Approaches To Narrative Theory


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Approaches To Narrative Theory

  1. 1. Introducing ‘narrative’ August 2006
  2. 2. What does narrative mean? <ul><li>The way that stories are told, how meaning is constructed to achieve the understanding of the audience. </li></ul><ul><li>Groups events into cause and effect – action and inaction. </li></ul><ul><li>Organises time and space in very compressed form. </li></ul><ul><li>The voice of the narrative can vary; whose story is being told and from whose perspective? </li></ul><ul><li>Narrative plot refers to everything audibly or visibly present, i.e. selective. </li></ul><ul><li>Narrative story refers to all the events, explicitly presented or referred. </li></ul><ul><li>In film, narrative is constructed through elements like camerawork, lighting, sound, mise-en-scene and editing. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Why is narrative important to us? <ul><li>As children we listen to fairytales and myths/legends. As we grow older, we read short stories, novels, history and biographies. </li></ul><ul><li>Religion is often presented through a collection of “stories/moral tales” e.g. the Bible, the Ramayana, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Scientific breakthrough is often presented as stories of an experimenter/scientist’s trials. </li></ul><ul><li>Cultural phenomena such as plays, films, dance and paintings tell stories. </li></ul><ul><li>News events are told as stories. </li></ul><ul><li>Dreams are retold as stories. </li></ul>We use narratives or stories to make sense of our lives and the world around us. There different ways in which we use the narrative form:
  4. 4. Approaches to studying narrative <ul><li>There are many ways of looking at and thinking about narratives. </li></ul><ul><li>For nearly 2300 years various ‘thinkers’, philosophers and theorists have tried to explain how narratives work. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Aristotle <ul><li>Over 2000 years ago the Greek philosopher Aristotle observed that a ll narratives hav e: </li></ul><ul><li>a b eginning </li></ul><ul><li>a m iddle </li></ul><ul><li>a n e nd </li></ul>
  6. 6. Five-stage narrative structure <ul><li>Exposition – setting scene and introducing characters </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Little Red Riding Hood has to take food to grandmother who is ill </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Development – situation develops, more characters introduced </li></ul><ul><ul><li>She sets out through woods where wolf is lurking </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Complication – something happens to complicate lives of characters </li></ul><ul><ul><li>She meets wolf, he delays her and rushes ahead and ties up grandmother </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Climax – decisive moment reached; matters come to head; suspense high </li></ul><ul><ul><li>She arrives, comments on size of grandmother’s ears, etc., Wolf eats her up </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Resolution – matters are resolved and satisfactory end is reached </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Wolf falls asleep, passing forester investigates noise, rescues grandmother from cupboard and Red Riding Hood by cutting Wolf’s stomach open </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Todorov’s a pproach to n arrative <ul><li>Todorov suggests that all narratives begin with equilibrium or an initial situation (where everything is balanced). </li></ul><ul><li>This is followed by some form of disruption , which is later resolved. </li></ul><ul><li>With the resolution at the end of the narrative a new equilibrium is usually established. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Todorov’s a pproach to n arrative <ul><li>There are five stages a narrative has to pass t hrough: </li></ul><ul><li>The state of equilibrium (state of normality – good, bad or neutral) . </li></ul><ul><li>A n event disrupts the equil i brium (a character or an action) . </li></ul><ul><li>The main protagonist recognises that the equilibrium has been disrupted. </li></ul><ul><li>Protagonist attempts to rectify this in order to restore equilibrium . </li></ul><ul><li>Equilibrium is restored but, because causal transformations have occurred, there are differences (good, bad, or neutral) from original equilibrium, which establish it as a new equilibrium . </li></ul>
  9. 9. Propp’s approach to narrative <ul><li>Vladimir Propp studied hundreds of Russian folk and fairytales before deciding that all narratives have a common structure. </li></ul><ul><li>He observed that narratives are shaped and directed by certain types of characters and specific kinds of actions </li></ul><ul><li>He believed that there are 31 possible stages or functions in any narrative. </li></ul><ul><li>These may not all appear in a single story, but nevertheless always appear in the same sequence. </li></ul><ul><li>A function is a plot motif or event in the story. </li></ul><ul><li>A tale may skip functions but it cannot shuffle their unvarying order. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Propp’s approach to narrative <ul><li>Villain  struggles with hero </li></ul><ul><li>Donor  prepares and/or provides hero with magical agent </li></ul><ul><li>Helper  assists, rescues, solves and/or transfigures the hero </li></ul><ul><li>Princess  a sought-for person (and/or her father) who exists as goal and often recognises and marries hero and/or punishes villain </li></ul><ul><li>Dispatcher  sends hero off </li></ul><ul><li>Hero  departs on a search (seeker-hero), reacts to donor and weds at end </li></ul><ul><li>False Hero  claims to be the hero, often seeking and reacting like a real hero </li></ul>Propp believed that there are seven roles which any character may assume in the story:
  11. 11. Propp’s 31 narrative functions <ul><li>Preparatory section </li></ul><ul><li>One of members of a family absents him/herself from home </li></ul><ul><li>An interdiction (ban) is addressed to the hero </li></ul><ul><li>Interdiction is violated (villain usually enters story here) </li></ul><ul><li>Villain makes an attempt at reconnaissance (either villain tries to find children/jewels etc. or intended victim questions villain) </li></ul><ul><li>Villain receives information about victim (villain gets an answer) </li></ul><ul><li>Villain attempts to deceive victim by using persuasion, magic or deception (trickery; villain disguised, tries to win confidence of victim) </li></ul><ul><li>Victim submits to deception and thereby unwittingly helps enemy (hero sleeps) </li></ul>
  12. 12. <ul><li>Villainy/lack (plot set in motion) </li></ul><ul><li>Villain causes harm or injury to member of a family (e.g. abduction, theft, casts spell on someone). </li></ul><ul><li>Alternatively, a member of family lacks something, desires or desires to have something (magical potion, etc.). </li></ul><ul><li>Misfortune or lack is made known: hero is approached with a request or command; hero allowed to go or is dispatched. </li></ul><ul><li>Seeker (hero) agrees to or decides upon counteractions. </li></ul><ul><li>Hero leaves home interrogated, attacked, etc. which prepares way for receiving magical agent or helper (donor usually enters story here). </li></ul><ul><li>Hero reacts to actions of future donor (withstands/fails the test, frees captive, reconciles disputants, performs service, uses adversary's powers. </li></ul><ul><li>Hero is tested against them. </li></ul>
  13. 13. <ul><li>Hero acquires use of magical agent (directly transferred, purchased, etc.). </li></ul><ul><li>Hero is transferred, delivered or led to whereabouts of object of search. </li></ul><ul><li>Path A: Struggle and victory over villain; end of lack and return </li></ul><ul><li>Hero and villain join in direct combat. </li></ul><ul><li>Hero is branded (wounded/marked, receives ring or scarf). </li></ul><ul><li>Villain is defeated (killed in combat, defeated in contest, etc.). </li></ul><ul><li>The initial misfortune or lack is liquidated (object of search distributed; spell broken, slain person revived, captive freed). </li></ul><ul><li>Hero returns. </li></ul><ul><li>Hero is pursued (pursuer tries to kill, eat, undermine the hero). </li></ul><ul><li>Hero is rescued from pursuit (obstacles delay pursuer, hero hides, etc.). </li></ul>
  14. 14. <ul><li>Path B: Unrecognised arrival, task, recognition, punishment, wedding </li></ul><ul><li>Hero, unrecognised, arrived home or in another country. </li></ul><ul><li>False hero presents unfounded claims. </li></ul><ul><li>Difficult task is proposed to hero (trial by drink, riddle, test of strength). </li></ul><ul><li>Task is resolved or accomplished. </li></ul><ul><li>Hero is recognised, often by mark or object. </li></ul><ul><li>False hero or villain is exposed and/or punished. </li></ul><ul><li>Hero is given new appearance (is made whole, handsome, etc.). </li></ul><ul><li>Villain is pursued. </li></ul><ul><li>Hero is married and ascends throne. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Claude Levi-Strauss’s approach to narrative <ul><li>After studying hundreds of myths and legends from around the world, Levi-Strauss observed that we make sense of the world, people and events by seeing and using binary opposites everywhere. </li></ul><ul><li>He observed that all narratives are organised around the conflict between such binary opposites. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Examples of binary opposites <ul><li>Good vs evil </li></ul><ul><li>Black vs white </li></ul><ul><li>Boy vs girl </li></ul><ul><li>Peace vs war </li></ul><ul><li>Civilised vs savage </li></ul><ul><li>Democracy vs dictatorship </li></ul><ul><li>Conqueror vs conquered </li></ul><ul><li>First world vs third world </li></ul><ul><li>Domestic vs foreign/alien </li></ul><ul><li>Articulate vs inarticulate </li></ul><ul><li>Young vs old </li></ul><ul><li>Man vs nature </li></ul><ul><li>Protagonist vs antagonist </li></ul><ul><li>Action vs inaction </li></ul><ul><li>Motivator vs observer </li></ul><ul><li>Empowered vs victim </li></ul><ul><li>Man vs woman </li></ul><ul><li>Good-looking vs ugly </li></ul><ul><li>Strong vs weak </li></ul><ul><li>Decisive vs indecisive </li></ul><ul><li>East vs west </li></ul><ul><li>Humanity vs technology </li></ul><ul><li>Ignorance vs wisdom </li></ul>
  17. 17. Joseph Campbell’s approach to narrative <ul><li>After comparing the myths, legends and religions of various cultures in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces , Joseph Campbell observed that most narratives follow a common pattern of the mythic hero quest, journey or monomyth . </li></ul><ul><li>Campbell believed that most narratives, regardless of their time, place or culture, follow the same narrative stages and contain universally recognisable characters and situations i.e. archetypes . </li></ul>The Hero’s Journey
  18. 18. Archetypes <ul><li>Examples of character archetypes </li></ul><ul><li>Hero (Arthur, Theseus, Simba) </li></ul><ul><li>Shadow (Scar, Minotaur, Voldermort) </li></ul><ul><li>Outcast (Cain, Ancient Mariner) </li></ul><ul><li>Devil figure (Lucifer, Anakin/Darth Vader) </li></ul><ul><li>Woman figure: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Earth mother (Mother Nature) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Temptress (Eve, Sirens, Delilah) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Platonic ideal (Dante's Beatrice) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Unfaithful wife (Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Wise old man (Merlin, Rafiki, Yoda, Dumbledore) </li></ul>Archetypes are recurring character types (and relationships), and/or patterns of symbols or situations found in mythology, religion and stories of all cultures.
  19. 19. Archetypes <ul><li>Situation archetypes </li></ul><ul><li>Quest (Holy Grail, Ahab) </li></ul><ul><li>Initiation (Huck Finn, Stand by Me ) </li></ul><ul><li>Fall ( Paradise Lost , Darth Vader) </li></ul><ul><li>Death and Rebirth (Christ, Hercules) </li></ul><ul><li>Archetypal symbols </li></ul><ul><li>Light – darkness </li></ul><ul><li>Water – desert </li></ul><ul><li>Heaven – Hell </li></ul>
  20. 20. Campbell’s monomyth <ul><li>Departure, separation </li></ul><ul><li>World of common day </li></ul><ul><li>Call to adventure </li></ul><ul><li>Refusal of the call </li></ul><ul><li>Supernatural aid </li></ul><ul><li>Crossing the first threshold </li></ul><ul><li>Belly of the whale </li></ul><ul><li>Descent, initiation, penetration </li></ul><ul><li>Road of trials </li></ul><ul><li>Meeting with the goddess </li></ul>Stages of the hero’s journey:
  21. 21. Campbell’s monomyth <ul><li>Woman as temptress </li></ul><ul><li>Atonement with the father </li></ul><ul><li>Apotheosis </li></ul><ul><li>The ultimate boon </li></ul><ul><li>Return </li></ul><ul><li>The refusal of the return </li></ul><ul><li>The magic flight </li></ul><ul><li>Rescue from within </li></ul><ul><li>Closing the threshold </li></ul><ul><li>Return </li></ul><ul><li>Master of the two worlds </li></ul><ul><li>Freedom to live </li></ul>
  22. 22. Chris Vogler and the hero’s journey in Hollywood <ul><li>Chris Vogler, story analyst for various Hollywood film companies, was inspired by Campbell when he wrote his book, The Writer's Journey. </li></ul><ul><li>Vogler developed and simplified Campbell’s stages of the hero’s journey. Emphasises importance of mythic structure and mythic archetypes when constructing screenplays and analysing ‘classic’ examples of film. </li></ul><ul><li>Vogler argues that great films are such because they ‘have an appeal that can be felt by everyone, because they well up from a universal source in the shared unconscious and reflect universal concerns’. </li></ul><ul><li>Vogler’s re-definition of character archetypes and the 12 'stages' of the hero's journey has become very influential in Hollywood. </li></ul>
  23. 23. Vogler’s 12 stages of the hero’s journey <ul><li>Ordinary world </li></ul><ul><li>Call to adventure </li></ul><ul><li>Refusal of the call </li></ul><ul><li>Meeting with the mentor </li></ul><ul><li>Crossing the first threshold </li></ul><ul><li>Tests, allies, enemies </li></ul><ul><li>Approach to the inmost cave </li></ul><ul><li>Supreme ordeal </li></ul><ul><li>Reward (seizing the sword) </li></ul><ul><li>The road back </li></ul><ul><li>Resurrection </li></ul><ul><li>Return with the elixir </li></ul>
  24. 24. Vogler’s archetypes and their functions <ul><li>Hero  to serve and sacrifice </li></ul><ul><li>Mentor  to guide </li></ul><ul><li>Threshold guardian  to test </li></ul><ul><li>Shapeshifter  to question and deceive </li></ul><ul><li>Shadow  to destroy </li></ul>
  25. 25. Summary <ul><li>Aristotle  beginning, middle and end </li></ul><ul><li>Todorov  equilibrium  disequilibrium  re-equilibrium </li></ul><ul><li>Propp  31 Functions </li></ul><ul><li>Levi-Strauss  binary oppositions </li></ul><ul><li>Campbell  Monomyth and archetypes </li></ul><ul><li>Vogler  12 stages and archetypes </li></ul>