﻿ Method of Structural Analysis

## The Structure of Myth

Myth, ritual, folktale, etc.

• stems from a human need to make sense of the world and to resolve cultural dilemmas
• is a logical model capable of overcoming contradictions
• consists of elements (characters, events, settings, etc.) that
• oppose or contradict each other (thesis and antithesis)
• mediate or resolve these oppositions (synthesis)
• relates irreconcilable binary oppositions with reconcilable ones
• derives significance or meaning from bundles of embedded relationships or connections
• = surface structure (narrative / style) + deep structure (message / meaning)
• deep structure
• = binary opposition + mediation
• leads to (→) new binary opposition(s)
• analogous to story obstacles (∴ hierarchy of oppositions)
• binarism = language derives meaning from pertinent difference
• i.e., context and relationship (pattern of connection) determine uniqueness
• uniqueness determines identity
• can only identify something by comparing or contrasting it against everything else
• every thing is definable only in context
• meaning = ability to identify or interact with
• opposition → tension or conflict
• theme or relation = tension, interplay or harmony between binary oppositions
• mediation → solution (transformation or synthesis)
• = structure + story
• grows spirally (narrative tells story in layers)
• repeats structure / key elements, but not identically (repetition and differences reveal structure)
• narrative is continuous (linear sequence / timeline)
• structure is discontinous (static, repeated as narrative unfolds)
• ∴ myth is two-dimensional
• content draws its reality from structure
• form = how the structure is shaped or constructed

## Analyzing Folktales

Use the following procedure to structurally analyze a tale.

Construct Analysis Graph
1. Find as many variations of the tale as possible.
• Analyze the tale structure in as many contexts as possible.
• analogous to dialects
2. Break tale into series of sentences.
• sentence = subject + function relationships or connections
• usually corresponds to one event or position
• analogous to Propp functions (motifemes)
• Identify constant vs variable elements.
• only events are constant
• 31 possible actions, always same order
• functions are not self-evident (interpretive, ∴ subjective)
3. Number sentences according to 1) narrative sequence and 2) function.
• subject is a variable, stylistic, narrative detail (dramatis personae)
• function is a preservable structural element
4. Bundle sentences with the same function number.
• = mytheme
• = fundamental structural unit of a tale
• = bundle of subject + function relationships or connections which produce meaning
5. Lay out sentences so they can be read diachronically and synchronically.
• diachronic parole axis = horizontal timeline of events and details (linear sequence)
• synchronic langue axis = vertical bundles of equivalent functions (bundle columns)
• parole = diachronous historical details (irreversible unidirectional linear sequence, encounter each unit of details once, "within structure")
• langue = synchronous ahistorical structure ("reversible time", return to, exists in every moment, structure itself)
• story = malleable preservable meaning (significance, message, purpose)
• story survives any and all translations, unlike poem which distorts on translation (style-dependent)
• oppositions → mythical structure that transcends its elements (it is preserved despite variation of details)
• reveals structure (pattern, repetitions, differences, connections, oppositions)

Analyze Analysis Graph
6. Determine dominant commonality or connection between functions within each mytheme (bundle column).
• i.e., repetition, equivalence, similarity, theme
• commonalities are not self-evident (interpretive, ∴ subjective)
7. Examine relationships or connections between mythemes (bundle columns).
• i.e., patterns, differences, themes
• all mythemes form binary relations with each other (binary oppositions)
• one mytheme of the pair is usually favored, the other disfavored
• relationships or connections between mythemes determine essential story of tale
• rules or laws (below) govern these relationships (reveal message of tale)
• relationships are not self-evident (interpretive, ∴ subjective)
8. Identify transformation rules.
• every myth contains a kernel of four mythemes related by opposition and equivalence
• one opposition pair is irreconcilable
• the other is reconcilable
• their equivalence relates the irreconcilable binary opposition with the reconcilable one, so providing a "solution" to (reconciling) the irreconcilable one
• this opposition-equivalence relation can be formulated as:
• Fx(a) : Fy(b) ≈ Fx(b) : Fa-1(y)
• where:
• ¤ a, b and a-1 = agents (specified by Barthes's indices)
¤ x and y = actions or properties (specified by Barthes's functions)
alternatively, a, b and a-1 = actions or properties, x and y = agents
¤ F_(-) = functional relationship between dependent _ and independent -
action x of agent a [Fx(a)] is to [:] action y of agent b [Fy(b)] as []
(reconcilable relationship or situation)
action x of agent b [Fx(b)] is to [:] agent a-1 receiving action y [Fa-1(y)]
(irreconcilable relationship or situation)
agent a-1 is the opposite of agent a
• between situations (between Fx(a) : Fy(b) and Fx(b) : Fa-1(y)), certain conditions are met:
• agents are inverted (agent a is replaced by its opposite, a-1)
• relations are inverted (agent a-1 receives, instead of does, function y)
• meeting these conditions invokes a relationship transformation
(irreconcilable → reconcilable)
9. Interpret transformation rules.
• e.g., a = fish, a-1 = human, b = bird, x = swim, y = fly
• Fswim(fish) : Ffly(bird) ≈ Fswim(bird) : Fhuman(fly)
• fish swimming is to bird flight as bird swimming is to flight given to humans
• oppositions: fish swimming vs bird flight, bird swimming vs human flight
• transformation: human flight achieved (by success of salmon, tern, penguin)
• rules and transformation are not self-evident (interpretive, ∴ subjective)

## Further Structural Analyses

1. Motifemes

• motifeme = act of an actant
• continuum between two levels:
• abstract deep structure: motifeme = Propp function
• concrete textual surface: motifeme = generalized Thompson motif
• motif =
• proposition predicating an act to a character
• a unique or diagnostic element distinguishing a tale from other tales
• element that transcends (is common to) different tales
• specific actor, item or incident
• Thompson motif index
• ¤ juxtaposes hierarchically separate scales
(character ≡ incident ≡ character and incident)
¤ categorizes motifs arbitrarily (A2817 = Q565) (subjective)
• fulfils or manifests a motifeme
• motifeme = generalized motif
• motifeme - hero defeats villain
• specified or manifested by a motif
• motif - Ivan kills dragon
• leitmotif = frequently recurring motif in a tale
• topos = specific complex of motifs that frequently appears in a tale
• allomotif = motif that represents the same function or symbol as another motif
• theme = abstract message of tale constructed from or manifested by a set of motifs

2. Barthes's Functions and Indices

• classification of Propp functions
• functions
• distribution units (actions, events)
• cardinal = structure of chain of events
• indices
• integration units (mood, feeling, atmosphere, philosophy)
• proper = character of narrative agent
• informant = identity or location in time and space

3. Greimas Actantial Model

• classification of Lévi-Strauss oppositions
• three binary oppositions
• subject (hero) vs object (item, goal)
• helper (helps subject) vs opponent (hinders subject)
• conjunction (union) → disjunction (separation) → conjunction (reunion)
• initial situation → problem + action to solve → initial situation (approximately) restored
• redistribution of semantic value (problem → success)
• helper vs opponent later dropped
• semiotic square:
• assertion (life 1), negation (death 2), non-assertion (non-death 3), non-negation (non-life 4)
• contrariety (12, 34) vs complimentarity (13, 24) vs contradiction (14, 23)

## References

1Lévi-Strauss, C. (1986.) The structural study of myth. Adams, H., and Searle, L., ed., Critical Theory Since 1965. University Press of Florida.

2Advameg, Inc. (2008.) The scientific method: Structuralism. Film Reference: Structuralism and Poststructuralism.

3Klages, M. (2004.) Claude Levi-Strauss: "The Structural Study of Myth" and Other Structuralist Ideas. University of Colorado at Boulder.

4Klages, M. (1997.) Claude Levi-Strauss: The Structural Study of Myth. University of Colorado at Boulder.

5Kuehnel, R., and Lencek, R. (2005.) Levi-Strauss and structural analysis. The Motif of Living Water in Slavic Tradition. Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

6Nöth, W. (1995.) Handbook of Semiotics. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press.

7Wikipedia. (2009.) Claude Lévi-Strauss.

Compiled by Shawn Urban 2009