Guide to Week 8: Tuesday
First, let's review the stages in Structuralism's "data-gathering"►"data-manipulation/analysis"►"thesis-generation"►"so what?" process--click here and try it out.
Use Google Books to look up Iona and Peter Opie's great folklore study, The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren, and read the short section on how schoolyard chants can decay and repair themselves over the course of decades of oral transmission (page 5-7). Then read one of the versions of "The Grenedier" chant and see this short demonstration of Vladimir Propp's structuralist units of folktales in action in an analysis of the Opies' Grenedier as "false hero"
In the web page for this week's reading in Selden's analysis of Miller's play, I have outlined the basic moves he made when turning his binary oppositions into structuring rules. After you have read Selden, review my outline make sure you understand each move he made. If you are pressed for time, you don't have to go beyond the stage indicated by the fourth roman numeral. The first portion of our discussion will be a review of Selden's application of Structuralism to the play, and then we will look at some broader issues like those below. Please read all the way to the end of the page hyperlinked above, where I discuss how to write introductions to papers using critical theories other than fragments of New Criticism, which most readers will take for granted. To properly introduce your critical method, you need to pay attention to when and why scholars refer to other scholars' work.
When you have finished reading Selden's analysis of binary oppositions in Miller's play, note that Selden does not announce a thesis based on this evidence. How does one move from Structuralism's assembly of the data into those binary clusters to a thesis explaining something about the text? For class, be prepared to talk about possible structuring rules which might explain the binaries he observes. Those rules would answer the question, "What is the hidden 'myth' the play is enacting?" If you need practice with more assistance on another text from which binaries already have been extracted, work on the idea of binary oppositions by looking at this demonstration using The Wizard of Oz. Selden is using a brand of Structuralism that conforms to many of the practices followed by Jonathan Culler, and by the Narratologists, Greimas, Todorov, and Genette. You may find it helpful to review their basic terms, and their methods as Tyson summarizes them (214-26). If you want to use a Northrop Frye approach to thinking about a narrative's genre, based on its deep structure rules, you should review Frye's terms and Tyson's summary of them (210-14).
Finally, if you have time, watch this short excerpt from Orson Welles' Citizen Kane (1941). If you have a good vocabulary to describe visual art, Structuralism can be applied to a movie's shot-sequences as if they were episodes in a myth, playing according to deep structuring rules. In this instance, you should be able easily to detect some privileged and privative binary pairs in the way the scene is structured. You might even be able to detect how "actantial" functions performed by document signing and how the shot construction isolates "the hero" (young Charles Kane) in the snow-globe of his mother's ambition by framing him in the window, outside the interior shot in which his future happiness is being converted to enormous sums of cash.