Vladimir Propp, Morphology of the Folk Tale
Made me realise I need to read more structuralists. Fascinating cultural/historical correlation with text analysis & the development of "AI" etc - constants and variables:
"Let us compare the following events: 1. A tsar gives an eagle to a hero. The eagle carries the hero away to another kingdom. 2. An old man gives Súcenko a horse. The horse carries Súcenko away to another kingdom. 3. A sorcerer gives Iván a little boat. The boat takes Iván to another kingdom. 4. A princess gives Iván a ring. Young men appearing from out of the ring carry Iván away into another kingdom, and so forth. Both constants and variables are present in the preceding instances." (Propp, 1968 p.7)
Would be good to read the rest of the book. Quite nice that this chapter sticks only to deconstruction of the elements, rather than analysis of their meaning per se - but you have to do that eventually. And is it inevitable to come to some kind of (essentialist) psychoanalytic reading, a la Bettelheim? I'd hope not, though that is of course an interesting approach. Powerful tool here for looking at the productive myths operating in a given culture, and for all manner of humourous interventions into that productive process.
Thinking about the last project I did - letting people edit a text to their hearts' content - what was most interesting was the way certain motifs kept reasserting themselves - and even the closing, utopian anarchist version was made with such a sweeping erasure of the previous edits that it was as unconvincing as any other violent revolution. So, how to reflect more on this tendency to repeat, or should I say imitate, in the attempt to create alternatives? Is the very notion of setting out to make an "alternative" already dooming you to some kind of black and white opposition, where the rejected original will in classic Freudian style return to haunt the "new" text? Would be good to do a reading of some of the alt/queer porn being made at the moment and see to what it extent it breaks from the dominant pornographic script.
Vladimir Propp, Morphology of the Folk Tale, University of Texas Press: 1968 (USSR 1928)