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Narrative theory: Propp and Strauss
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Narrative theory: Propp and Strauss

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  • 1. Propp and Strauss Narrative Theory Read and complete the tasks in each section
  • 2. Theories of Narrative Vladimir PROPP (1895-1970) The Morphology of the Fairy Tale, 1928 Propp examined hundreds of fairy tales in the generic form ‘the folk wondertale’. He identified: •8 character roles (or ‘spheres of action’) •31 functions which move the story along - examples include the punishment of the villain (usually at the end of the story); the ban of an action (eg. If Sleeping Beauty touches a spinning wheel, she will die)
  • 3. Theories of Narrative Vladimir PROPP (1895-1970) The Morphology of the Fairy Tale, 1928 Propp’s 8 character roles or ‘spheres of action’ •The villain •The hero - a seeker character motivated by an initial lack •The donor, who provides an object with some magic property •The helper, who aids the hero •The princess, a reward for the hero and object of the villain’s schemes •Her father, who validates the hero •The dispatcher, who sends the hero on his way •The false hero adapted from (Branston and Stafford, 1996)
  • 4. Theories of Narrative Vladimir PROPP (1895-1970) The Morphology of the Fairy Tale, 1928 Propp’s theory is a form of structuralism, which is a view that all media is inevitably in the form of certain fixed structures. These structures are often culturally derived and form expectations in the mind of an audience from within that same culture eg fairy tales always have happy endings or the princess always marries the handsome prince.
  • 5. Theories of Narrative Vladimir PROPP (1895-1970) The Morphology of the Fairy Tale, 1928 Propp’s theory can be applied to generic structures in Western culture, such as popular film genres. Thus genre structures form expectations in the mind of an audience that certain rules apply to the narrative. However, cultural change can force structures to change eg a hero can now be a woman
  • 6. Theories of Narrative Vladimir PROPP (1895-1970) The Morphology of the Fairy Tale, 1928 BLOG TASK: Identify as many of Propp’s 8 ‘spheres of action’ from a film of your choice as you can, explain how they fit into each category - •The villain •The hero - a seeker character motivated by an initial lack •The donor, who provides an object with some magic property •The helper, who aids the hero •The princess, a reward for the hero and object of the villain’s schemes •Her father, who validates the hero •The dispatcher, who sends the hero on his way •The false hero
  • 7. Theories of Narrative Claude LEVI-STRAUSS Claude Levi-Strauss is most noted for his theory of Binary Oppositions. French structuralist, 1970s In order to find those oppositions, Levi-Strauss was less interested in syntagmatic relations i.e.how events line up in the narrative structure to develop the plot, than paradigmatic relations i.e. those events and features that belong to the theme of the piece, especially within genre based texts.
  • 8. Theories of Narrative Claude LEVI-STRAUSS Levi-Strauss used the ‘Western’ film genre to develop his theory of Binary Oppositions. French structuralist Homesteaders Native Americans Christian Pagan Domsetic Savage Weak Strong Garden Wilderness Inside society Outside society
  • 9. detective villain princess femme fatale? criminal ‘straight’ weak strong safe streets ‘mean streets’ sane mad poor ? rich Theories of Narrative Claude LEVI-STRAUSS Levi-Strauss used the ‘Western’ film genre to develop his theory of Binary Oppositions. French structuralist
  • 10. Theories of Narrative Claude LEVI-STRAUSS BLOG TASK: Explain what BINARY OPPOSITES are. What binary oppositions can you think of from the crime or horror genres? French structuralist

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