•To reinforce the key narrative theorists
•To have a basic understanding of how
to evaluate your coursework against
key narrative theory.
To be able to write about this key
concept you need to know...
• About the importance of narrative and what
• The different types/ theories of narrative
(conventional and unconventional)
• How to apply your music video to one or two
theories of narrative
Some key terminology for today
Non linear narrative
Story is what happens...
Narrative is how it happens (structure)
1. Using no more than 15 post it notes write
down the events that happen in your music
video. Stick them on the A3 sheet.
2. If you use split screen then draw them on
your post its
3. Is your narrative LINEAR or NON-LINEAR?
4. Make notes on the post-it when time is
altered....eg flashbacks/ ellipses.
What do you already know about
• Levi Strauss
to literary theory
You need to be able to apply one or two of
these narrative theorists to the narrative in
your music video
How does your music video narrative
link to conventional narrative theory?
Mark on your post it notes where your video fits
A narrative which has no limits to the
information that is presented (eg a news
Only offers minimal information regarding the
Which narration is yours?
Subjective character identification- the viewer
is given unique access to what a range of
characters see and do.
Objective character identification- the viewer is
given unique access to a characters point of
view such as seeing things from the characters
Which character identification do
What is narrative?
Narrative is defined as “a chain of events in a
cause-effect relationship occurring in time”
(Bordwell and Thompson, 1980)
Story- all the events that happen in a narrative
both the ones we see and the ones that are
inferred (eg. before and after)
Plot- how the story is ordered/ sequenced.
Diegesis- the world in which the story takes
Todorov’s narrative theory
Tzvetan Todorov suggested there were 5 stages to a
• Equilibrium (everything is satisfied, calm and normal)
• A disruption of this equilibrium (disequilibrium) by an
• A recognition that a disruption has happened.
• An attempt to repair the damage of the disruption
(problem is solved)
• A restoration of a new state of equilibrium (the final
state of equilibrium is not the same as the one at the
Barthes’ narrative theory
Roland Barthes describes a text as
"a galaxy of signifiers, not a structure of
signifieds; it has no beginning; it is reversible; we
gain access to it by several entrances, none of
which can be authoritatively declared to be the
main one; the codes it mobilises extend as far as
the eye can read, they are indeterminable...the
systems of meaning can take over this absolutely
plural text, but their number is never closed,
based as it is on the infinity of language..." (S/Z 1974 translation)
What does this mean?
Basically, Barthes argued that the reader produces new
meanings when reading a text, making use of previous
• Therefore, different people read different things from a
• Texts may be ‘open’ (many meanings/ interpretations)
• Texts may be ‘closed’ (only one meaning)
• Barthes had a series of narrative codes. The most well
known is the enigma code. This is the ‘hook’ or mystery
to be resolved for the audience.
• He also believed the narrative was made up of ‘signifiers’
(objects that brought meaning to the narrative.)
Levi-Strauss’ narrative theory
Claude Levi- Strauss was interested in how much of
our world is described in terms of opposites
Night/day, good/bad, light/dark
The importance of these ideas is that essentially a
complicated world is reduced to a simple either/
or structure. Things are either right or wrong,
good or bad....etc.
This has ideological implications (eg what if the
hero was not wholly good, villains weren’t always
Propp’s narrative theory
• Vladimir Propp studies folk tales and legends
from different countries
• He found they were all quite similar
• They seemed to be about the same basic
problems and the same types of character
kept cropping up.
• He focused on the way these characters
seemed to be ‘types’ rather than individuals
• He recognised 8 character types
Propp’s 8 character types
1. The hero, who is on the quest (search)
2. The villain, who opposes the hero
3. The donor, who helps the hero by giving him a
4. The dispatcher, who starts the hero on his way
5. The false hero, who tempts the hero away from
6. The helper, who helps the hero
7. The princess, who is the reward for the hero
8. Her father, who rewards the hero for his efforts
Task: In your music video group...
Choose one or two narrative theories you think
your music video can best be applied to.
Write down some ideas about how it fits that
How does it fit the theory but ALSO experiments
with different approaches? Eg “my music video
fits Todorov’s theory in this way...but it is
different in this way.....”
Non traditional/ experimental forms of
Allan Cameron’s modular narratives:
“articulate a sense of time as divisible and
subject to manipulation.”
• Forking paths
• Split screens
Anachronic modular narrative
Involve the use of flashbacks and/or
flashforwards with no clear dominance
between any of the narrative threads. These
narratives often repeat scenes directly or via a
DO YOU HAVE THIS IN
Forking path narrative
...narratives juxtapose alternative versions of a
story showing the possible outcomes that
might result from small changes in a single
event or group of events. The forking narrative
introduces a number of plotlines that usually
contradict one another.
DO YOU HAVE THIS
IN YOUR VIDEO?
...are organised as an abstract series or narrative
anthology. It is characterised by the operation
of a non narrative formal system which
appears to dictate the organisation of
narrative elements such as a sequence of
numbers or the alphabet. Anthology consists
of a series of shorter tales which are
apparently disconnected but share a random
similarity, such as all ‘episodes’ being survivors
of a shipwreck.
DO YOU HAVE THIS IN
Narratives are different from the other types
of modular narrative discussed here because
their modularity is articulated along spatial
rather than temporal lines. Diving the screen
into 2 or more frames, juxtaposing events
within the same visual field, in a sustained
DO YOU HAVE THIS IN YOUR VIDEO?
“Media texts rely on cultural experiences in
order for audiences to easily make sense
Explain how you used conventional and/ or
experimental narrative approaches in
one of your production pieces.