File - Teaching Canadian Literature in Secondary Schools

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English Language Arts
Literature and film can be classified into different
genres. Many short stories, novels, poems, plays
and films share common features even though they
were written by people from different parts of the
world and at different times in history.
 These recurring images, character types, symbols
and narrative patterns are called ARCHETYPES.
 Genres classify literature/film and archetypes are
another method of classification albeit a more
complex and intelligent method.
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(Recurring Narrative Patterns)
“Westerners”
Quest/Adventure Stories
“Rags to Riches”
Creation Story
Mistaken Identity
“Monster-slaying Story”
Loss of Innocence Story (death)
Wedding/Romance
Wicked Witch
Victim
Star-crossed lovers
Hero
Evil Step-mother
Villain
Teacher
Child (and throughout various
stages to adulthood)
Damsel in Distress
Endings:
Wedding, death, ride into sunset,
murder solved etc.
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Water: creation, purification, redemption, fertility, growth
Rising Sun: wisdom, birth, enlightenment
Setting Sun: death
Garden: paradise, innocence, fertility
Tree: immortality
Desert: hopelessness, death, spiritual emptiness
Apple: knowledge, health
Snake: evil, temptation, sensuality
Rose: perfection, beauty
Circle: wholeness, unity
Red: blood, passion, sacrifice
Green: growth, fertility
Black: chaos, death, evil
White: purity, innocence
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Golden Age
God-Teacher/Hero
Loss of Innocence
Flood/Doomsday
Metamorphosis
Human Year
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The quest story – humanity’s ongoing search for paradise
(people lose paradise and often begin a quest to regain
the paradise lost)
Characteristics:
The Golden Age is based on the theory that there was a
utopia, which was destroyed but can be regained
Happy endings are usually the result of this archetype
The “Quest Story” is usually associated with GA because
the search for paradise is often a quest
Reference to the “good old days” is often the desire for a
lost paradise (even if realizing after consideration that
the old days were not so good)
In terms of the human year, GA is usually associated with
spring or early summer
Abundance, growth, love, peace, and reconciliation are
all associated with this archetype
Examples: Matrix, Lion King, Back to the Future, Shrek
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Characteristics:
Benevolent (charitable) with knowledge –
willing to teach humans the answers to
hidden mysteries
Intermediary – acts as a bridge between
humans and a divine power
Model for human behaviour
May take the form of animals, teachers,
visionaries, political leaders, religious
leaders, and sport or film idols
In terms of the human year, GT is usually
associated with summer
May offer themselves as sacrifice (in early
myths they were punished for revealing
mysteries
Examples: Helen Keller/Annie Sullivan,
Yoda, Gandalf, Coach Carter
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Characteristics:
Stories about the origin of evil are end of
childhood stories
Movement away from a sense of security, rosy
outlook on life, and youth to a more cynical view
of responsibility, greyer outlook on life, and
awareness of aging
The end of childhood may come in the form of a
personal tragedy, a rude awakening, or a
shattered illusion. There is an awareness of loss
– a favourite object is broken, a friend moves,
beauty is lost
May come as an awareness of one’s own
limitations. The realization that one cannot
avoid death
May take the form of a new experience – first
encounter with war, violence, crime, senseless
destruction or a first love
The individual usually comes to realize a harsh
truth and must deal with it
Initiation rites to welcome the child into the
adult world are part of end of childhood
Examples: The Little Mermaid, To Kill a
Mockingbird
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Characteristics:
A story that shows decay and
destruction, then the establishment
of a new community. The earth and
its inhabitants have come to the
worst possible state of affairs
Water is a common image in stories
containing this archetype. It destroys
yet saves, takes and gives life
A method of rebirth is often included
in these stories. This “ark” is a
recurring detail and may take the
form of a ship or some other vessel
This archetype offers hope. The
people left after the destruction are
good people. A new society, better
than the last, will be the result
The flood is associated with winter
Examples: The Day After Tomorrow
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A concept that deals with transformation.
The “change” can be physical, emotional,
mental, spiritual, social, etc. Usually
metamorphosis occurs as part of a process,
and can come about as part of a ritual.
Metamorphosis can be beneficial or
detrimental
Characteristics:
changes of form occur
wishes and dreams may become reality
fears and nightmares may become reality
similar to the direct comparison of
metaphor
metaphor — this is this: “She is a rose”
metamorphosis — this becomes this: “She
becomes a rose”
recognition that boundaries are not fixed
(transformations may take place…)
emphasis is on the similarities in life rather
than the differences
Examples: Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde
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The use of natures cycles to express human
emotion and feelings.
Examples: Freedom Writers & On Golden Pond
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All images obtained from “google images” via
public domain
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