 1950s and 1960s, it has its roots in the thinking of the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure. Saussure was a key figure in the development of modern approaches to language study. He emphasised that the meanings given to words are purely arbitrary, and that these meanings are maintained by convention only. This chapter examines Saussure's pronouncements about linguistic structures which the structuralists later found so interesting. The other major figure in the early phase of structuralism was Roland Barthes, who applied the structuralist method to the general field of modern culture. The chapter lists the activities of structuralist critics and provides examples on the methods of literary analysis described and demonstrated in Barthes's book S/Z. STOP and THINK sections in the chapter provide the reader with some ‘hands-on’ experience with the subject discussed.

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Beginning theory (fourth edition)

An introduction to literary and cultural theory


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