Mid-twentieth century witnessed the rise of critical theory that emerged from literary criticism. Northrop Fyre, a Canadian theorist, was mostly influential in America in whose works one finds the ideas that are similar to that of structuralism. Theorists of structuralism such as Levi Strauss build upon the new critical theories of Northope Fyre to create the theory of structuralist criticism.
Structuralism, as the word suggests, is the study of structures in language. One studies and analyses to discover a structure that could lead us to a meaning/truth. Structuralism is the study of literature for its meaning through the pattern of language.
Ferdinand de Saussure reveals the functioning of language in terms of sign and signifier. On the base of Northope Fyre’s theory, Levi Strauss fixes Saussure’s theory of language to apply it to the study of literature which came to be known as structuralist criticism.
Strauss attempts the structuralist study of myths and claims that myths all around the world have same pattern/structure—which is to say: despite myths having different characters, plots, etc, they have a central meaning similar to myths existing all around the world.
Strauss also suggests that myths with langue and parole also have a third element that combines them both. He believes that the myth that got produced a long time ago is timeless. This is to suggest that the study of myths tells us that myths are historical and ahistorical at the same time.
Structuralism is a criticism that doesn’t look out for/ concern itself with historical, political, social, context of the text. It is purely a form based reading of the text meant to appreciate the piece of literature as being timeless. Structuralists don’t believe in knowing about the author or the socio-political context of the text as for them the text in itself is enough.