Narrative may incorporate articulated language, spoken or written; pictures, still or moving; gestures and the ordered arrangement of all these ingredients. It is present in myth, legend, fable, short story, epic, history, tragedy, comedy, pantomime, painting, stained glass windows, cinema , comic strips, journalism, conversation … narrative is present at all times, in all places , in all societies; the history of the narrative begins with the history of mankind … the narrative scorns division in to categories of good and bad literature; narrative is international, transhistorical, transcultural: it is simply there like life itself (Barthes The structural analysis of narratives 1965)Structuralism – Assumption that there is a common system underlying all stories.Rather than considering individual narratives look at what is common to narratives. Structuralism is a philosophical approach. It argues that underlying much human activity that is human culture and society are structures. When I say human activity this ranges from language, to economics to, art, to science, to stories. It originated with Saussure’s view of language. This states that rather than analysing actual instances of language use (I.e. parole) we should look at the underlying system of language I.e. langue. He said language can be analysed as a system of differences, in other words words in the language do not have any absolute value (meaning) but instead have meaning by virtue of them being different to other words in the system. Whereas saussure looked at word combination and selection (syntagm and paradigms) to figure out how the system as a whole operates, in narrative analysis we look at (lots of) individual narratives and try to determine was is similar, in other words what commonalities of form or structure underlie them all.
Narrative from Latin ‘To make known’The crucial ingredients – “A chain of events in cause-effect relationship occurring in time and space” Bordwell and Thompson 1990:55 cited in Gillespie 2006:81The narrowest definition is one of a story with recognisable characters, who each have a part to play and which leads to some kind of resolution. But we can also talk of life narratives, that is the ways that each and every one of us have stories about who we are and how we got where we are. We pick and choose from the events that have actually happened in our lives and put together a personal narrative which explains or at least attempts to explain who we are.But other kinds of narratives exist, for example national narratives, the story of how the university came about, the story of how a war was lost (or won)In either (or any case) what is constructed is a series of interconnected events which embrace causality (otherwise it would be a random collection of events rather than a narrative). It is this putting togetherness which is at the heart of narrative. Narratives don’t just relate events, they create a structure around how those events are to be received or understood.Narratives also are inherently pleasurable in the way they imitate life, how the represent desires of characters and how they fulfill in the audience’s desires for resolution, conflict, drama, and particularly for the desire to know. What will happen next? There’s nothing more frustrating than a narrative being cut off and not finding out the ending. Pleasure also comes from the delay that is inherent in many narratives. The delay of not knowing until the end what happened or why something happened.So I am going to look at 5 different approaches to narrative which are all structural approaches, that is they assume and therefore look for common structures underlying narratives.
We can turn to Aristotle writing in Poetics 335 BCEFrom http://www.cyberartsweb.org/cpace/ht/hoofd3/index.html A story needs a plot which is constituted as a beginning, followed by a middle and closed off with an ending. These points of entry, middle and exit should be clearly defined, and should not be meddled with. The highest level of tension in the narrative should coincide with the actual middle of the narrative. The story should be about a hero/protagonist, who should be a representation of someone 'important' in the polis, because these characters are crucial for the existence of the entire polis. The tension in the narative comes from a conflict, which is condensed in the character of the antagonist. The plot should be aimed at working through this conflict. The narrative should arouse feelings of pity and fear in the spectator, who will identify with the hero and who will, from working together with the hero through the conflict, eventually get a feeling of 'katharsis' (a mental/psychic kind of 'cleansing' or an obtaining of a 'new understanding'). The whole narrative's aim is the bringing about of katharsis in the spectator. To be worthy of the name 'tragedy' or 'epic', the narrative should be of a 'definite magnitude'. It remains unclear what Aristotle exactly means by this, but it is a term that, as I will show later, can be applied to defining the ideal hypertext narrative. Tzvetan Todorov was a structuralist who pointed out the importance of transformation in the development of a story. A very basic definition of narrative is as a collection of non-random connected events. The important element is the fact of a change of state or transformation that is effected by actions (either human or natural).Todorov said “The simple relation of successive facts does not constitute a narrative: these facts must be organized, which is to say, ultimatley, that they must have elements in common. But if all the elements are in common, there is no longer a narrative, for there is no longer anything to recount. Now, transformation represents precisely a synthesis of differences and resemblance, it links two facts without their being able to be identified”What is the plot?What is the implied narrative (the story)?
A different way of considering narratives is to look at so called binary oppositions. In structuralism, elements have meaning because of difference or oppositions. Good has meaning because it is not bad and vice versa. Storytelling then (or myth making in Claude Levi-Strauss – French structual anthropologist)’s terms is a way of reconciling symbolically i.e. through storytelling what cannot actually be resolved in actuality. Levi-Strauss assigned this role to myths which are used to deal with the contradictions in experienceHumanity’s attempt to understand reality through the creation of mythsMyths deal with the contradictions in our livesHow are deep binary structures articulated by narratives?Basic oppositions are: (get students to suggest them)Heroes and villainsHelpers and henchmenPrincesses and sirensSeekers and avoidersMen and womenArt/culture and natureCivilisation and wilderness/nature/savagery etcA narrative analysis based on paradigms looks at deep binary structures within stories and asks what the characters and other elements in the story come to represent and how they advance the story.A further aspect of this is that in these oppositions there is a hierarchy, that is one element of the pair will be favoured over the other
After viewing this ad, look again at the google ad ‘reunion’. Is there any evidence for underlying oppositional structures which propel the narrative (not the story). It would seem that there is an opposition here of technology (new) with (old) conflict. There is also opposition in terms of generation. He (old) doesn’t know what to do about the situation (didn’t even think to use the technology himself) whereas she does.
The seven narrative functions (‘spheres of action’) - Roles in the development of a narrative
What can we say about this story in terms of structure and ideology? What are the key elements in this advert? What are the key narrative elements? What are the key character elements? How does time and space figure in this narrative?
Campbell/Vogler – Common myths, application to filmThe hero’s 12 narrative steps from the ‘ordinary world’ to the ‘special world’ and back again.Journey as tranformationFrom Wikipedia - Joseph Campbell's monomyth, or the hero's journey, is a basic pattern that its proponents argue is found in many narratives from around the world. This widely distributed pattern was described by Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949). An enthusiast of novelist James Joyce, Campbell borrowed the term monomyth from Joyce's Finnegans Wake.Campbell held that numerous myths from disparate times and regions share fundamental structures and stages, which he summarized in The Hero with a Thousand Faces:A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man Limited awareness – the initial psychological stateIncreased awareness – a situation occurs that raises the awareness of the heroReluctance to change – the hero at first refuses the call to changeOvercoming reluctance – an event/person persuades the hero to embark on the psychological journeyCommiting to change – the hero agrees and embarksExperimenting with change – the hero tastes what it’s like in the new psychological situationPreparing for the big change – the hero gathers psychological energy for the confrontationAttempting the big change – the first big struggle with personal fearsConsequences of the big change – the first rewards or possibly setbacksRededication to change – The hero starts the journey back (starting to reconnect with the ordinary world but with a renewed commitment to the psychological change)The final attempt at the big change – The biggest climactic struggle with the forces that might defeat the hero. Some sacrifice may be needed buy psychological purification will take place.Mastery of the problem – the completion of the journey. The hero is transformed and can bring insights to those around him/her.
Chanel Ad – Baz Luhrmann 2004 – Most expensive Ad ever created 2 minute full length ad, with 1 minute of credits.
The enigma code – the questions, problems, puzzles set up by the narrative. We expect that by following the plot we will have our questions answered. Note that the puzzles will only be recognised in combination with the other codesThe connotative code (semic) “– the sets of signs about character or setting which allows the audience to ‘read’ the character successfully and make sense of actionsThe action code – events and actions which make up the plotThe symbolic code – the structuring around antitheses i.e. opposites. The cultural code – references to science literature history art
Lz411 narrative analysis 2013
LZ411 – Critical Media
Structural narrative analysis
•To explore what we mean by structural
•To look at different approaches to
structural narrative analysis
•To apply these approaches to TV advert
Google Ad – ‘Reunion’ – over 9 million hits
Plot, story and narrative
• Plot – the sequencing of events that a text
• Story – the logical/chronological/causal
sequence that we imagine to have
• Narrative – an organising or explaining
principle underlying (some) stories. E.g.
indicating morals, identity questions,
Narrative: The ingredients
Time & Space
Narrative: The resolution of
Tension and conflict
Aristotle’s Poetics 335 BCE
Realisation of disruption
Todorov’s transformations (1971)
Our example again
Google Ad – ‘Reunion’ – over 9 million hits
Narrative: Driven by opposites
Good/bad, evil/love, mortal/immorta
l, nature/culture etc.
Drive the elements
Vladimir Propp – Narrative Functions
• Analyse characters in narratives – not for
their individual psychologies but for their
function in the narrative (i.e. what they do
to advance the narrative)
• Propp identified 31 ‘narrative functions’ –
Not all are necessarily present in every
narrative but those that appear are always
in the same order.
Propp’s ‘spheres of action’
villainy, fighting, action, creates narrative complication
gives magical agent or helper which helps in resolution
of the narrative
Aids the hero, makes good a lack, rescues from pursuit,
solves difficult tasks, transforms the hero
threatened by villain, needs to be saved,
assigns difficult tasks, gives princess away at the end
sends the hero on his task (can also be the father)
aims to resolve complication, departs on search, reacts
to the donor, attempts difficult tasks, restores
equilibrium, ‘marries the princess’
The false hero
Unfounded claims to hero’s sphere of action. i.e.
Appears to be good but turns out bad
The hero’s journey (the monomyth)
Joseph Campbell’s ‘Monomyth’ from ‘Hero with a thousand faces’ (1949)
Analysis - Chanel Ad
Plot and story? Pleasure? Characters and action? Journey?
Barthes’ (1970) Structural Narrative
An examination of texts for how they weave
together these 5 different ‘codes of
The enigma code
The connotative code
The action code
The symbolic code
The cultural (referential) code
Boots TV Advert 2013
SEMINAR / READING
Edgar-Hunt, R., Marland, J. and Rawle, S.
(2010) The language of film. Lausanne: AVA
books. (NARRATIVE CHAPTER)
Search for a TV advert with a narrative
structure. (make sure it’s available for us to
watch in the seminar)
Do an analysis of the advert using one or more
of the structural approaches we’ve covered in
this lecture or in the reading.
A particular slide catching your eye?
Clipping is a handy way to collect important slides you want to go back to later.