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Narratology The study and analysis of narrative
Topics for today • What are the basic requirements of a narrative? • What is the structure of the “ideal” narrative? • Introduce: What forms of narration are there and what difference does it make?
• “narratology The theory of the structures of narrative. To investigate a structure, or to present a 'structural description', the narratologist dissects the narrative phenomena into their component parts and then attempts to determine functions and relationships. ” • (Jahn)
What is a narrative? • “Anything that tells or presents a story, be it by text, picture, performance, or a combination of these. Hence novels, plays, films, comic strips, etc. , are narratives. ” • A story is a “sequence of events involving characters. 'Events' include both natural and nonnatural happenings (such as floods and car accidents). Characters get involved by being agents (causing an event), victims (patients), or beneficiaries (being affected by an event). ” (Jahn)
Basic requirements of narrative • “a narrative is a form of communication which presents a sequence of events caused and experienced by characters” • Characters • Events • Structured chronologically – Causality (one thing leads to another) • Communication
Musical examples • Marc Cohn/Walking in Memphis • John Hiatt/Have a Little Faith in Me • Bruce Springsteen/The Rising
Marc Cohn Walking in Memphis • Put on my blue suede shoes And I boarded the plane Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues In the middle of the pouring rain W. C. Handy -- won't you look down over me Yeah I got a first class ticket But I'm as blue as a boy can be Then I'm walking in Memphis Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale Walking in Memphis But do I really feel the way I feel Saw the ghost of Elvis On Union Avenue Followed him up to the gates of Graceland Then I watched him walk right through Now security they did not see him They just hovered 'round his tomb But there's a pretty little thing Waiting for the King Down in the Jungle Room (Chorus) They've got catfish on the table They've got gospel in the air And Reverend Green be glad to see you When you haven't got a prayer But boy you've got a prayer in Memphis Now Muriel plays piano Every Friday at the Hollywood And they brought me down to see her And they asked me if I would -Do a little number And I sang with all my might And she said -"Tell me are you a Christian child? " And I said "Ma'am I am tonight" (Chorus) Repeat First Stanza
John Hiatt Have a Little Faith in Me When the road gets dark And you can no longer see Just let my love throw a spark And have a little faith in me And when the tears you cry Are all you can believe Just give these loving arms a try And have a little faith in me Chorus: Have a little faith in me (repeat) When your secret heart Cannot speak so easily Come here darlin From a whisper start To have a little faith in me And when your back’s against the wall Just turn around and you will see I will catch, I will catch your fall baby Just have a little faith in me Chorus Sung over fade: Well, I’ve been loving you for such a long time girl Expecting nothing in return Just for you to have a little faith in me You see time, time is our friend cause for us there is no end And all you gotta do is have a little faith in me I said I will hold you up, I will hold you up Your love gives me strength enough So have a little faith in me
Bruce Springsteen The Rising • Can’t see nothin in front of me Can’t see nothin coming up behind I make my way through this darkness I can’t feel nothing but this chain that binds me Lost track of how far I’ve gone How far I’ve gone, how high I’ve climbed On my backs a sixty pound stone On my shoulder a half mile of line Come on up for the rising Come on up, lay your hands in mine Come on up for the rising tonight Left the house this morning Bells ringing filled the air Wearin the cross of my calling On wheels of fire I come rollin down here Chorus Li, li, li, li, li There’s spirits above and behind me Faces gone black, eyes burnin’ bright May their precious blood bind me Lord, as I stand before your fiery light Li, li, li, li, li I see you Mary in the garden In the garden of a thousand sighs There’s holy pictures of our children Dancin’ in a sky filled with light May I feel your arms around me May I feel your blood mix with mine A dream of life comes to me Like a catfish dancin’ on the end of my line Sky of blackness and sorrow ( a dream of life) Sky of love, sky of tears (a dream of life) Sky of glory and sadness (a dream of life) Sky of mercy, sky of fear (a dream of life) Sky of memory and shadow (a dream of life) Your burnin wind fills my arms tonight Sky of longing and emptiness (a dream of life) Sky of fullness, sky of blessed life Chorus
Narrative levels in literature Source: Jahn, Narratology
Metalepsis • “Transgression of levels: metalepsis--Normally, the levels of action, fictional mediation, and nonfictional communication (as shown in the graphic above, . . . are hermetically sealed domains indicating crucial thresholds of control and awareness. Any agent situated on a higher-level dominates and frames all lower-level agents, while lower-level agents are unaware of the existence of the higher-level agents. • For instance, the characters at the level of action do not know that they are characters in some narrator's story, and they cannot complain if their acts or motives are misrepresented by this narrator. ” (Jahn)
So: • “a narrative is a form of communication which presents a sequence of events caused and experienced by characters” • Three narrative levels exist: – level of nonfictional communication – level of fictional mediation – level of action
Narration • “We will say that all novels project a narrative voice, some more distinct, some less, some to a greater, some to a lesser degree. ” (Jahn) • All stories must be told from some position— even when it is not obvious that there is a storyteller. • The position from which a story is told affects its emotional and cognitive impact.
Narration in film
Typical narrative structure • A wide variety of narratives can be said to follow a basic structure, as outlined by Freitag
Exposition • At the outset, the audience member is provided with information necessary to make sense of the narrative – The amount of information provided varies widely • Backstory – The means by which it is provided varies widely
Conditions at the outset • The conditions at the outset of a narrative usually depict some form of equilibrium or continuing conditions – The situation is disturbed by • An act of a character • An event outside the control of any character • Recognition of a “lack” by a character (usually a main charcter) – The disturbance sets up some form of conflict that drives the story forward
Conflict • Conflict of some sort drives the plot forward – Human (or humanlike character) v. human – Human v. nature – Human v. society – Human v. technology – Human v. internal demons
Rising action • Though the illustration represents a smoothly and constantly rising intensity of action, a story normally presents a series of conflicts that become more intense as the story progresses – There may be rises and falls in intensity, but the overall trend is upward – The individual events usually are linked to the main storyline in some way
Rising action often includes individual subplots/conflicts workbookproject. com/? p=207
Climax • Some major confrontation, conflict or turning point marks the climax – Good guy battles bad guy to the death – Wife finds out that husband has been having an affair and confronts him with it – Kid takes math test – Lawyers finish making their cases and the jury decides
Falling action • The intensity of conflict often falls off fairly quickly after the climax but rarely is the climax the very end of the narrative • There are sometimes continuing conflicts of one sort or another
Resolution/denouement • Any remaining questions are answered – The detective tells the former suspect why the real criminal committed the crime • The situation has changed and a new equilibrium is in place
You can think of characters traveling a road from the beginning to some end • It takes time • It happens in some place • Things that happen early in the journey influence those that happen later • The actions of the characters reflect their personalities • They reach their destination, usually changed in some manner by the experience
Plots • Plots are the events and actions, related causally, that move the story forward • Plots range from very simple to extremely complex • Many narratives have a number of subplots tied to the main plot – Conclusion of a subplot may move the character(s) forward in the overarching main plot
Characters • • Main (or single) protagonist Main (or single) antagonist Helper characters/allies Love interest(s) Wise mentors Comic relief Authority
Setting • • Historical Geographic Fixed v. changing Single v. multiple
How classic narratives usually work • We start in some time and place, with the world unproblematic—in ‘equilibrium. ’ That is, things are normal and seem to be okay, with people adjusted to the conditions they are in. That may not mean that all are happy, but usually the portrayal is of a fairly satisfactory situation. • Often ‘exposition’ occurs during this stage—the audience is made aware of important ‘backstory, ’ that provides information about the setting, the plot, characters, etc.
Then something happens • The equilibrium is disturbed. Although good fortune may be the cause of the disturbance, usually some negative act or event is the source. Often it is the result of actions taken by an antagonist—a character that will be in conflict with the protagonist. Because of the disturbance, someone (usually the protagonist) is called upon to take action to restore the equilibrium or bring back the conditions that were satisfactory.
The call • The protagonist (often the hero character) is called upon to set things right. He (or she) often must be convinced to take on the task, either because his past has led him to avoid this sort of thing or he doesn’t consider himself capable or worthy of the task. • Sometimes protagonists simply recognize that they lack something and set out in search of it.
Rising action • The protagonist must overcome obstacles to her success, often proving herself worthy as a result. The trials become progressively more difficult and often include direct or indirect confrontation with the antagonist. • Sometimes a helper character is involved, providing advice, giving the protagonist some type of device that aids her, or fighting alongside the hero.
The climax • Increasing tension and conflict lead eventually to a decisive confrontation between the protagonist and the antagonist, usually resulting in victory for the protagonist and loss and/or punishment for the antagonist.
Denouement • As the intensity of the action and tension fall quickly, the implications of the protagonist’s success are presented. • Equilibrium is re-established though perhaps with significantly changed conditions.
Variations • In episodic television, etc. there may be a number of minor narratives that reach conclusion within a major one that does not – Lost • Characters may not represent classic ‘types’ – Anti-heros (Sopranos, Grand Theft Auto, Dirty Harry) • Lack of resolution • Lack of coherence/No causal chain
Examples • NCIS • The Simpsons • Presidential inauguration
Embedded narratives • A first-degree narrative is a narrative that is not embedded in any other narrative; a second-degree narrative is a narrative that is embedded in a first-degree narrative; a thirddegree narrative is one that is embedded in a second-degree narrative, etc.
Functions of embedded narratives • actional integration: the “hyponarrative” serves as an important element in the plot of the “matrix” narrative. • exposition: the hyponarrative provides information about events that lie outside the primary action line of the matrix narrative (specifically, events that occurred in the past). • distraction: "So tell us a story while we're waiting for the rain to stop" • obstruction/retardation: the hyponarrative momentarily suspends the continuation of the matrix narrative, often creating an effect of heightened suspense. • analogy: the hyponarrative corroborates or contradicts a story line of the matrix narrative ("You are not the only person ever deceived by a faithless lover; let me tell you about [. . . ]") • (Jahn)