21L489/21W765 Assignment for Week 7 (March 19, 1997)
Formulaic Plot Structures
Purpose: To explore a morphological system of notation for representing narrative form in order to consider how we can make use of similar methods for segmenting electronic narratives and for creating variant narratives.
V. Propp Morphology of the Folktale. Sections II, III, VI, and IX A,B, and D
Select a particular narrative or a category of narratives from any medium that you know very well (e.g. Borges story, Faulkner story, War and Peace, "The NeverEnding Story," Roseanne, cop-buddy movies, horror movies). You may use print fiction, movies, television shows, or examples from the course readings. Think about what are the formulaic elements of this narrative or genre. Then create your own system of Propp-like story morphemes (i.e. plot units) and the rules for ordering the morphemes that could be used to create an instatiation or a set of instantiations of a work in this form. You may present this as a flow chart or other diagram; as a list of morphemes plus a set of rules for combining them; or as a WWW page. a list of rules or as a WWW stack with script.
Here is an example of an ambitious response to this assignment from last year:
Detective Story Morpheme Project
Make a web page with a set of links to one or more WWW sites that offer morphemic substitution systems for making stories or documents. Include annotations on the morphemes on which the substitution system is based, on whether they are successful and why, and examples of variants (e.g. generate your own love letter, generate your own corporate web site).
Graduate Student Reading
R. Schank and R. Abelson Scripts, Plans, Goals and Understanding (1977)(xeroxed handouts and on reserve) pp. 11-17, 42-66, 138-174. A script-based approach.
Robin Lakoff, "Structural Complexity in Fairy Tales," The Study of Man, Vol. I (1972), 128-150. (handout). A parser approach to the Propp schema.
See also: Joseph Bates' Oz Group Papers, especially the papers on "Hap" and story architecture.
Interactive Fiction Syllabus / Spring 1997
Janet H. Murray