"Speech has both an individual and a social side,  and we cannot conceive of one without the other"---Ferdinand De Saussure

 

Structuralism is the doctrine that realities exist as parts of structures. For instance,  if one were to understand a page,  one would consider first  a book,  then a chapter before arriving at a page. Each item exists as a part of  a structure: Book.  Similarly,  in literature,  certain books are written as patterns of a preceding structure that has gone ahead of them. This implies the similar patterns seen in certain books that belong to the same epoch or genre of literature. For instance,  the early novels of the 17th century when approached in a structuralist perspective would be seen as writing with the same patterns as they all dwelt on morality and verisimilitude.

 

Structuralism includes intertextuality—texts will be compared with other texts to identify similar patterns. Everything written has an influence from a story,  plot,  characterisation,  subject matter that has existed before it; therefore,  no written literature is really new.

The linguist,  Ferdinand De Saussure is considered as the major progenitor oif the theoretical concept known as structuralism. 

Ferdinand De Saussure went on to create an ideology he calls the 'sign'. This 'sign' refers to the signifier (the word) and the signified (what we imagine when we hear the words). This means that language spoken and written dwells on a structure of the "sign" as well.

 

 A new theory was developed as a response to structuralism. This theory is called poststructuralism,  and it is largely credited to Jacques Derrida in a new theory who argued that the 'signified' cannot be truly attained because signifiers create individually different ideas in the hearer's mind. As an example,  if you stumble upon a phrase like "red gown" (signifer),  the red gown that will be imagined (signified) in every person's mind,  cannot be the same.