This is why I look beyond Structuralism – I may have read about ‘this’ before… not ‘this’ way!

Post Category: Opinions
Structuralism and beyond literary theory Indian Book Critics

The worst part of being a critic is the act of slaying the author’s hard work, emotional and rational inputs into the literary work, and caring nothing about it. Have you ever felt the same? If you are in the ‘business’ of judging authors (based on their literary output), you must empathise with me. I have felt this situational trauma many times. However, surprisingly, there is nothing like PTSD here. You criticise, and you move on. However, the author might continue to suffer if you have been rude and unjust in your criticism. Coming to the point, nonetheless, let me explain why do I not align myself with the ideas propagated by those who practise structuralism.

Just because you read something like this before, it doesn’t mean this is like the one before. There may be a dad and a daughter who died in a car accident and a person who consoles the grieving mother. However, the circumstances of the crash might be different in both cases. The scenario that builds up post the crash might be unlike the previous time. The conversations in the car may be very different. The driver might be different as well. And, in short, saying it directly, every child is born to a woman, and it doesn’t make everyone in the world alike!

However, those who are behind syllables and phonemes might get it very late. After all, they will find some strange sign which may be signified every time even if the signifier is different all the time. A boy who grows up to become a dancer may connote the same to them as a girl who grew up and became a pilot. Why? Because they both grew up! Ah!

A general lack of understanding of human emotions, actions and everything humane is what I always feel the Structuralists suffer from. This does not mean any disrespect to those who practice this form of literary criticism. However, how many are there (still) who do so? Do notify me once you find one. I would sincerely love to engage in a detailed conversation with the person of interest. I would like to understand (very much) how a hill lying dead at the edge of my semi-urban locality is the same as the Himalayas just because both stand erected and are made of stone (naturally). Isn’t it what the structuralist do? Looking for patterns!

Structuralism, in general, totally subdues literary values and hunts for linguistic similarities or remotely connected trends. This is fair for their act. However, for literature, I would never agree Structuralism brings anything remotely fruitful, ever. What do you think? And, also, what do you think is the best form of literary criticism that one can use happily when it comes to critically analysing a literary text? What kind of reading do you prefer? A free reading taking into consideration every aspect of a work of literature or some preconceived notions dictating the whole process of criticism in a certain direction?

Please share your opinions in the comment section if you feel like doing it. I will wait for the comments. I will get back to as many as I can. Thanks!


Ashish for Indian Book Critics

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