For Thursday (12/7)

We want to accomplish two things by our next meeting on Thursday:

  1. A final version of your Stranger Things episode pages.  (See below for the format for each of your episode pages.)
  2. Select the narrative actions from your episode that seem absolutely critical to the season (macro) narrative and add them to the season macro page.  On this macro page, we are trying to reconstruct the narrative sequence of actions for the whole season.  (Remember: narrative actions that might be essential for your episode may not be essential for the season, i.e. “Dusting finds/discovers Dart” in our example episode may not be essential to the season narrative and “Nancy and Jonathan sneak off” is definitely not essential to the whole narrative sequence of season two.)  When you add an event to the “macro” page – – try to include a Proppian label, if you can. And, let’s try to keep the actions in order.

Format for final version of your episode pages:

  1. The first item on your page should be the complete sequence of narrative actions for the episode.  It should look something like this:

Label any narrative actions within the sequence with a Proppian tag, i.e.  “Delivery,” “Reaction,” etc.  Simply add the name of the appropriate in brackets to the narrative action.  (In the above example, for instance: “4. El Leaves Cabin [3. Violation of interdiction].”  Don’t worry about narrative roles/actors – – “Hero,” “Villain,” etc. – – here.)

2. Sort these main narrative actions into the narrative strands within the episode.  The narrative sequence for each strand should only be composed of events you’ve already included in the main sequence.  Thus, something like this:

3.  Assign narrative actions to the binary oppositions which seem to structure Stranger Things.  For now, we’ve decided on four binary oppositions: adults vs. children; control vs. autonomy; insider vs. outsider; truth/visible vs. secrets/hidden.  Use only these four oppositions.  Perhaps not all the narrative actions will “fit” into these oppositions; assign as many actions to oppositions as you can.  Thus, this section for the example episode above might look something like this:

adults vs. children

(2)Hopper versus/argues with El [Hopper and El argue over honesty]

(11)Nancy and Jonathan sneak off [Nancy and Jonathan have to evade parents.]

truth vs. secrets

(14) Dustin and Dart loyalty/Dustin hides Dart from group [Dustin keeps Dart a secret from the party.]

control vs. autonomy

(4) El leaves cabin [El disobeys Hopper and his authority.]

(10) Dart escapes [Dart refuses to be penned up by the party.]

insider vs. outsider

(8) Dustin vs. group [Dustin separates himself from the party by keeping Dart a secret]

(12) El and Mike remain separated [El returns but doesn’t join the party.]

Note: you may want to add a sentence to briefly explain or detail more fully how the action demonstrates or expresses the binary.

Again, this is really a question of sorting: which actions go with which binary oppositions?

This should be the final form of your original page – – neat, clean, and clear.  (Transfer your earlier work to a new page with the episode title followed by the word draft, e.g. S2E3 Draft.  When you create this new page, try to place it “under” the original episode page.)

[Photo credits: Jake Z.]


For Tuesday (12/5)

For Tuesday, let’s:

  • Tighten up your episode analyses, i.e. map out the whole sequence of (essential) narrative actions for the episode and then sort them into whatever narrative strands they belong to.  (Recall what we did with the Season 2 episode in class.)
  • Think about your episodes in relation to the whole season.  Add narrative events from your episode to the respective season narrative (Season 1 or Season 2).  Remember: the events you add to the season narrative must only be those that advance the plot over the whole season.  We are trying to reconstruct the overarching sequence of narrative events for the season.

If you can, bring a portable network-connected device to class on Tuesday.  This might make your research group work easier.

For Thursday (11/30)

Let’s dig deeper into your episodes of Stranger Things.  On the wiki page for each of your two episodes, do the following:

Micro level:

  • Distinguish the narrative strands within each episode, i.e. the seemingly separate narrative sequences within the episode.
  • Summarize the plot for each strand within the episode, i.e. list the main narrative events.
  • Identify the “Proppian” character functions for each strand (Hero, Villain, Donor, etc.) and identify any “Proppian” narrative actions (Abstentation, Departure, Testing, etc.)
  • Speculate about the relation between these narrative strands.  Are they isomorphic, i.e. do they seem to echo each other in structure or sequence?  Is there anything interesting about the different character-functions and the particular characters who fill them?

Macro level:

  • Where do the narrative events of this episode seem to fit into the larger narrative sequence/s that span/s this season of Stranger Things?  Can you place the narrative actions in this episode within a “Proppian” narrative sequence of the whole season?

Stranger Things

We’ve decided to switch trains here  – – from structural analysis of “success stories” to structural analysis of Stranger Things.  Remember, however: our reading/discussion of Will Wright and our analysis of Saturday Night Fever have prepared us for this new text.  Here’s what you’ll need to do to make the project work:

  1. Sign up to analyze two episodes from either Season 1 or Season 2 of Stranger Things.  (You must stick to one season.)  If you’ve never watched the show – – it’s available on Netflix – – sign up for Season 1.  We’ll need at least 8 people at a minimum for each season, i.e. even if you’ve watched both seasons, you may need to sign up for Season 1 to keep a balance between our two groups.  To sign up, go either to our Season 1 page or our Season 2 page. (These pages are on our google sites wiki.)
  2. Now, go to our “Fairy Tale Narrative Sequence” page.  Since we’re not doing the “success story” narrative, we’ll have to try out a different set of narrative actors and narrative sequence.  Luckily, Vladimir Propp proposed a set of actors and a sequence for the classical Russian folk tale in 1928.  We’ll use these as our starting point.  Carefully read over Propp’s set of narrative actors and, most importantly, his list of narrative actions.
  3. Watch your two episodes of Stranger Things.  As you watch your episodes, take notes.  The goal here is to “find” Propp’s narrative actors and actions in your episode, i.e. your goal is to identify the “hero,” “villain,” “donor,” etc. and actions like “Testing,” “Reaction,” “Absentation,” etc. in your episodes.  Obviously, some of this will depend on where your episode lies in the season: episodes later in the season probably won’t include early actions like “Absentation” or “Interdiction.”  But, I bet each of your episodes includes at least two or three of Propp’s narrative actions and several of his narrative actors.
  4. Enter your analysis in the wiki page for your episode – – the links to these can be found on your google site Stranger Things season page (see above).

When we return from Fall Recess, on Tuesday, November 28, we should have a solid, rich analysis for each episode in both seasons of Stranger Things on our wiki pages.  Questions?  Let me know.

For Thursday (11/16)

For Thursday, review your notes from our discussion of Saturday Night Fever.  Bring any questions into class.

Here’s a list of 11 movies that seem (to me) similar to Saturday Night Fever.  Take a look at the list.  If you’re unfamiliar with any of the movies, take a look at their Wikipedia pages.  Before you come to class, put your name under two movies on the list that you think you might be interested in analyzing a la structuralist poetics.

One fun thing about doing this kind of analysis is that it requires you to first read a movie closely.  This will be the first step in your structuralist analysis.  Here’s a sample of the notes I took on Saturday Night Fever – – before I started thinking about the movie in structuralist terms.  And, here are Emilie’s excellent notes on our class discussion!

For Tuesday (11/14)

For Tuesday, be sure to watch Saturday Night Fever (1977) here.  (If you can’t remember the password, email me.)

As you watch the movie, keep the following in mind:

  • identify the three main narrative actors/agents (a la Wright’s “hero,” “society,” “villain”);
  • identify the main plot events (i.e. Chatman’s “kernels”) in the narrative (think also of Wright’s sequence of plot events for the Classical and Vengeance Westerns);
  • identify the main conflict in the narrative

Write down your notes for each of these and come to class with: a list of the three main narrative actors/agents; a boiled-down action/plot sequence; a very brief explanation of the main conflict.