narratology n.
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  1. NARRATOLOGY Critical Theory

  2. Narratology: what is it?! • The study of narrative structures • How narratives make meaning • What the basic mechanisms and procedures are which are common to all acts of story-telling.

  3. What Narratology is NOT! • Not the reading and interpretation of individual stories • BUT • The attempt to study the nature of ‘story’ itself, as a CONCEPT and as a CULTURAL PRACTICE.

  4. ‘STORY’ versus ‘PLOT’ • The ‘story’ is the actual sequence of events as they happen • The ‘plot’ is those events as they are edited, ordered, packaged, and presented in what we recognise as a narrative.

  5. ‘Story’ • The ‘story’, being the events as they happen, has to begin at the beginning, of course, and then move chronologically with nothing left out.

  6. The ‘Plot’ • The ‘plot’, on the other hand, may well begin somewhere in the middle of a chain of events, and may then backtrack, with a flashback which fills us in on things that happened earlier • Plot may have elements which flash forward, hinting at events which will happen later / foreshadowing • So, the plot is a version of the story which should not be taken literally.

  7. But remember: It is the whole packaging of the narrative which creates the overall effect. Style + viewpoint + structure + pace + characterisation + techniques etc = the narrative

  8. A Short History of Narratology! Aristotle Vladimir Propp Gerard Genette

  9. Good old Aristotle! • In his Poetics, Aristotle identifies CHARACTER and ACTION as the essential elements in a story • The character must be revealed through the action = through aspects of the plot

  10. Aristotle’s Three Key Elements in a Plot • 1. The Hamartia • ‘Sin’ or ‘Fault’ • In tragic drama = tragic flaw • 2. The Anagnorisis • ‘recognition’ or ‘realisation’ • When the truth of the situation is recognised by the protagonist

  11. Aristotle’s Three Key Elements in a Plot… • 3. The Peripeteia • A ‘turn-round’ or a ‘reversal’ of fortune • In classic tragedy this is usually a fall from high to low estate, as the hero falls from greatness • ** Categories essentially to do with moral purposes of the stories • ** However, these three elements may not suit all narratives.

  12. Vladimir Propp (1895-1970) • Russian Formalist critic; Russian folktales • Morphology = the study of forms • His work is based on the notion that all tales are constructed by selecting items from a basic repertoire of 31 ‘functions’ (all possible actions)

  13. Some of these functions: • One of the members of a family absents himself from home • The villain receives information about his victim • The hero leaves home • The hero is tested, interrogated, attacked etc which prepares his way for receiving either a magical agent or helper

  14. • Hero and villain join in direct combat • The hero is branded • The villain is defeated • The hero returns • The hero is pursued • A false hero presents unfounded claims • The hero is married and ascends the throne. • etc

  15. Propp’s 7 ‘Spheres of Action’ • 1. The villain • 2. The Donor (provider) • 3. The Helper • 4. The Princess (a sought-for-person) and her father • 5. The Dispatcher • 6. The Hero (seeker or victim) • 7. The False Hero

  16. Propps’ ‘Recipe’ for a Story • Take items from the ‘Functions’ and • Combine them with • ‘roles’ • from the • ‘Spheres of Action’!

  17. Gerrard Genette • Focus: how the tale is told • The Process of telling the tale itself • 6 key areas:

  18. 1. Is the basic narrative ‘mimetic’ or ‘diegetic’? • Mimesis • = showing or dramatising; represented in a scenic way; setting, dialogue/ direct speech • = slow telling, what is done and said is ‘staged’ for the reader, creating the illusion that we are ‘seeing’ and ‘hearing’ things for ourselves.

  19. • Diegesis • = ‘telling’ or ‘relating’ • = more rapid or panoramic or summarising way • = gives us the essential information as efficiently as possible, without creating the illusion that the events are taking place before our eyes. • ** In reality, writers use the two modes in tandem for strategic reasons.

  20. 2. Focalisation • Viewpoint or perspective • Which point of view the story is told • External focalisation = viewpoint outside the character depicted; we are told things only external and observable; what the characters say and do • Internal focalisation = focus on what the characters think and feel

  21. Focalisation… • ‘ Thelma stood up and called out to Mario’ = EXTERNAL FOCALISATION • ‘Thelma suddenly felt anxious that Mario was not going to see her and would walk by oblivious to where she was standing’ = INTERNAL FOCALISATION

  22. Focalisation… • Zero Focalisation • Novelist may freely enter minds and emotions of more than one character, as if privy to the thoughts and feelings of all of them. • Characteristic of ‘traditional’ or ‘classical’ narration • Also named ‘omniscient narration’

  23. 3. Who is telling the story?

  24. The Unidentified Narrator • A voice; tone; an intelligent recording consciousness; • The covert, effaced, non-intrusive, non-dramatised • May not be the author’s true voice • Disembodied narrator • Authorial persona

  25. The Identified Narrator • A distinct, named character • Has a personal history, gender, social-class position, distinct likes and dislikes etc • Have witnessed, or learned about, or even participated in the events they tell • ‘Overt’ or ‘dramatised’ or ‘intrusive narrators’

  26. The Identified Narrator… • Either: ** Heterodiegetic Narrator = not a character in the story he/she narrates but an outsider to it eg Mr. Lockwood in Wuthering Heights ** Homodiegetic Narrator = present as a character in the story eg. Jane Eyre, Steven Messenger

  27. The Unreliable Narrator • Narrator may be unreliable as they are: - biased; prejudiced; cynical; puzzled; misleading • May have disturbed vision of events • E.G. Steven Messenger

  28. The Effect of the Unreliable Narrator • may be alienating and disjointed for the reader • reader as active participant • reader must decode for themselves • a refracted picture of events is portrayed

  29. How is time handled in a story? • Narratives often contain references back and references forward so that the order of telling does not correspond to the order of happening. • ‘Analeptic’ = Flash back • ‘Proleptic’ = Flash forward

  30. What do good writers do? • Make strategic use of both analepsis and prolepsis in a story for the beginning is seldom the best place to start. • Stories tend to begin in the middle = ‘in medias res’

  31. Basic narrative momentum generated and readers engaged by: • starting in the middle with • analeptic material sketching out what went before and • proleptic devices hinting at what the outcome will be.

  32. How is the story ‘packaged’? Stories are not always presented ‘straight’ or ‘linear’

  33. ‘Frame Narratives’ or ‘Primary Narratives’ • Contain within them ‘embedded’ narratives or ‘secondary narratives’ • Use of a ‘framing device’ • Also known as the ‘meta-narrative’ or ‘tales within tales’ • Eg. ‘The Turn of the Screw’, ‘Twelfth Night’ • NB: Primary narrative just means it comes first, rather than the main narrative, which usually it isn’t / secondary narrative usually the main story.

  34. ‘Single-ended’, ‘double-ended’ or ‘intrusive’? • SINGLE-ENDED • Frame situation is not returned to once the embedded narrative is complete • eg ‘The Turn of the Screw’, at the end, we don’t return to the original group telling the story around the fire.

  35. ‘Single-ended’, ‘double-ended’ or ‘intrusive’? • DOUBLE-ENDED • The frame situation is reintroduced at the end of the embedded tales • Eg ‘Heart of Darkness’, we return, briefly, to the group of listeners to whom Marlow has been telling the tale.

  36. ‘Single-ended’, ‘double-ended’ or ‘intrusive’? • INTRUSIVE • When the embedded tale is occasionally interrupted to revert to the frame situation • Eg. ‘Heart of Darkness’, Marlow interrupts his own telling and talks to the group of men • Effect can be alienating and disrupting • Conrad did this to show his distaste for omniscient narration!

  37. 6. How are speech and thought represented?

  38. Direct and tagged • ‘What’s your name?’ Mario asked her. ’It’s Thelma’, she replied.

  39. Direct and Untagged ‘What’s your name?’ ‘Thelma’

  40. Indirect Speech • He asked her what her name was, and she told him it was Thelma. • Effect: formal distancing between reader and events.

  41. Free Indirect Speech • What was her name? It was Thelma • Effect: Suits an internally focalised narrative as it seems natural and ‘glides’. What was her name? It was Thelma. Thelma was it? Not the kind of name to launch a thousand ships. More of a suburban, lace-curtain sort of name, really.

  42. Narratology as a branch of STRUCTURALISM

  43. STRUCTURALISM • Focus on structure, symbol, design • Parallels, echoes, reflections, patterns and contrasts • Narrative becomes highly schematised

  44. Parallels Echoes Reflections / Repetitions in Contrasts Patterns Plot Structure Character / Motive Situation / Circumstance Language / Imagery We look for the factors on the left and expect to find them in the parts of the tale listed on the right.

  45. How does this apply to ‘Strange Objects’?

  46. The thesis of Structuralism: • That narrative structures are founded upon underlying paired opposites, or dyads • These contrasts are the skeletal structure on which all narratives are fleshed out.

  47. Binary Opposition- Narrative Structure • The tale may have a binary structure (a structure of paired opposites) made up of two contrasting halves • ‘Strange Objects’- What are the two structural halves? What is the ‘framing narrative’? = Steven Messenger’s first-person diary entries and the ‘contrasting half’ is the other material: Wouter Loos’ journal entries; police reports; advertisements; letters etc

  48. Binary Opposition- Narrative Structure • Marked difference in narrative pace between the narrative halves: • Messenger’s narrative: moves with increasingly disjointed rapidity, reflecting his fractured sense of self; psychosis • ‘Other’ narrative half: ordered text types; range of perspectives; methodical

  49. Binary Opposition- Narrative Structure • Consider how each narrative half effects the other; what is the relationship between the two; distribution of power

  50. Binary Opposition within the character of Steven Messenger • Consider contrasts and parallels between SM’s ‘two halves’ / his alter-ego / the ‘Other’