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Doctor Who meets Vladimir Propp: A comparative narrative analysis of myth/folktale and the television science fiction genre

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  • Publication: Northwestern University thesis
  • Date: December 1990
  • Author: Debra Jane Latourette
  • Page: 1-286
  • Language: English
  • Abstract: There is a close generic relation between myth/folktale and science fiction as estranged narrative forms. Based on this relation, a contemporary television science fiction text, Doctor Who, is analyzed using Vladimir Propp's morphological schema, which he developed from his studies of traditional Russian fairy tales. This schema focuses on the actions of the main dramatis personae and breaks down the text into its constituent units, labelled "moves." Doctor Who is an excellent choice for this type of analysis. The show's longevity, twenty-six years to date, provides a wealth of material; its action/adventure emphasis makes it an appropriate text for the selected methodology. Two principles guide the selection of thirty episodes for analysis: the availability of episodes featuring six different Doctors (the Doctors for whom episodes are available) and the show's four continuing villains (defined as villains who appear with at least three different Doctors). In this way, both diachronic and synchronic analyses can be performed. Diachronic analysis produced the most significant finding: a noticeable and progressive increase in narrative fragmentation across twenty-six years. This fragmentation is measured in terms of incomplete moves (i.e., moves in which a villainy, lack, or misfortune remains unresolved by the end of the episode). Aesthetically, this fragmentation produces a confusing, violent, and chaotic text, particularly noticeable in Doctor Who's latter episodes. Proposed explanations for the increasing fragmentation include production choices and concomitant postmodern shifts in other literary and dramatic forms. In the conclusion, I propose a number of other research projects within the television science fiction genre. Further examination in this area is warranted by the genre's status as a modern mythopoetic expression and by its function as a reflection of our culture's musings on its future.


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  • APA 6th ed.: Latourette, Debra Jane (December 1990). Doctor Who meets Vladimir Propp: A comparative narrative analysis of myth/folktale and the television science fiction genre. Northwestern University thesis p. 1-286.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Latourette, Debra Jane. "Doctor Who meets Vladimir Propp: A comparative narrative analysis of myth/folktale and the television science fiction genre." Northwestern University thesis [add city] December 1990, 1-286. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Latourette, Debra Jane. "Doctor Who meets Vladimir Propp: A comparative narrative analysis of myth/folktale and the television science fiction genre." Northwestern University thesis, edition, sec., December 1990
  • Turabian: Latourette, Debra Jane. "Doctor Who meets Vladimir Propp: A comparative narrative analysis of myth/folktale and the television science fiction genre." Northwestern University thesis, December 1990, section, 1-286 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Doctor Who meets Vladimir Propp: A comparative narrative analysis of myth/folktale and the television science fiction genre | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Doctor_Who_meets_Vladimir_Propp:_A_comparative_narrative_analysis_of_myth/folktale_and_the_television_science_fiction_genre | work=Northwestern University thesis | pages=1-286 | date=December 1990 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=7 December 2019 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Doctor Who meets Vladimir Propp: A comparative narrative analysis of myth/folktale and the television science fiction genre | url=http://cuttingsarchive.org/index.php/Doctor_Who_meets_Vladimir_Propp:_A_comparative_narrative_analysis_of_myth/folktale_and_the_television_science_fiction_genre | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=7 December 2019}}</ref>