Narrative – In a nutshell How are stories put together, or in other words, constructed I.e. How are stories structured? What does the structure tell us about the society behind the story? E.g. What is the conclusion of the story and what does it tell us about the society that produced the story? Who are the “good guys” and the “bad guys” in the story and what societal biases do these distinctions reflect?
The concept of „Narrative‟ In essence, a „narrative‟ is a story, and in particular, the way in which a story is structured Narratives allow us to create meaning, but it is important to note that the way a story is structured (narrative) reflects societal biases Narratives exist everywhere; from our personal explanations of our experiences, within media products, „real life‟ events that become publicized (Oscar Pistorious case), to economic, political and religious belief systems (meta- narratives)
The Concept of Narrative Branigan: Narrative is a way of organizing spatial and temporal data into a cause-effect chain of events with a beginning, a middle and end that embodies a judgment about the nature of events (1992:03) Our focus in terms of narrative theory will be film Some questions that arise from using narrative theory when examining film: What does the film‟s conclusion tell us about the ideology behind it? Why do certain characters occupy certain roles? What does this tell us about the ideological biases present?
Narrative Theory The conventional narrative structure pointed out by Tzvetan Todorov as a rule has five stages, though this can be rudimentarily broken down to three stages, a beginning (state of equilibrium), middle (disruption to the equilibrium) and end (reinstate the equilibrium). What do I mean by equilibrium? It‟s simply a state of balance, „normality‟ in which the characters find themselves at the beginning.
Todorov Tzvetan Todorov’s conventional narrative structure complete with five stages: Stage 1 A state of equilibrium is defined. Stage 2 Disruption to the equilibrium by some action or crisis. Stage3 The Character(s) recognition that there has been a disruption, setting goals to resolve problem. Stage4 The Character(s) attempt to repair the disruption, obstacles need to be overcome to restore order. Stage5 Reinstatement to the equilibrium. Situation is resolved, a conclusion is announced.
Todorov With the five stage layout the narrative becomes more comprehensive. However it‟s essential to remember that films need to be seamless as the chain of events unfold, with all the questions raised, answered, and all the loose ends tied up, unless you want to break the conventions, induce a cliff hanger, intentionally create doubt in the minds of the audience and leave them questioning. Even though these stages are presented here as a linear structure, there is no golden rule that it has to be this way, especially if you wish to create a non-linear structure. Should you wish to, you can always muddle up the chronological order and have the end at the beginning. Remember a film should have clear goals with believable characters if its to maintain a sense of credibility and to help
Propp‟s Spheres of Action This theory was developed by Vladmir Propp, based on the work of the Russian Formalists. Russian Formalism is the school of literary analysis that tries to assign universal forms to the stories that are written at all times and in all genres of human art. Propp used Russian Folktales as the basis for his theory but it can be applied to all types of fiction as well as many movies. The basic premise is that there are several basic archetypes (stereotypes) that appear in many films, and that they all play very similar roles. Can you give me some examples of stereotypical roles/characters present in films?
Propp‟s Spheres of Action Vladimir Propp states there are seven spheres of action which characters can be characterized to. These spheres are categorised as the hero, villain, donor, helper, princess (though this can be exchanged for a prince), dispatcher and false hero. Another version of the seventh sphere is the father. Not all spheres of action are needed to be addressed for a film and it‟s important to note
Propp‟s Spheres of Action Hero: Individual(s) whos quest is to restore the equilibrium; he/she is seeking something. Villain: Individual(s) whos task is to disrupt the equilibrium; tries to stop the hero from achieving his/her goal. Donor: Individual(s) who gives the hero(s) something, advice, information or an object; normally an object of power. Helper: Individual(s) who aids the hero(s) with their set task. Princess (Prince): A person or thing which needs help, protecting and saving, and which acts as an award for the hero. Dispatcher: Individual(s) who send the hero(s) on their quest. False Hero: Individual(s) who set out to undermine the heros quest by pretending to aid them. Often unmasked at the end of the film.
Propp‟s Spheres of Action Keep in mind that Propps approach was not intended to unearth meaning in the fairy tales he examined, nor to find the elements that differentiate one tale from another, but to unearth the elemental building blocks that formed the basis of their narrative structure.
Levi-Strauss Examples of binary opposites (films often make use of this to structure the narrative): Good vs. evil Black vs. white Boy vs. girl Peace vs. war Civilized vs. savage Democracy vs. dictatorship Conqueror vs. conquered First world vs. third world Domestic vs. foreign/alien Articulate vs. inarticulate Young vs. old
Levi-Strauss Man vs. nature Protagonist vs. antagonist Action vs. inaction Motivator vs. observer Empowered vs. victim Man vs. woman Good-looking vs. ugly Strong vs. weak Decisive vs. indecisive East vs. West Humanity vs. technology Ignorance vs. wisdom
Barthes Roland Barthes Codes: Action codes – symbolic/iconographic images that communicate events from the narrative Enigma codes – questions raised by a narrative that the audience are desperate to answer
Assignment 1 LMC 203 Assignment 1 – Essay (Semiotic Analysis) If we take a semiotic approach, rooted in structuralism, to analyse a media product, it soon becomes apparent that media products construct meaning in a particular way, and according to a particular context. With regards to this, using a semiological approach, provide a detailed analysis of a print advertisement, showing how meaning is constructed by this media product. Your essay should: Have a clear introduction Provide a theoretical background Provide a description of the advertisement Perform a detailed analysis of the advertisement Have a satisfactory conclusion Be no less than 4 pages long, Times New Roman, 12pt font, 1,5 lines spacing
Assignment 1 *Please attach the printed advertisement to your assignment *There will be some useful additional information on the LMC 203 SharePoint site