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Summer SAVY Session 3, Day 4– Theory, Criticism, and The Force: An Academic Study of Star Wars

Posted by on Thursday, June 29, 2023 in blog, SAVY.

Day 4:  Families & Friends of Students of Theory & Criticism, well, Thursday was a big day, wasn’t it?

We finished breaking Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, including an extended analysis of the crisis/climax fulcrum at the film’s conclusion. Every time I watch this movie, I’m impressed with the number of A and B stories that intertwine and resolve when the kid from Tatooine drops those proton torpedoes down the Death Star’s reactor shaft. Sure, there’s a bit of deus ex machina involved, as well as some Hitchcockian “fridge logic” – did the TIE pilot suddenly forget how to pilot? – but the effect is so well achieved.

We segued from strict structuralist approaches towards the study of semiotics and the work of Ferdinand de Saussure. Students created semiotic chains of meaning: starting with a signifier. They identified the signified and then coupled these to find the sign – before the process began all over again with the sign now a brand-new signifier. I’m glad that they appreciated how divergent the chains became, as well as how slippage could impact each chain’s starting point. With this discovery, we tipped right into post-Structuralist thinking, which is where we’ll spend our Friday!

We touched on moral ethics, including deontology and utilitarianism, and we tied this to a perfect model of the two theories pitted against one another: Luke’s decision to leave Dagobah to save his friends, against the urgings of Yoda and Obi-Wan. In most models, I find people tend to lean towards utilitarianism, but Luke’s empathy makes the deontological approach seem the right choice for that moment. Of course, we’ll see how this works out for Luke when we finish Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back.

Spoiler: what’s the title of the film? Uh oh.

Oh! And we covered Simon Sinek and his theory of finite games and infinite games. I love that concept, and I find that it is a game changer when it comes to relationships of all kinds: at school, with friends, with family. Make sure to ask your students about the two types of games!

Friends, I’ve had such fun with your students this week. I can’t believe we’re so near the end. Students, please, bring your brilliant ideas and your ferocious passion into the room today. Let’s play some Pew! Pew! Pew! Let’s watch some Star Wars. Let’s talk about some theory. Let’s play the infinite game.