This essay makes the case that most methods in literary studies explicitly privilege the detail but covertly depend on structures. The article turns to structuralism, specifically to the debate between Vladimir Propp and Claude Lévi-Strauss about the role of the detail, for a method that keeps structures in view, even while focusing on details. Suggesting that structuralist methods could usefully reshape the teaching of literature now, the essay reads two novels that both depend on and depart from traditional fairy-tale patterns: Jane Yolen’s Briar Rose (1992) and Helen Oyeyemi’s Boy, Snow, Bird (2014).

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