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Narrative Theory
Narrative Theory
Narrative Theory
Narrative Theory
Narrative Theory
Narrative Theory
Narrative Theory
Narrative Theory
Narrative Theory
Narrative Theory
Narrative Theory
Narrative Theory
Narrative Theory
Narrative Theory
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Narrative Theory


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  • 1. Narrative Theory Media Studies AS
  • 2. Narrative: the way in which a story is told in both fictional and non-fictional media texts.
  • 3. Vladimir Propp
    • Russian critic and literary theorist.
    • Analysed over 100 Russian fairytales in the 1920s.
    • He proposed that it was possible to classify the characters and their actions into clearly defined roles and functions.
    • Films such as Star Wars fit Propp’s model precisely, but a a significant number of more recent films such as Pulp Fiction do not.
    • The model is useful, however as it highlights the similarities between seemingly quite different stories.
  • 4. Propp’s Character Roles
    • The hero (seeks something)
    • The villain (opposes the hero)
    • The donor (helps the hero by providing a magic object)
    • The dispatcher (sends the hero on his way)
    • The false hero (falsely assuming the role of hero)
    • The helper (gives support to the hero)
    • The princess (the reward for the hero, but also needs protection from the villain)
    • Her father
  • 5. Tzvetan Todorov
    • Bulgarian literary theorist
    • Suggests most narratives start with a state of equilibrium in which life is ‘normal’ and protagonists happy.
    • This state of normality is disrupted by an outside force, which has to be fought against in order to return to a state of equilibrium.
    • This model can easily be applied to a wide range of films.
  • 6. Equilibrium Disequilibrium New Equilibrium
  • 7. Roland Barthes
    • French semiologist.
    • Suggested that narrative works with five different codes which activate the reader to make sense of it.
    • (also used the terms denotation and connotation to analyse images)
  • 8. Barthes’ Codes
    • Action – a narrative device by which a resolution is produced through action, e.g. a shoot-out.
    • Enigma – a narrative device that teases the audience by presenting a puzzle or riddle to be solved. Works to delay the story’s ending pleasurably.
    • Symbolic – (connotation)
    • Semic – (denotation)
    • Cultural – a narrative device which the audience can recognise as being part of a culture e.g. a “made man” in a gangster film is part of the mafia culture.
  • 9. Claude Levi-Strauss
    • Social Anthropologist.
    • Studied myths of tribal cultures.
    • Examined how stories unconsciously reflect the values, beliefs and myths of a culture.
    • These are usually expressed in the form of binary oppositions .
    • His research has been adapted by media theorists to reveal underlying themes and symbolic oppositions in media texts.
  • 10. Binary Oppositions
    • A conflict between two qualities or terms.
    • For example 1970’s Western films:
    • Homesteaders Native Americans
    • christian pagan
    • domestic savage
    • weak strong
    • garden wilderness
    • inside society outside society
  • 11. Task 1:
    • Apply the key narrative theorists to the ending of a film of your choice.
    • Propp Todorov
    • Barthes Levi-Strauss
  • 12. Narrative functions of opening sequences
    • • To introduce character (Propp)
    • • Establish narrative structure (Todorov)
    • • Captivate audience/interest
    • • Establish core themes (Levi Strauss)
    • • Introduce core iconography
    • • Establishes audience expectation through use of
    • generic conventions
    • • Establish sense of enigma (Barthes)
  • 13. Narrative conventions of opening sequences
    • • Predominance of action codes (Barthes)
    • • Significance of soundtrack – establishing mood
    • • Use of titles as credits/ event signifiers
    • • Pace
  • 14. Task 2:
    • Analyse the opening sequence of American Beauty in terms of:
    • How it fulfils the narrative functions
    • How it fulfils the narrative conventions