Narrative theory


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Narrative theory

  1. 1. Media Language: Narrative
  2. 2. Where do we see or hear stories? • TV Programmes • Novels or short stories • Films • Advertisements • News: Print & Broadcast • Via the internet • Through talk, ‘gossip’ and chat.
  3. 3. Plot? Narrative? Story?Plot = everything visibly and audibly present inthe text; what the reader observes.Story = all events of the narrative, both explicitand implicit – what the reader understands. Narrative = plot + story Narrative is a chain of events in a cause and effect relationship in time and space.
  4. 4. What is narrative?It is the telling of stories; how they are organised, structuredand how they are understood. It is not just about theinformation that it imparts.A chain of events with a beginning, middle and end thatembodies a judgement about the nature of events.Story and plot can overlap. The plot clearly presents certainstory events. The story goes beyond the plot, suggesting eventsthat we never witness.
  5. 5. Once upon a time• Many of us experience our first story at a very young age, possibly beginning with the immortal phrase of countless fairy tales, ‘Once upon a time…’• What does this phrase really mean to us?• “Once” =• “Once” invites us into the narrative world which is set in the past; indeed, most narratives are recounted in the past tense.• “upon a time” =• Situates us in a world we know is different to our own, in a time that is not now.
  6. 6. Narrative theoriesTheorists worked to discover a structure to narratives to show the inherent similarities between stories from different cultures. Key theorists: Tzvetan Todorov Vladimir Propp Claude Levi Strauss Roland Barthes
  7. 7. Tzetvan Todorov reduced narrative to a simple recurring formulaTodorov felt that all stories start in a state ofequilibrium, which is then disrupted, setting in amotion a chain of events. The resolution of thestory is the creation of a new/differentequilibrium.Eg. Titanic Rose is engaged Rose then leaves her fiance for Jack; Jack then dies Rose continues her life as an independent woman
  8. 8. Vladimir ProppHis ideas of narrative suggested:• Narrative structure can be determined by role• Character roles help us understand the constructed nature of the narrative• There are eight character roles• There are 31 functions to characterPropps helps us understand that each characterrole has a purpose within the narrative andaudience identification.
  9. 9. Vladimir Propp1. the villain, who struggles with the hero2. the hero, who departs on a search reacts to the donor3. the dispatcher, sends hero on a mission4. the false hero (antihero), who claims to be the hero, often seeking and reacting like a real hero5. the donor, offers a gift with magical properties6. the helper, aids the hero7. the Princess, who exists as a goal or reward and often recognises and marries the hero and/or punishes villain8. The Father, rewards the hero
  10. 10. Vladimir ProppEach of the 8 character roles can be filled in ‘Harry Potter and thechamber of secrets’:The villain – Tom Riddle (Lord Voldmort)The hero – Harry PotterThe donor – the Phoenix provides sorting hat, which provides aswordThe helper who aids the hero – Ron WeasleyThe princess – Ginny WeasleyHer father – Dumbledore, he rewards Harry, however is not thefather but may be looked up to as a father figureThe dispatcher – Moaning Myrtle, helps show the entrance tothe chamber.The false hero – Professor Gilderoy Lockhart
  11. 11. Claude Levi-Strauss• He suggested that the production of meaning depended on the concept of binary oppositions.• This involves looking at the conflict between two qualities and understanding how the text produces meaning by the setting up of these oppositions.
  12. 12. Claude Levi-StraussA classic example is the traditional Western genre: Settlers vs. Native Americans Christian vs. Pagan Domestic vs. Savage Weak vs. Strong Good vs. evil
  13. 13. Claude Levi-StraussBinary oppositions in ‘Lord of the Ring’ (Jackson,: Peace vs. War Good vs. Evil Hope vs. Fear Compassion vs. Indifference Bravery vs. Cowardice Nature vs. Machinery
  14. 14. Roland Barthes• Argued that narrative is told through a series of codes that are used to control the way in which information is given to the audience.• Two most important being: Enigma codes and Action codes
  15. 15. Roland Barthes• Enigma code = A narrative device that teases the audience by presenting a puzzle or riddle to be solved.An obvious example is a detective story in which theaudience is invited to solve the puzzle of ‘whodunnit’by interpreting the clues.• Action code = A narrative device by which a resolution is produced through action e.g. a shoot-out, violence; often by the hero.
  16. 16. Narrative is .....• Important to non-fiction as well as fictional texts e.g. Newspaper articles, television documentaries, radio current affairs programme.• Refers to a way in which the a media text ‘talks to’ its audience and influences the way the audience will respond to the text.
  17. 17. Relationship between Narrative and Genre• A study of different genres in film and television will suggest that the formula requires the narrative to be closed in a different way for each genre.• “Both are means in which the world of human experience can be reconstructed, rearranged and reimagined.” - H.Newcomb (2004)