Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Structuralist Superman Strikes Again!

One of the tendencies of structuralism that I didn't represent last time is the tendency to diagram and analyse. Structuralism aims toward a more "scientific" approach to literary analysis, and so it sometimes expresses the structure of a story in terms of an algebra of story elements. For example, we could say B means "male protagonist" and G means "female protagonist", + is for a meeting, # is for a conflict * is for a resolution, and (M) is for a marriage. Then if we write


We are describing an awful lot of stories, and we can clearly see how the structure is the same.

We can do that with Action Comics 1.

First we make an key of algebraic substitutions.

0=Origin Story
R=Superman rescues someone
T=Superman threatens someone
t=someone threatens Superman
c=Superman as Clark Kent
w=Clark feigns weakness
l=Lois snubs Clark

Then Action Comics 1 is:


Presented like this we can see patterns (for example, the Rc pattern that means Superman appears as Clark Kent right after rescuing somone, or the prominence of T showing that Superman threatens more than he either is threatened or rescues). I we were so inclined we could also compare this story with others, and by changing the characters' names into generic terms (like hero) we could compare this structure with any other story.

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