Fictions are essentially stories that enable culture to reproduce itself; stories that allow us to enact our culture
Stories contain mythical elements that stand in for or represent ideas within culture
Fictions can be written or visual, factual or made up…
What is narrative?
Ordering of structure – time, events, people, places
Making sense of what is seen and what is assumed through past experience
People naturally seek structure: beginning, middle, end.
Narratives have been used to make sense of things – creation stories, fairy tales…
Successful stories require actions which change the lives of the characters in the story.
They also contain some sort of resolution, where that change is registered, and which creates a new equilibrium for the characters involved
Remember that narratives are not just those we encounter in fiction. Even news stories, advertisements and documentaries also have a constructed narrative which must be interpreted
“ Narrative is a chain of events in a cause-effect relationship occurring space and time” Bordwell & Thompson
Causality – why things happen
Time – when things happen
Space – where things happen
These elements can be assembled in different ways; thus a distinction between story itself and narrative discourse
Cause and event
A type of story in which a hero sets off on a mission to find something, help someone or solve a mystery. The mission is difficult and the hero must overcome obstacles and battle a villain. At the end of the mission the hero gets a reward…
Thinking about myth in fictions why might this sort of story evolved? Can you name some examples of?
Vladimar Propp’s character types
The Donor (provides hero with magical property)
The Helper (aids the hero)
The Princess (reward for hero and object of villains schemes)
Princess’s father (rewards the hero)
The Dispatcher (who sends hero on his way)
The False Hero
Vladimar Propp applied to Star Wars
The Villain – Lord Vader
The Hero – Luke Skywalker
The Donor - Obe Kenobe
The Helper – Hans Solo
The Princess – Princess Lea
Princess’s father – Lord Vader
The Dispatcher - R2D2
The False Hero – Lord Vader/ Lando Carrilion
Each come up with another example of a quest narrative; list the character types and make a comment on what you think the narrative may symbolically stand for (how it helps us enact or represents our culture)?
Criticism of Propp
Cant apply to all narratives
Narratives can be sophisticated - deliberately defy the conventions of traditional folk tales.
What if the hero is female?
Are all narratives about struggles between heroes and villains?
Where do postmodern narratives fit in this?
Plots & Master Plots
Plots involve the planning of narrative discourse and structuring of story events
Master plots are stories that reoccur in numerous forms connecting to our deepest cultural values, hopes and fears
“ Recurent skeletal stories, belonging to culture and individuals that play a powerful role in questions of identity, values and the understanding of life. Master plots can also exert influence on the way we take in new information causing us to over or underread life's narratives in an often unconscious effort to bring them in line with master plots”. H Abbott
Master plots then are like myths
They are common and known and we apply preconceived ideas, values etc to them
Think about our previous Christmas stories. What were the master plots at work there?
Identify master plots in animated films like Shrek or Wall-E
Think of examples of narratives that draw upon the rags to riches master plot. What cultural purpose does this play?
Identify and discuss narrative structure in creation myths