Propp Class Notes

Story Formation Influenced By:

1. Memory

  • Rhythm
  • Ritual Vocabulary: "Once Upon a Time"
  • Repetition
  • Chunking
  • Embedding

2. Culture

  • Epithets: "wily Odysseus"
  • Set Descriptive Pieces: arming of the hero
  • Plots: Kidnapping of "Brides"
  • Plot Patterns: Rescue vs Escape
  • Point of View, Interiority
  • Possible Events: Magic, Role of Gods, etc.

3. Patterns of Transmission

  • Preservation of Building Blocks not Literal Units
  • Preservation of Process, not Product

Propp's Morphology

  • p. 19 Morphology = a description of the tale according to its component parts and the relationship of these components to each other and to the whole
  • starts with a corpus of 100 transcribed variant texts
  • Function: an act of a character, defined from the pov of its significance for the action p. 21
  • Terminal Functions bring tale to an ending
  • "The sequence of Functions is always identical"! p. 22
  • Episodic Structure vs. Unified Plot, see p.93

Note: Propp's tales are all linear, and are told one at a time. The collection of variants is purely for analysis.




Situational, Particularized Reasoning: Parable

Abstract Reasoning: Scientific Method / Novel

Procedural Reasoning: Simulation

Oppositions and Contrasts

Categories and Hierarchies

Iterations and Variations

Accretion of Attributes

Inheritance of Attributes

Variables and Constants

Epic: Fixed Personality

Bildungroman: Learning, Growing Moral Being

Multisequential Stories: Multiple Fates, Multiple Views


Jorge Luis Borges, "The Garden of Forking Paths," Ficciones (1941)

Alan Lightman, Einstein's Dreams (1991)

Walter Ong, Orality and Literacy (1982)