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Web Wednesday: Myth Edition

Prewriting: Tweet the name of a myth that also has a modern version (I’ll also use this for attendance).

1) Literary Studies Part I: In your own words, write one sentence that makes an argument about writing that you know Freud, Saussure, and Lévi-Strauss would all agree on. Leave it as a comment to this post.

2) Literary Studies Part II: Pretend you are a New Critic and in three sentences rebut one of the arguments a fellow classmate made, using an example from literature.

3) Reading Part: Quickly read this story, which we’ll treat as a myth: http://eng170w.qwriting.qc.cuny.edu/readings/rumpelstiltskin/

4) Literary Studies Part III: Consider Lévi-Strauss’s “orchestral” method for analyzing myths. Using the following “mythemes” that I provide, create a table that arranges the mythemes of “Rumpelstiltksin” in a way that demonstrates the structure of “Rumpelstiltskin” (if you’re confused: we’re basically doing to Rumpelstiltskin what L-S did to Oedipus on page 864. Lévi-Strauss only had four columns, so maybe you want four columns too, or perhaps six. Remember: the most important thing is to find relations, like  X:Y::A:B )

A true “structural study” would first involve an analysis of the words and images in order to determine what the mythemes are. I’m just going to list prominent images and actions, in the order they appear (about one mytheme for each paragraph of the story to get started). You may not use all the mythemes or see all of them being equally important.

Post your results in a new post on your own blog; you might use an excel sheet, a word doc, or some other program.

Some Mythemes in Rumpelstiltskin:

Miller lies to King about daughter
Daughter put in room with task
Manikin trades necklace for spun gold
Manikin trades ring for spun gold
King rejoices
Manikin trades child for spun gold
King marries daughter
Daughter/Queen gives birth
Manikin returns for promised child
Manikin makes new promise about guessing name
Queen incorrectly guesses names
Queen sends messenger out to find names
Manikin rejoices by fire, dancing
Queen learns true name
Manikin splits self in two

************************

Here’s what I came up with:

A Cheating B Contracting C Producing D Rejoicing
Miller lies to King [cheats] Manikin trades spun gold [contract] Manikin produces those things [production] King [rejoices]
King marries daughter [contract] Daughter/Queen gives birth [production]
Manikin makes new name [contract]
Queen uses messenger to find names [cheats] Manikin rejoices by fire, dancing[rejoices]
Queen says true name [production]

Looking at the story in this structural way, I think column 1 and 2 are related: both are about making agreements with strangers, either verbal promises or legal contracts. Columns 3 and 4 are about “making things”–either real things like gold or children, or intangible things like joy and safety. It seems the story is saying that cheating : contracting :: rejoicing : producing. In other words, the structure of this myth tells us not to trust contracts, since they always can be cheated on, and not to rejoice too easily, since tangible things can always be taken from us as easily as they are given.

5) Writing Part: Look at this quote from the Lévi-Strauss reading (pages 867). On your own blog, write a long paragraph that describes the relationship between “growth” and “structure” in the case of Rumpelstiltskin.

“The question has often been raised why myths, and more generally oral literature, are so much addicted to duplication, triplication, and quadruplication of the same sequence. If our hypotheses are accepted, the answer is obvious: The function of repetition is to render the structure of the myth apparent. For we have seen that the synchronic-diachronic structure of they mouth permits us to organize it into diachronic sequences (the rows in our tables) which should be read synchronically (the columns).”

6) Homework: Finish up steps 4 and 5 by the weekend.

Posted in Prof Ferguson, Web Wednesday.


43 Responses

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  1. mikadroz says

    I think that all three would agree that everything can be broken down to very basic pieces that must be understood before being put together to make a whole.

    • mikadroz says

      Clarification, by ‘everything’ I mean a piece of writing.

  2. lindsayc says

    I think all three would agree that in writing, everything is arbitrary.

    • mikadroz says

      A New Critic would take issue with this, I think. New Critics believe that meaning can be found in writing through a series of steps, while the dictionary definition of arbitrary is ‘Based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system.’ This goes completely against the idea that we can use the seven step system to figure out just what an author/poet is getting at.

    • valinirohit says

      If I was a new critic I would argue that in writing nothing is arbritrary. In order to find the true meaning of a written work you need to look at it as a whole, the finished product, the result from the structure of its words. For example, the words that make up the Bible or the chapters that make up the Bible do not give us a full understanding of its theme if they are analyzed by themselves. In order to understand the theme of the Bible and its true meaning/purpose we have to view the content and structure of the Bible as a whole from Genesis to Revelation in the context of it’s overall story/message.

      • valinirohit says

        If I was a new critic I would argue that in writing nothing is arbritrary. In order to find the true meaning of a written work you need to look at it as a whole, the finished product, the final result from the structure of its words. For example, the words that make up the Bible or the chapters that make up the Bible do not give us a full understanding of its theme if they are analyzed by themselves. In order to understand the theme of the Bible and its true meaning/purpose we have to view the content and structure of the Bible as a whole from Genesis to Revelation in the context of it’s overall story/message.

  3. seslami says

    Freud, Saussure, and Lévi-Strauss would all agree on the basic principle of going through a certain order of steps in order to fully come to an understanding of the text in front of them.

  4. Henna says

    Definition exists within relations/comparisons.

    • Henna says

      Or, perhaps, restated: Definition exists as a result of relations/comparisons.

  5. egallone24 says

    I believe that all three writers would agree that a piece of writing cannot just be analyzed as a whole. It must be interpreted in small segments to fully understand the importance of key and specific terms that then can help make a clear justification of the work as a whole.

    • khiralal says

      A new critic would say that even though they do look for specific terms, rather than looking in segments they would et the terms together and analyze a deeper meaning. They will take the words even from the end of the reading and put them together to recognize a sort of writing the author is trying to get to. Even by doing so, the diction would remain an important part of the research in trying to come up with ideas and formations of the writing.

    • femi says

      i believe that Strauss would disagree with this because because he contends that myths should by looked at as a whole and more so compared to all versions of the myths to get the full understanding. He would look at the structures of the different versions and over lap them where the were structurally similar. Strauss does truly look at the bigger picture rather than focus on the details of a singular version of the myth.

  6. Jessica Danielle Powell says

    It’s not the puzzle or the picture on the box that assigns meaning to the puzzle, its the structure of the pieces.

    Puzzle: Dreams, Myths, Language [sign/signifier].

    • Jessica Danielle Powell says

      It’s not the literature that gives meaning, it is how the literature is arranged, why one thing is in this place and another behind or before it.

    • Henna says

      It’s but a waste of breathe to look further than the picture on the box! The entirety of the puzzle exists right there, right before your eyes — “…the poem itself contains all the necessary information to discover its meaning.” Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote Sonnet V in 1917, a period time I am most unfamiliar with, however, I, without laying a finger on a single historical reference (or Google) was able to gather the poem’s message.

  7. andycrazn says

    they all have a fundamental way in looking at things and that is not looking at things on face value but try to find something behind the word.

    • sasha says

      What lies behind a word can really vary. It can depend on what the reader thinks which could lead to a misinterpretation. If you try to look for something behind a specific word…you might not get the right interpretation. You might have to look at the work as a whole, and look at its structure and literary elements.

  8. morgan92 says

    In all writings the reader must look for symbols and signs that the author puts into their writing to fully understand the written work.

    • seslami says

      A new critic might disagree and say it does not matter what the author’s hidden intentions were. What really matters is the text itself and its structure, not its ambiguity.

    • lindsayc says

      I think a new critic would disagree with this statement because in new criticism, although the literature has relation to the author because well, the author wrote it, it can not be the basis of interpretation. The reader must extract and decipher on their own in order to fully grasp the text. For example, in My Papa’s Waltz if the author himself and his feelings were the basis of interpretation, we may see the poem being about a boy who is being beaten by his father. But if not taken into consideration, this leaves many more possibilities to what the poem is actually saying, perhaps about a boy who is enjoying time with his father, instead.

      • jtrezza says

        A new critic would refute this notion without hesitation. New critics believe the author should not be considered when analyzing a text. The words stand for what they stand for, and thats how you need to attack the text.

  9. xiomara capera says

    I think all three would agree that in writing, language is not to be taken for its literal meaning, but analyzed in parts to find the hidden meaning

    • egallone24 says

      a new critic believes that the form the writing is created is all that matters. How the piece of writing is read is how it is intended to be interpreted. Therefore, a new critic would not believe there is a hidden meaning.

    • mchan says

      I think New Critics would disagree with this. They would feel that all the meaning in writing can only be derived from words by analyzing them in a literal sense and taking them for what they mean literally.

  10. valinirohit says

    All three writers would agree that in order to interpret the true meaning of a piece of writing you would need to analyze the work as a whole as well as the arbritrary words that make it up.

    • Jessica Danielle Powell says

      A New Critic would say: In order to interpret the true meaning of a piece of writing, to understand its organic unity, you have to analyze the works words, literary devices, and so on. You never look at it as a whole…only in pieces using specific steps. You will come to the wrong interpretation using this.

      • Jessica Danielle Powell says

        where are the tensions? you cant find the tensions when looking at it as a whole. [Your wasting your time] LOL I actually think that new critics are mean uptight old people thats why the comments sound so bitter.

      • valinirohit says

        Actually, new critics look at the text as a whole in order to come up with one true interpretation of the text. To them structure and content are hand in hand and should not be analyzed separately/arbitrarily.

      • valinirohit says

        Actually, new critics look at the text as a whole in order to come up with one true interpretation of the text. To them structure and content are hand in hand and should not be analyzed separately or arbitrarily or in pieces.

  11. jkauffman says

    I think Freud, Saussure, and Lévi-Strauss would all agree that any piece of writing can be deciphered as having a simpler meaning.

    • morgan92 says

      New critics would disagree because they are searching for a deep meaning with in the text. New critics do not think that all written work have simple meanings because some author’s works have complex and difficult meanings. Shakespeare for example wrote his plays and some do not have simple meanings.

  12. eldisakaeko88 says

    All three writers would agree that there are different routes to understanding/meaning and these routes vary to the actual point like in a maze.

  13. mchan says

    Meaning is not found in the content, it is found in the structure/set up/ or arrangement.

  14. Breana says

    I think they would all agree that one cannot take literature and/or dreams at face value, one has to look for the deeper meaning.

  15. xiomara capera says

    New Critic: In writing, language is not arbitrary. The absolute meaning of a text can be discovered through a series of steps. From this we gather information from the text to form a unified idea.

  16. jtrezza says

    All three would agree that in order to fully comprehend any writing, one must break down the text into sections or pieces, and only after putting those pieces under a meticulous microscope can they be truly understood.

  17. khiralal says

    I believe that all three writers would agree that by looking through the diction of a work of literature, the writing can be analyzed in different specific ways that can really interpret what te author is trying to tell you whether it be looking at the writing alone or the structure and order it is said in.

  18. P O says

    I think all three would agree that the most meaning in a story, myth or dream can come from the relationships between words, events and symbols.

  19. sasha says

    The structure of a piece of writing is the most important aspect of it, more than the content, meaning, and connotations.

  20. femi says

    I agree that Saussure, Freud, and Strauss would all agree that language is arbitrary and that it gets is meaning from the idea that it represent. Saussure says the combination of sounds give words meaning. Similar to Saussure idea that words have not positive value but are define through their differences. This is also similar to Freud’s idea that the images in dreams are given meaning due to the concepts that they represent to the dreamer.

    • APMimz says

      A new critic would disagree in that language is especially important when they look for a deeper meaning. In that one must take a look at the whole and everything has a meaning, determined by the structure and wording that is used.

  21. APMimz says

    I believe that all three would agree that representation of any work of art can be portrayed differently to each person yet the same through analyzing smaller pieces.

  22. Jerry says

    All three would agree that all work must be analyzed by what is presented.

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