I am not against criticism. I am not against liberty in celebrating creativity. We are all free to engage in activities as we wish (and deem them aligned with our moral values). However, what would you do if someone offered you a glass of fire when you demanded ice? What will be your reaction if someone presses charges against you for assaulting a person just because you narrated the event you witnessed on the road? I guess these scenarios would draw an exasperated reaction from anyone. Structuralism does the same. It judges a work of literature not on the merits of the story but the hidden layers of linguistic sequences. Is it fair? We can debate.
Imagine reading a novel. You just started appreciating the novelist for an impressive character sketch. A structuralist sitting in your room might casually dismiss it. “I read something like this before. I don’t give a damn to the character.” Without even reading the novel, the person may have passed his verdict. Do you justify such a practice as criticism?
Critics sowed the seeds of the Structuralist school of theory emphasising the linguistic models of a work of literature. However, the careless dismissal of the artistic values and aesthetic elements that a writer carefully injects into the book does not make much sense to me. I could still be a fan of such critique (certainly without dismissing every other aspect). We can analyse the formal attributes of a work of literature based on genre, composition and symmetries with the literature published before. However, this does not warrant that we don’t even consider the work and its aesthetic. A writer works hard to produce a work of literature. The sheer process deserves respect!
Structuralism throws everything out of the windows and spreads on the table a set of codes, phonemes and the unending debate between langue and parole. It may be interesting for those who keep themselves busy by flexing their intellectual muscles. For readers at large, nothing matters more than the aesthetic qualities that a book offers. If a character suits the mood of a reader, he will rejoice it, remeber it and discuss it (character in an abstract sense). Nobody, no theory, no thought can deter the reader from liking an aspect of a character or the character itself!
Yes, as far as it is about finding sequences in the narrative and analysing the narrative itself, I am very much in the room for such a practice. Analyse the narrative itself. Do not push everything away at the cost of language. Language has no value if literature does not exist. And literature, fortunately, contains many things humane!
By Puja for ReadByCritics blog