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Summer SAVY 2019: Session 1, Day 2 – Theory, Criticism, and The Force (Rising 5th/6th)

Posted by on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 in Grade 5, Grade 6, SAVY.

Rising Moons, my young Padawans!

Thanks for another fun and invested day of Theory, Criticism, and The Force! I’m so impressed with how you’ve grappled with our course content. We are covering a not-insignificant amount of material every day, and many of these concepts would be explored in graduate studies. You’re proving your rigor and your willingness to dive into deep waters!

We began our day with a game, a variation on the classic Zip, Zap, Zop. I’ve modified that old standby to be a bit more Star Wars specific, though I don’t yet have a name for the game (Pew, Pew, Pew is a contender). It may seem like a silly exercise, miming blaster bolts and lightsaber technique, but the game is more than just funny noises. It’s about community building and social awareness, and it forces (no pun intended) students to trust their first instincts. There’s no sitting back in Pew, Pew, Pew. I appreciate your leaning in!

We reviewed yesterday’s primary concepts, including tenants of Formalism and Platonism. You demonstrated your understanding of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, and we examined how Formalism often informs our most basic opinions; how many of you knew that when you expressed your preference in lightsaber color that you were thinking like a Formalist?

But, we could not remain in Formalism forever, and so we ventured into Structuralism, exploring various modes of application for this broad and influential theory. We discussed Aristotle’s Poetics and the structure of three-part narrative, after which you created your own stories in three parts. We then talked about Joseph Campbell’s theory of The Hero’s Journey, and we examined this structure using the language of screenwriting guru Blake Snyder. Then, with these tools in place, we examined multiple pieces of content, analyzing their narrative structure:

– Obi-Wan’s fateful duel with Darth Maul from Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace: check.

– Obi-Wan’s fateful rematch with Darth Maul from Star Wars: Rebels: check.

– Hiccup and Toothless’ first flight from How To Train Your Dragon: check.

– Iron Man’s first flight from – well, Iron Man: check.

In each instance, you were able to determine Aristotle’s Beginning, Middle, and End, as well as Snyder’s Thesis, Antithesis, and Synthesis.  Isn’t it funny how structure is shared between these four sequences, despite how different the stories are in tone, theme, and meaning?

After lunch, we watched some more of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.  I know that this is the part of the class that you most look forward to, and I’m enjoying watching the film with you. However, I’m also enjoying watching you watch the film with new and different eyes. This is no longer just the story of Rey, Poe, and Finn. Rather, this film is becoming for you an exemplar of the Hero’s Journey, a template for Formalist study, and a collection of shadows from the realm of the Platonic.  In the days to follow, the film will also become much, much more!

Enjoy talking with your families tonight about Structuralism. You may quiz them on the differences between themes and motifs. You may ask them to tell you a joke, and see if you can pick out the three-part structure. Or maybe you’ll drift off to sleep, imagining yourself like Rey in her fallen AT-AT, readying yourself for the Catalyst that could be your Break Into 2.

‘Til the Spire,

David