Narrative, Plot & Genre


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This is a sample of a lecture I recently gave to 1st year students of Media Studies at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. It covers the topics of narrative, story/plot and genre.

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Narrative, Plot & Genre

  1. 1. MD103Introduction To Media Studies I Dr Trish Morgan
  2. 2. trish.morgan@nuim.ieroom 0.24
  3. 3. In this lecture narrativestory/plot genre
  4. 4. narrative What is narrative?What are some useful theories of narrative? story/plot What is the difference between story and plot? genre What is genre? How is media classified?
  5. 5. narrativea way of organising spatial and temporal data into a cause-effect chain of events with abeginning, a middle and end that embodies a judgement about the nature of those events (Branigan, 1992: 3)
  6. 6. narrative Narrative theory suggests that stories, in whatever media,and whatever culture share certain features However, particular media andcultures are able or driven to‘tell’ stories in different ways
  7. 7. Propp (1928) structuralist argued for the similarity ofcharacters and actions across stories
  8. 8. Propp (1928) 31 functions character roles/8 spheres of action
  9. 9. Propp (1928) 31 functions move the story along predictablethe same act can function in different ways
  10. 10. to move the story alongVoldemort learns why Avada Kedavra didn’twork on Harry and learns how to overcome it predictable the bad guy losessame act functioning in different ways Dumbledore’s Army: defiance against Ministry of Magic, practical defence, Dumbledore suddenly power-hungry?
  11. 11. 8 character roles/spheres of actionThe hero seeks something motivated bylack - of money, a mother etcThe villain struggles against the heroThe donor prepares the hero or givesthe hero some magical objectThe (magical) helper helps the hero inthe quest
  12. 12. 8 character roles/spheres of actionThe princess marries the hero, oftensought for during the narrativeHer father rewards the heroThe dispatcher makes the lack knownand sends the hero offFalse hero/anti-hero/usurper takescredit for the hero’s actions or tries tomarry the princess
  13. 13. The villain - VoldemortThe Hero - HarryThe donor - DumbledoreThe (magical) helper - Ron, Hermione, DobbyThe princess - Ginny (later addition), also Harry’smother, friendsHer father - Harry’s father, Dumbledore, teachersThe dispatcher - the scar / connection withVoldemortFalse hero/anti-hero/usurper - Snape, Ministry ofMagic personnel
  14. 14. Joseph Campbell
  15. 15. Todorov structuralistall stories begin with an equilibrium this equilibrium is disrupted by an eventthis sets in motion another series of events the cycle closes with a second, but different equilibrium
  16. 16. Todorov not just beginning, middle and end judgment or labelling of the initial conditionshelpful to ask how else could these initial conditions have been set up? (both in fiction and factual media)
  17. 17. Barthes 5 codesactivate or engage the user to make sense of the text 2 are internal to the text point outwards from the text and3 relate it to the broader culture
  18. 18. Internal CodesThe enigma (or hermeneutic) code setsup and (usually) solves major puzzlesThe action (or proairetic) code makescomplex actions readable through smalldetails
  19. 19. External CodesThe semic code is a set of inferencesbuilt up around charactersThe symbolic code substitutes concretefor abstract elementsThe cultural or referential codeanchors the text in its historical context
  20. 20. Levi-Strauss dependence on binary oppositionsone quality in the binary is less valued than the otherlooking further than plot events for deeper arrangements of themes
  21. 21. Structuring Oppositions: Afghanistan and Iraq East West feudal modern despotism democracyfundamentalism freedom dirty weapons surgical strikes evil good
  22. 22. story/plot how stories are told what information is withheld or supplied?A story is all the events in a narrative, boththe ones explicitly presented and those the viewer infers A plot is everything visibly and audibly present in the film before us (Bordwell & Thompson, 2008: 76)
  23. 23. story/plotA story can be assembled, at the end of a narrative A plot is what is constructed for us (Bordwell & Thompson, 2008: 76)
  24. 24. genreall media is classified by: makers marketers reviewers censors consumers
  25. 25. genre classifications shape: status ability to get made how they are circulatedability to withstand censorship
  26. 26. genre genre means type it is one of the forms of classification of media textswestern romance horror
  27. 27. genre characteristics of genres Settings: landscape, iconographyCharacterisation: character types, what each character represents Story: preoccupations or themes Filming: camera angles Sound: speech delivery, use/s of music
  28. 28. genre sameness expectation and repetition orrepetition with difference
  29. 29. light bulb jokegenre intended to produce laughterdepends on familiarity with genre sets up expectations of audience elements: light bulb + group of peoplearound which stereotypes exist + number
  30. 30. genre hybridity and intertextualitysome media texts can be hybrids of two or more genres producers and audiences can play with the conventions of these genres
  31. 31. genre genre can also be identified by ...semantic elements: music, character types, familiar objects, settings syntactic elements: plot structure, character relationshipspragmatic elements: those contributed by fans and audiences
  32. 32. genre now seen as fluid romance / chick flick evolution from ‘knight in shining armour’ now we have female hero, malefigure of interest, uncertainty, mistakes, coincidencesintensifies audience’s desire for them to get together
  33. 33. verisimilitude connection to real lifeclaims to higher status of genres based on verisimilitudegendering of status: ‘male’ forms lay claim to higher status more ‘realistic’ less emotional not ‘escapist’
  34. 34. verisimilitude cultural verisimilitude: making reference to social order or culture around themformal verisimilitude: the conventions audiences have grown used to