Practice: Narratology - Currently no debate

Definition:

The theory and the study of narrative and narrative structure and the ways that these affect our perception.

 

Some key figures (not an exhaustive list by any means; please add to it!)

Plato, Aristotle; Shklovsky, Bakhtin, Ricoeur, Barthes, Foucault, Genette, Bal.

Related Practice(s):
Literary theory


Related Terms:
antagonist

the protagonist’s opponent



agon

contest or conflict, usually between the protagonist and his/her antagonist(s)



protagonist

the main or central character in a narrative, whose contest or conflict (agon) with antagonists, and/or natural forces, and/or fate drives the story. Sometimes non-human entities can be or seem to be the protagonist. For example, although we all quite reasonably see Lear as the protagonist in King Lear, it could also be said the the force of nature, as embodiment of ‘the gods’ and their will, is the protagonist; there is plenty in the text to support this reading.



Agency

the capacity of an entity to act, to cause events. Characters are typically entities with agency.

(based on: Porter Abbott, H. The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2002)



hero

the main character in a narrative; usually equivalent to protagonist, but has the connotation of being ‘good’, which protagonist does not carry.



Diegesis

Diegesis is the process of telling or narrating. In Plato’s and Aristotle’s writings, it is contrasted to mimesis, the process of showing or enacting.

See also The Diegesis

Stuart Jones



Mimesis

Communication of something by imitation or representation, as opposed to diegesis: communication of something by narration or report. From the Greek.

There is a lot of confusion about mimesis, because Plato and Aristotle conceived it in very different ways but related it to diegesis in the same way: one represents, the other reports; one embodies, the other narrates; one transforms, the other indicates; one knows only a continuous present, the other looks back on a past. See the good essay in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimesis



Actor

Actors are those characters, objects, forces and other constructs that serve functional roles in narratives. Actors always have agency. See also under Actor Network Theory.

(based on: Porter Abbott, H. The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2002)



Framing Narrative

Actors are those characters, objects, and other constructs that serve functional roles in narratives.



Threading Narrative

Actors are those characters, objects, and other constructs that serve functional roles in narratives.



Meta Narrative

A framing Narrative is one that encloses another or other narratives, which exist on a different narrative level. A framing narrative contains a second (or several) narrative(s) and provides a context or setting for it/them. Sometimes this framing narrative will begin and end the narrative as a whole, providing book ends, while other times the framing narrative will simply be present in the beginning of the narrative. Sometimes when there are several embedded or sub narratives, the framing narrative acts as linkage between them. The framing narrative “sets the scene” for the embedded narrative(s), giving us a context in which we can read and interpret the text.



Syntagmatic

Actors are those characters, objects, and other constructs that serve functional roles in narratives.



Implicit Narrative

A framing narrative contains a second (or more) embedded narrative(s), for which it provides a context or setting. Sometimes the framing narrative will begin and end the narrative as a whole, providing book ends,  other times it will simply be present at the beginning of the narrative, sometimes it reappears as a linking device between a series of embedded narratives. The framing narrative “sets the scene” for the embedded narrative(s), giving us a context in which we can read and interpret the text.

There are many types of framing narratives, but the two main ones are:

1. a collection of stories which are not necessarily related to one another or to the framing narrative (e.g. One Thousand and One Nights), in this case the framing narrative often has little effect on our reading of the embedded narratives.

2. in the other type the framing narrative is related to the the embedded narrative, examples of this are The Turn of the Screw (Henry James), in which the framing narrative introduces the main narrative, and Frankenstein (Mary Shelley) in which a set of narratives successively enclose each other like a nest of boxes or baboushka dolls: Robert Walton writes letters to his sister describing the story told to him by Victor Frankenstein, Frankenstein’s story contains the monster’s story, and the monster’s story  contains the story of a family he had lived with. In this kind of framing the framing narrative can have a very strong effect on the way we read the embedded narrative: for example, in The Turn of the Screw, the narrator of the framing narrative expresses a hgh opinion of the narrator of the embedded (main) narrative, which might lead us to believe the main narrator to be a reliable narrator. However, we can (and many people do) consider the framing narrator to be an unreliable narrator - deceived about the psychology of the main narrator, who is herself unreliable (deluded).

 

Web resources:

The international Society for the Study of Narrative http://narrative.georgetown.edu/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

The Wikipedia entry for Frame Narrative is good: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frame_story

 

 



Metalepsis

The syntagmatic view is of the unfolding of a narrative in space and time, and can refer to storyboards and wireframes as overviews of the story.

A narrative thread, or plot thread or sometimes, but more ambiguously, a storyline refers to particular elements and techniques of writing to center the story in the action or experience of characters.

A threading narrative can be used as a device that runs through the project continuously or has recurring themes.

By utilizing different threads, the writer enables the reader to get pieces of the overall plot.



Meta Narrative


Paradigm

It is usually understood in narratology that you need at least two diegetic levels for metalepsis to occur.

Genette (1980) defines narrative metalepsis as an intrusion by extradiegetic   elements into the diegesis (and vice versa). He recognises that anyone or anything   can slip from one diegetic level to another if the boundary between the levels is porous, and it worries him: ”The most troubling thing about metalepsis indeed   lies in this unacceptable and insistent hypothesis, that the extradiegetic is perhaps always diegetic, and that the narrator and his narratees-you and I-perhaps     belong to some narrative” (Genette, G. Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method. Trans. Jane E. Lewin.    Ithaca: Cornell UP (1980) page 236). This, in a sense, is exactly what we consider to be the case in narrative environments, where the diegesis typically is constituted of things that exist in the real world.



The diegesis

A narrative that is not actually stated, but is present and understood by implication. It is usually generated by culturally shared signs and knowledge.

 

Further:

A metanarrative (from meta-narrative, sometimes also known as a master- or grand narrative)  is an abstract idea that is thought to be a comprehensive explanation of historical experience or knowledge. According to John Stephens it “is a global or totalizing cultural narrative schema which orders and explains knowledge and experience”.[1] The prefix meta means “beyond” and is here used to mean “about”, and a narrative is a story.

Therefore, a metanarrative is a story about a story, encompassing and explaining other ‘little stories’ within totalizing schemes.



extradiegetic

A mataphor or example. A paradigmatic moment is one that unfolds associations. See also ‘syntagmatic’.

This understanding of paradigm is distinct from the more recent and now more general one (in the realm of theory anyway): “a philosophical and theoretical framework of a scientific school or discipline within which theories, laws, and generalizations and the experiments performed in support of them are formulated; broadly : a philosophical or theoretical framework of any kind.” (Merrion-Webster Online Dictionary)



intradiegetic

The diegesis is the world of the narrative. It includes objects, events,  spaces and the characters that inhabit them, including things, actions,  and attitudes not explicitly presented in the work but inferred by the audience. That audience constructs a diegetic world from the material presented in a narrative.