of no fixed subtitle
May 30, 2005
The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations
17 years ago
The 36 Dramatic Situations
was the original, and it remains the standard to which all the others aspire.
Not quite true, actually. Vladimir Propp's
Morphology of the Folk Tale
was a typology that came out in 1928. He is just as mistaken as Polti, however; there are many, many more possible permutations.
He is just as mistaken as Polti
Propp was not interested in exhausting all potential dramatic situations. He was interested in a model that would explain his corpus, which his does with extraordinary elegance.
For a thoroughly unreliable approach to this problem, consider Souriau's
200 000 dramatic situations.
Further explication of Propp and the 1928 date: Propp's
did indeed carry an initial publishing date of 1928. Remember, though, that this was the in the heady, early days of the Soviet Socialist Republic. Lenin was dead, Trotsky was
persona non grata
and Big Joe Stalin was feeling pretty snappy. Unfortunately for Propp (and coincidentally also unfortunate for his contemporary, Mikhail Bakhtin), he was aligned with the old regime--though probably apolitical himself--and Stalin had Propp's work suppressed as he did with Bakhtin, as well. In Propp's case, a translation into French only became available in the late 40s, and Claude Levi-Straus used
as a touchstone for his theories of anthropological methodology, which became known commonly as Structuralism.This era marked the "official" Soviet rehabilitation of V. I. Propp--and again, coincidentally, Bakhtin's writings began to influence continental philosophy around that time as well, as many French intellectuals were seemingly obsessed with communism, soviet style. Propp was not the least bit interested in dramatic modes, though. I suspect if one wants to trace the "36 dramatic situations," one might investigate the writings passed down to us under the names of Plato and Aristotle. Too bad the library at Alexandria was burned to the ground, preventing us from tracing the ur-influences of the Greeks.
Here is the real Big Aristotle's take on
That's the nicest etext of Poetics I have seen. And thanks for the extra info re Propp.
One might also investigate the writings passed down to us under the names of the
Wow, hats off to wolof, skrik and deconstructo for that extra detail. The thing i like about Polti's list is its honesty. It's 36, not three, five, seven or any of the other magic numbers people like to use.
Someone once told me something like this. I don't remember if there were other situations, but I remeber the idea that the instigation in a whole bunch of stories can be summarised as "someone new comes to town" or "someone leaves". It's remarkable when you think about it.