Narrative theory


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Narrative theory

  1. 1. G325 1B Narrative
  2. 2. Narrative  Narrative is about how stories are told. Applying different models of narrative structure to your work may reveal unconscious things that you did in the way you have constructed it. 2
  3. 3. What does narrative mean?  The way that stories are told, how meaning is constructed to achieve the understanding of the audience.  Groups events into cause and effect – action and inaction.  Organises time and space in very compressed form.  The voice of the narrative can vary; whose story is being told and from whose perspective?  Narrative plot refers to everything audibly or visibly present, i.e. selective.  Narrative story refers to all the events, explicitly presented or referred.  In film, narrative is constructed through elements like camerawork, lighting, sound, mise-en-scene and editing.3
  4. 4. Note It’s important to realise that there is a distinction between a ‘story’ and a ‘narrative’. A "Story is the irreducible substance of a story (A meets B, something happens, order returns), while narrative is the way the story is related (Once upon a time there was a princess...)" (Key Concepts in Communication - Fiske et al (1983)4
  5. 5. NoteIt may seem obvious but the ‘reality ’ of your media text is not ‘reality ’, ameaning or moral/message is far easier to determine from a media text than‘real life ’.What the exam may ask you to do is evaluate ‘the way your narrative is related’ toan audience. This will require you to identify and evaluate the various narrativecodes which are employed in your ‘text’.Narrative code= the way in which the narrative is structured.Over 2000 years ago the Greek philosopher Aristotle observed that all narrativeshave:a beginninga middlean end 5
  6. 6. Five-stage narrative structure  Exposition – setting scene and introducing characters ▫ Little Red Riding Hood has to take food to grandmother who is ill  Development – situation develops, more characters introduced ▫ She sets out through woods where wolf is lurking  Complication – something happens to complicate lives of characters ▫ She meets wolf, he delays her and rushes ahead and ties up grandmother  Climax – decisive moment reached; matters come to head; suspense high ▫ She arrives, comments on size of grandmother’s ears, etc., Wolf eats her up  Resolution – matters are resolved and satisfactory end is reached ▫ Wolf falls asleep, passing forester investigates noise, rescues grandmother from cupboard and Red Riding Hood by cutting Wolf’s stomach open 6
  7. 7. TASKPick a narrative below and make improvements to the narrative codes. Think about therelated audience.1.‘Love Story’. A man meets a woman and they fall in love. They get married and have twochildren. Everybody lives happily ever after.2.‘Crime Story’. A gang of criminals rob a bank. They shoot a young woman and kill herduring the robbery. Her husband is a policeman and starts to track them down. However, hefails and they escape, going on to live happily ever after.3.‘Murder Story’. A man says he is going to kill his enemy. He does, and he lives happilyever after.4.‘Action Story’. A young, beautiful woman is kidnapped by a criminal who holds her forransom. Her handsome, brave husband tries to rescue her. However, it takes a longtimeand he gets bored. He gives up. Meanwhile, the criminal gang feels guilty and let her go.She decides to become a criminal and kills some people. 7
  8. 8. Narrative ConventionsWhen unpacking a narrative in order to find its meaning, there area series of codes and conventions that need to be considered.When we look at a narrative we examine the conventions of•Genre•Character•Form•Time8
  9. 9. Roland Barthes 5 codes of narrative  Hermeneutic (Enigma) Code The hermeneutic code refers to plot elements of a story that are not explained. They exist as enigmas that the reader wishes to be resolved. A detective story, for example, is a narrative that operates primarily by the hermeneutic code. A crime is exposed and the rest of the narrative is devoted to answering questions raised by the initial event. 9
  10. 10. Roland Barthes 5 codes of narrative Proairetic (Action) Code:The Proairetic code refers to plot events that imply furthernarrative action.For example, a story character confronts an enemy and the reader wonders what the resolution of this action will be. Suspense is created by action rather than by a readers wish to have mysteries explained.10
  11. 11. Roland Barthes 5 codes of narrativeCultural CodeThe cultural code designates any element in a narrative that refers tocommon bodies of knowledge such as historical, mythological orscientific. The cultural codes point to knowledge about the way theworld works as shared by a community or culture.Symbolic CodeThe symbolic code refers to a structural structure that organizesmeanings by way of antitheses, binary oppositions or sexual andpsychological conflicts. These oppositions can be expressedthrough action, character and setting.11
  12. 12. Roland Barthes 5 codes of narrative Semantic CodeA seme is a unit of meaning or a sign that express cultural stereotypes. These signs allow the author to describe characters, settings and events. The semic code focuses upon information that the narration provides in order to suggest abstract concepts.The semic code allows the text to show instead of tell by describing material things.12
  13. 13. Task Annotate one production with examples of the above codes13
  14. 14. Todorov’s approach to narrative• Todorov suggests that all narratives begin with equilibrium or an initial situation (where everything is balanced).• This is followed by some form of disruption, which is later resolved.• With the resolution at the end of the narrative a new equilibrium is usually established. 14
  15. 15. Todorov’s approach to narrativeThere are five stages a narrative has to pass through:3. The state of equilibrium (state of normality – good, bad or neutral).4. An event disrupts the equilibrium (a character or an action).5. The main protagonist recognises that the equilibrium has been disrupted.6. Protagonist attempts to rectify this in order to restore equilibrium.7. Equilibrium is restored but, because causal transformations have occurred, there are differences (good, bad, or neutral) from original equilibrium, which establish it as a new equilibrium. 15
  16. 16. Propp’s approach to narrative• Vladimir Propp studied hundreds of Russian folk and fairytales before deciding that all narratives have a common structure.• He observed that narratives are shaped and directed by certain types of characters and specific kinds of actions• He believed that there are 31 possible stages or functions in any narrative.• These may not all appear in a single story, but nevertheless always appear in the same sequence.• A function is a plot motif or event in the story.• A tale may skip functions but it cannot shuffle their unvarying order. 16
  17. 17. Propp’s approach to narrativePropp believed that there are seven roles which any character may assume inthe story:• Villain − struggles with hero• Donor − prepares and/or provides hero with magical agent• Helper − assists, rescues, solves and/or transfigures the hero• Princess − a sought-for person (and/or her father) who exists as goal and often recognises and marries hero and/or punishes villain• Dispatcher − sends hero off• Hero − departs on a search (seeker-hero), reacts to donor and weds at end• False Hero − claims to be the hero, often seeking and reacting like a real hero 17
  18. 18. TaskTry where possible to apply these roles to elementsof your narrative.By doing this you might notice some of the flaws inthis theoretical approach. 18
  19. 19. Propp’s 31 narrative functionsAfter the initial situation is depicted, the tale takes the following sequence of 31 functionsPreparatory section One of members of a family absents him/herself from home An interdiction (ban) is addressed to the hero Interdiction is violated (villain usually enters story here) Villain makes an attempt at reconnaissance (either villain tries to find children/jewels etc. or intended victim questions villain) Villain receives information about victim (villain gets an answer) Villain attempts to deceive victim by using persuasion, magic or deception (trickery; villain disguised, tries to win confidence of victim) Victim submits to deception and thereby unwittingly helps enemy (hero sleeps) 19
  20. 20. Villainy/lack (plot set in motion)3. Villain causes harm or injury to member of a family (e.g. abduction, theft, casts spell on someone). Alternatively, a member of family lacks something, desires or desires to have something (magical potion, etc.).5. Misfortune or lack is made known: hero is approached with a request or command; hero allowed to go or is dispatched.6. Seeker (hero) agrees to or decides upon counteractions.7. Hero leaves home interrogated, attacked, etc. which prepares way for receiving magical agent or helper (donor usually enters story here).8. Hero reacts to actions of future donor (withstands/fails the test, frees captive, reconciles disputants, performs service, uses adversarys powers.9. Hero is tested against them. 20
  21. 21. 2. Hero acquires use of magical agent (directly transferred, purchased, etc.).3. Hero is transferred, delivered or led to whereabouts of object of search.Path A: Struggle and victory over villain; end of lack and return7. Hero and villain join in direct combat.8. Hero is branded (wounded/marked, receives ring or scarf).9. Villain is defeated (killed in combat, defeated in contest, etc.).10. The initial misfortune or lack is liquidated (object of search distributed; spell broken, slain person revived, captive freed).11. Hero returns.12. Hero is pursued (pursuer tries to kill, eat, undermine the hero).13. Hero is rescued from pursuit (obstacles delay pursuer, hero hides, etc.). 21
  22. 22. Path B: Unrecognised arrival, task, recognition, punishment, wedding Hero, unrecognised, arrived home or in another country. False hero presents unfounded claims. Difficult task is proposed to hero (trial by drink, riddle, test of strength). Task is resolved or accomplished. Hero is recognised, often by mark or object. False hero or villain is exposed and/or punished. Hero is given new appearance (is made whole, handsome, etc.). Villain is pursued. Hero is married and ascends throne.TASK:Whilst I do not expect you to memorise all 31 functions you MUST identify key functions within your text. Explain how these help your narrative to function 22
  23. 23. Claude Levi-Strauss’s approach to narrative• After studying hundreds of myths and legends from around the world, Levi-Strauss observed that we make sense of the world, people and events by seeing and using binary opposites everywhere.• He observed that all narratives are organised around the conflict between such binary opposites. 23
  24. 24. Examples of binary opposites• Good vs evil • Protagonist vs antagonist• Black vs white • Action vs inaction• Boy vs girl• Peace vs war • Motivator vs observer• Civilised vs savage • Empowered vs victim• Democracy vs • Man vs woman dictatorship • Good-looking vs ugly• Conqueror vs conquered • Strong vs weak• First world vs third world• Domestic vs foreign/alien • Decisive vs indecisive• Articulate vs inarticulate • East vs west• Young vs old • Humanity vs technology• Man vs nature • Ignorance vs wisdom 24
  25. 25. Joseph Campbell’s approach to narrativeThe Hero’s Journey• Joseph Campbell observed that most narratives follow a common pattern of the mythic heros quest or heros journey (aka monomyth).• Campbell believed that most narratives follow the same narrative stages and contain universally recognisable characters and situations i.e. archetypes. 25
  26. 26. ArchetypesArchetypes are recurring character types (and relationships), and/or patterns ofsymbols or situations found in mythology, religion and stories of all cultures.Examples of character archetypes• Hero• Shadow• Outcast• Devil figure (Darth Vader)• Woman figure: – Earth mother (Mother Nature) – Temptress (dangerously seductive figure) – Platonic ideal (Spiritual love for the opposite sex) – Unfaithful wife• Wise old man 26
  27. 27. ArchetypesSituation archetypes• Quest (search for someone who will restore fertility)• Initiation (maturity of a character and acceptance of responsibility)• Fall (descent in action from a higher to a lower state of being)• Battle between good vs evil (good vs evil against one another)Archetypal symbols• Light–darkness (renewal-unknown)• Water–desert (birth-death)• Heaven–Hell (parts of the universe which are not accessible) 27
  28. 28. 28
  29. 29. Chris Vogler and the hero’s journey in Hollywood• Vogler developed and simplified Campbell’s stages of the hero’s journey.• Vogler argues that great films are such because they ‘have an appeal that can be felt by everyone, because they well up from a universal source in the shared unconscious and reflect universal concerns’.• Vogler’s re-definition of character archetypes and the 12 stages of the heros journey has become very influential in Hollywood. 29
  30. 30. Vogler’s 12 stages of the hero’s journey1. Ordinary world2. Call to adventure3. Refusal of the call4. Meeting with the mentor5. Crossing the first threshold6. Tests, allies, enemies7. Approach to the inmost cave8. Supreme ordeal9. Reward (seizing the sword)10. The road back11. Resurrection12. Return with the elixir 30
  31. 31. Vogler’s archetypes and their functions1. Hero − to serve and sacrifice2. Mentor − to guide3. Threshold guardian − to test4. Shapeshifter − to question and deceive5. Shadow − to destroy 31
  32. 32. Summary• Aristotle − beginning, middle and end• Todorov − equilibrium  disequilibrium  re-equilibrium• Propp − 31 Functions• Levi-Strauss − binary oppositions• Campbell − Monomyth and archetypes• Vogler − 12 stages and archetypes 32