What is the structural approach to the study of folklore

What is the structural approach to the study of folklore – The structural approach to the study of folklore is a method of analyzing folktales and other forms of traditional cultural expression by examining their underlying patterns and structures. This approach, developed by the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss in the mid-20th century, seeks to understand the formal and symbolic elements of folklore, rather than its content or historical origins.

The structural approach views folklore as a system of signs and symbols that encode universal human experiences and emotions. It argues that, despite their apparent diversity, folktales and other forms of folklore have a common structure and share underlying patterns and themes. This structure is seen as arising from the way the human mind processes and organizes information, and as reflecting universal human experiences and emotions.

The structural approach to folklore analysis involves breaking down a folktale or other form of folklore into its constituent elements, such as characters, events, themes, and symbols. These elements are then analyzed in terms of their relationships to one another and to the overall structure of the piece. This process can reveal underlying patterns and themes, and help the researcher understand the cultural and psychological significance of the folklore.

The structural approach has been influential in the study of folklore, and continues to be used by scholars and researchers in the field. Its focus on the underlying patterns and structures of folklore has helped to reveal the cultural and psychological significance of this rich and diverse body of expression, and has contributed to a deeper understanding of the human experience.

Lévi-Strauss felt that because myth had no practical function, it could reveal the working of the mind at a deeper level. The meaning of a myth cannot be determined simply from listening to its telling, its surface characteristics. In a fashion parallel to language and grammatical law, myth creators are only partially or intermittently aware of structures of myth. Lévi-Strauss shows not how humans think in myth but how myths operate in human minds, without their being aware of that fact. He contends that myths have the same linear structure through time as language. 

These constituent units or mythemes can be found at the sentence level. Lévi-Strauss further contends that the true constituent units of a myth are not the isolated relations but bundles of such relations, and it is only as bundles that these relations can be put to use and combined so as to produce a meaning. In this usage, myth has no location in chronological time. A myth is akin to fairytales and dreams, especially in the complete absence of nature-culture distinction. Nevertheless, myths and fairytales are meaningful. As we cannot write lexicon without grammar, without structure also we cannot decipher meaning. What is the structural approach to the study of folklore , As a follower of Freud’s psycho-analysis he believed that the meaning of folktales/myths is hidden.

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