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  • 1. Deconstructing Narratives Narrative Patterns (or structures)
  • 2. Narrative Theories
    • It is important to consider and to learn how to apply traditional narrative theories before we consider how they may have evolved and changed.
    • These theories are important as they give us a framework for analysing media texts and for understanding how narratives are communicated to the audience.
  • 3. Tzvetan Todorov (1939)
    • Todorov is a Bulgarian theorist who suggested that the main function of any narrative was to…
        • solve a problem
        • and that characters pass through a series of stages
        • following a linear narrative
        • where events follow a chronological order
  • 4. Todorov ’ s Theory
    • The narrative starts with an equilibrium
    • An action/ character disrupts the equilibrium
    • A quest to restore the equilibrium starts
    • The narrative moves to a confrontation /climax
    • Resolution/ equilibrium is restored
  • 5. Challenges to his theory
    • This is a simple typical structure that most texts fit into/follow .
    • However we should be considering the problem of a ‘return to equilibrium’ or the idea of a ‘resolution’…
    • Some media texts that try to challenge audiences have OPEN ENDED NARRATIVES - leaving the audience to interpret what they understand by the ending.
    • Other resolutions are far from a ‘return to equilibrium’ e.g. the end of the film Se7en (1995) which is bleak and desolate.
  • 6. Non- Linear Narratives
    • Also not all texts conform to the linear structure .
    • A key aspect of narrative is its ability to manipulate time and space.
    • Many narratives are circular in their structure and / or move around in time.
    • Films like Memento (2000) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) The Butterfly Effect (2001) and Vantage Point (2008)
    • The narrative can be complicated and can challenge the audience - due to its structure.
    • In non-fiction - such as sports programmes - time and space is manipulated - we readily accept action replays and the same events from different camera angles.
  • 7. Task
    • Choose a film or TV programme ( fiction please!) Try to find one that fits Todorov’s frame for a linear narrative:
    • Break down the narrative into sections suggested.
    • b)What experiences do linear narratives offer audiences?
  • 8. Claude Levi-Strauss (1949)
    • Levi-Strauss is a French anthropologist who studies the myths and legends of many different countries and cultures.
    • He claimed that in any narrative there is the constant creation of conflict/opposition that propels the narrative forwards (binary oppositions)
    • Narratives can only end on a resolution of conflict .
    • Opposition can be visual (light/darkness, movement/stillness) or conceptual (love/hate, control/panic good/evil.)
  • 9. Vladimir Propp (1928)
    • Propp was a Russian critic and folklorist- he researched the characters in myths and fairytales.
    • He was concerned with the relationship between narrative and characters .
    • He argued that stories are character driven and plots develop around characters.
    • He looked at characters and their functions in a story/narrative .
    • (Morphology of the Folktale -1928)
  • 10. Propp ’ s Theory - 7 Character Roles/Types
    • The hero (who has a quest)
    • The villain (struggles against the hero, tries to stop him completing his mission.)
    • The donor (prepares the hero or gives the hero some magical object)
    • The helper (helps the hero in the quest)
    • The princess (the heroes reward)
    • Her father (gives the hero his reward for completing the quest)
    • The dispatcher (character who makes the lack known and sends the hero off)
  • 11. Task
    • Watch the Pixar short film ‘Boundin’
    • Apply Levi-Strauss’ theory/ structure to the film.
    • Apply Propp’s theory/ structure to the film.
  • 12. However …
    • Not all theories can be applied to all media texts!
  • 13. Multi-strand Narratives
    • The narrative structure in many TV programmes and some films does not always follow only one storyline . E.g. series, long running dramas and Soap Operas.
    • Many TV dramas such as Holby City operate a 3 strand narrative structure.
    • Each narrative strand is introduced at the beginning of the episode and then interweave as the programme progresses.
    • On going storylines - that continue across episodes - appeals to regular loyal audiences.
    • You can also have split screen narrative techniques
    • Narrative strands are important in attracting and maintaining audience interest .
  • 14. Narrative Techniques
    • Audience Positioning:
    • 1st Person narration/ Point of View (POV) shots
    • 3rd person narration
    • The privileged spectator position
    • Flashbacks