tzvetan todorov b 1939
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Tzvetan Todorov b. 1939. A central figure in French structuralism, Tzvetan Todorov is best know for advocating the scientific study of narrative, modeled on linguistics, for which he coined the now-standard term narratology . (2097)

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tzvetan todorov b 1939

Tzvetan Todorovb. 1939

A central figure in French structuralism, Tzvetan Todorov is best know for advocating the scientific study of narrative, modeled on linguistics, for which he coined the now-standard term narratology. (2097)

“Structural Analysis of Narrative” seek to develop a “poetics” or a theoretical study of literary techniques and categories.(2097)

structural analysis of narrative
Structural Analysis of Narrative
  • First, I shall give an abstract description of what I conceive to be the structural approach to literature.(2099)
  • This approach will then be illustrated by a concrete problem, that of narrative, and more specifically, that of plot.(2099)
First of all, one can contrast two possible attitudes toward literature: a theoretical attitude and descriptive attitude.(2099)
  • An understanding of that structure will be the real goal of structural analysis. Thus, the term “structure” has, in this case, a logical rather than spatial significance.(2099)
If we contrast the internal approach to a literary work with the external one, structural analysis would represent an internal approach.(2100)
  • In labeling all structural analysis “theoretical”, I clearly come close to what is generally termed an “external” approach. (in imprecise usage, “theoretical” and “external,” on the one hand, and “descriptive” and “internal”, on the other hand, are synonyms.)(2100)
Structural analysis coincides (in its basic tenets) with theory, with poetics of literature. (2100)
  • It can be said that structural analysis of literature is a kind of propaedeutic for a future science of literature.(2100)
Let us first of all reread that page from Henry James’s famous essay on “The Art of Fiction”, which already contains several criticisms: “…A novel is a living thing, all one and continuous, like any other organism, and in proportion as it lives will be found, I think, that in each of the parts there is something of each of the other parts.”(2101)
In this excerpt, the critic who uses such terms as “description,” “narrative,” “dialogue,” is accused by Henry James of committing two sins.(2101)
  • 1. There will never be found, in a real text, a pure dialogue, a pure description.

2. The very use of these terms is unnecessary, even harmful, since the novel is “a living thing, all one and continuous.” (2101)

todorov s responses
Todorov’s Responses
  • 1. A theoretical concept (e.g. temperature) does not need to exist in a pure state.
  • 2. The fact that we find them (blood, nerves, muscles) together does not prevent us from distinguishing them.
  • 3. Subjectivity is inevitable in studies of humanities (or social science) but we can limit it.(2101)
The abstract literary concept I would like to discuss is that of plot.(2101)
  • My aim is to suggest a certain number of useful categories for examining and describing plots. These categories can thus implement the meager vocabulary at our command with regard to the analysis of narrative; it consists of such terms as action, character, recognition. (2101)
decameron of boccaccio
Decameron of Boccaccio
  • A monk introduces a young girl into his cell and make love to her. The abbot detects this misbehavior and plans to punish him severely. But the monk learns of the abbot’s discovery and lays a trap for him by leaving his cell. The abbot goes in and succumbs to the charms of the girl, while the monk tries his turn at watching. At the end when the abbot intends to punish him, the monk points out that he has just committed the same sin. Result: the monk is not punished (I,4).


Perronnella receives her lover while her husband, a poor mason, is absent. But one day he comes in, she tells him that somebody wanted to buy the cask and that this somebody is now in the process of examining it. The husband believes her and is delighted with the sale. The lover pays and leaves with the cask (VII,2).(2103)
  • The sign→ will indicate a relation of entailment between two actions.(2103)
schematic formulation
Schematic Formulation
  • X violates a law→ Y must punish X→

X tries to avoid being punished→

→1. Y violates a law


2. Y believes that X is not violating the law

→Y does not punish X

1. The plot can be shown naturally by a clause.(2103)
  • 2.

(a) The characters correspond to proper nouns.

(b) There is always a verb here: violate, punish, avoid. They denote the action which modifies the preceding situation.

(c) The Adjective.


3. Actions with different statuses (e.g. negation).
  • 4. Modality:

(a) Legends--- the genre of the imperative.

(b) Fairy tales---the genre of the optative.

  • 5. A verb (“believe”) differs from the other.
  • 6. Causal relation.
  • 7. Common sequence of a group stories.



(a) Study of narrative syntax: each clause can be rewritten as an entire sequence.

(b) Study of theme: study the concrete actions.

(c) Study of rhetoric: examine the verbal medium.

  • His goal is an understanding of literature and plot.(2104)
The term “equilibrium”, means the existence of a stable. It is a social law, a rule of the game, a particular system of exchange.(2105)
  • A cycle: we begin with a state of equilibrium which is broken by a violation of the law. Punishment would have restored the initial balance; the fact that punishment is avoided establishes a new equilibrium.(2105)
As Freud said, “The important thing in a scientific work is not the nature of the facts with which it is concerned, but the rigor, the exactness of the method which is prior to the establishment of these facts, and the research of a synthesis as large as possible.”(2106)