Critical Perspectives Narrative


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G325 Section A

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Critical Perspectives Narrative

  2. 2. NARRATIVE Audiences’ understanding of a media product’s narrative is vital. The audience need clarity of what’s happening, whether it is at the end – all questions are answered, or understanding characters and their motives. For meanings to be interpreted correctly by audiences, narratives can function in many ways: OPEN – questions remain unanswered eg. a cliffhanger, the end of the first part of a serial. CLOSED – all questions are answered, e.g. a magazine LINEAR – the narrative is in order, it makes sense. NON-LINEAR/FRACTURED – out of order e.g a film trailer or use of flashbacks SINGLE STRANDED – one storyline in the media text MULTI-STRANDED – several storylines weaving into an overall narrative eg. Soap operas
  3. 3. NARRATIVE THEORIES There are a number of theories we can apply to narratives in media products. Roland Barthes—narrative codes This French critic devised five different narrative codes that we can use when analysing media products: Action code: The audience will recognise an action code in a media text as it is used to indicate what is the next logical step. It advances the narrative eg the buckling of a gun belt in a Western film signifies the start of a gun fight. Look at the following…. What do you think they indicate? Packing of a suitcase? Starting of a car engine? Whistle of approaching train? Flashing lights?
  4. 4. BARTHES CONTINUED… Mystery Code or Enigma code: This code is used to explain the narrative by controlling what and how much information is given to the audience. It grabs the audience’s interest and attention by setting up an enigma or problem that is resolved during the course of the narrative. Eg, someone’s murderous hand in the opening sequence – who does it belong to? The Semic Code Basically, this code is all about signs and meanings in a text that tell us about its narrative and characters. Eg, in a horror film, the supernatural would be signified by the fear of light/garlic, an increase in body hair etc. The Cultural Code This code is used in order for the narrative to make sense to a culturally and socially aware audience. It makes reference to elements from the real world that the audience will recognise, eg Aston Martins and Martinis in James Bond films. Code of Oppositions This code refers to a narrative that relies on binary opposites, eg, black v white, hot v cold, male v female, nature v civilisation, war v peace etc.
  5. 5. YOUR TASK, QUESTION 2: Consider both your AS music magazine and a product from your A2 coursework (but in isolation) Identify which of Barthes Narrative Codes you have used. How does the audience make sense of your narrative thanks to these codes?
  6. 6. NARRATIVE THEORIES Claude Levi-Strauss (1970)—binary opposites Alike to Barthes, theorist Levi-Strauss (the man, not the jeans) also worked with the idea that there are binary opposites within media texts. He studied the myths of tribal cultures and discovered how there were underlying themes in these myths, such as darkness v light, good v evil. In media we look at his work to find out the underlying themes and symbolic oppositions in media texts. For example men v women, good v evil. QUESTION 3: IDENTIFY ANY BINARY OPPOSITIONS IN ONE OF YOUR MEDIA PRODUCTS
  7. 7. NARRATIVE THEORIES Tzvetan Todorov— Equilibrium and disequilibrium Todorov looks at the way narratives are structured. He suggested how in many narratives there is a change. The narrative begins with the equilibrium or balance or harmony. But then this is then disrupted by something known as an ‘agent of change’ which brings unbalance to the narrative or unpredictability causing disequilibrium. For the audience to feel that all is well, the equilibrium or balance must be restored.
  8. 8. EQUILIBRIUM DISRUPTION AGENT OF CHANGE YOUR TASK As boring as it is, watch the Dr. No trailer to see if you can identify Todorov’s Equilibrium theory.
  9. 9. NARRATIVE THEORIES Vladimir Propp (1968) - Propp’s Morphology Propp came up with the idea of how fairy stories have certain stages to it. He then applied the same theory to different genres and realised that in many cases it was accurate. Altogether there are 31 stages to Propp’s Morphology, but we can condense it into six stages… Preparation the scene is set Complication a problem occurs or some evil takes place Transference the hero receives help (often a magic object) and goes on his quest Struggle there is a fight Return the hero succeeds in his mission Recognition the villain in punished and the hero is rewarded