narrative theory

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  • G235: Critical Perspectives in Media

    Theoretical Evaluation of Production

    1b) Narrative

  • Aims/Objectives

    To reinforce the key narrative theorists.

    To have a basic understanding of how to evaluate your coursework against key narrative theory.

  • Narrative

    Tim OSullivan et al. (1998) argues that all media texts tell us some kind of story.

    Through careful mediation, media texts offer a way of telling stories about ourselves not usually our own personal stories, but the story of us as a culture or set of cultures.

    Narrative theory sets out to show that what we experience when we read a story is to understand a particular set of constructions, or conventions, and that it is important to be aware of how these constructions are put together.

  • Narrative: The structure of a story.

    Diegesis: The fictional space and time implied by the narrative the world in which the story takes place.

    Verisimilitude: Literally the quality of appearing to be real or true. For a story to engage us it must appear to be real to us as we watch it (the diegeticeffect). The story must therefore have verisimilitude -following the rules of continuity, temporal and spacialcoherence.

  • Bordwell and Thompson (1997) offer two distinctions between story and plot which relate to the diegeticworld of the narrative that the audience are positioned to accept and that which the audience actually see. They based this on Russian film theory:

    Fabula (story) is all the events in the narrative that we see and infer. The fabula is defined as the chronological series of events that are represented or implied.

    Syuzhet (plot) everything visible and audibly present before us. Syuzhet is considered to be the order, manner and techniques of their presentation in the narrative .

  • The Structure Of The Classic Narrative System

    According to Pam Cook (1985), the standard Hollywood narrative structure should have:

    Linearity of cause and effect within an overall trajectory of enigma resolution.

    A high degree of narrative closure.

    A fictional world that contains verisimilitude especially governed by spatial and temporal coherence.

  • Tzvetan Todorov (1977) Stage 1: A point of stable equilibrium, where

    everything is satisfied, calm and normal. Stage 2: This stability is disrupted by some kind of

    force, which creates a state of disequilibrium. Stage 3: Recognition that a disruption has taken

    place. Stage 4: It is only possible to re-create equilibrium

    through action directed against the disruption. Stage 5: Restoration of a new state of equilibrium.

    The consequences of the reaction is to change the world of the narrative and/or the characters so that the final state of equilibrium in not the same as the initial state.

  • In short as OSullivan et al (1998) suggest,narratives have a common structure, starting with the establishment of plot or theme.This is then followed by the development of the problem, an enigma (Roland Barthes, 1977), an increase in tension.Finally comes the resolution of the plot.Such narratives can be unambiguous and linear.

  • Barthes (1977) suggested that narrative works with five different codes and the enigma code works to keep up setting problems or puzzles for the audience. His action code (a look, significant word, movement) is based on our cultural and stereotypical understanding of actions that act as a shorthand to advancing the narrative.Adrian Tilley (1991) used the buckling of the gun belt in the Western genre as a means of signifying the preferred reading of an imminent shoot out, and this works in the same way as the starting of a car engine etc.

  • Kate Domaille (2001) every story ever told can be fitted into one of eight narrative types. Each of these narrative types has a source, an original story upon which the others are based. These stories are as follows:

    Achilles: The fatal flaw that leads to the destruction of the previously flawless, or almost flawless, person, e.g. Superman, Fatal Attraction.Candide: The indomitable hero who cannot be put down, e.g. Indiana Jones, James Bond, Rocky etc.Cinderella: The dream comes true, e.g. PrettyWoman.

  • Circe: The Chase, the spider and the fly, the innocent and the victim e.g. Smokey And The Bandit, Duel, The Terminator.Faust: Selling your soul to the devil may bring riches but eventually your soul belongs to him, e.g. Bedazzled, Wall Street.Orpheus: The loss of something personal, the gift that is taken away, the tragedy of losss or the journey which follows the loss, e.g. The Sixth Sense, Love Story, Born On the Fourth Of July.Romeo And Juliet: The love story, e.g. Titanic.Tristan and Iseult: The love triangle, Man loves womanunfortunately one or both of them are already spoken for, or a third party intervenes, e.g. Casablanca.

  • The Russian theorist Vladimir Propp (1928) studied the narrative structure of Russian Folk Tales.

    He also concluded that all the characters could beresolved into only 7 broad character types in the 100 taleshe analysed.

  • The villain - struggles against the hero. The donor - prepares the hero or gives the hero some

    magical object. The (magical) helper - helps the hero in the quest. The princess and her father - gives the task to the hero,

    identifies the false hero, marries the hero, often sought for during the narrative. Propp noted that functionally, the princess and the father can not be clearly distinguished.

    The dispatcher - character who makes the lack known and sends the hero off.

    The hero or victim/seeker hero - reacts to the donor, weds the princess.

    [False hero] - takes credit for the heros actions or tries to marry the princess.

  • Joseph Campbells (1949) influential work, The Hero With A Thousand Faces, developed the idea of the Universal Hero Monomyth.

    Suggests that there is an underlying structure of iconography, themes, concepts and narrative structure that is common to the religions, myths and legends of

    almost every culture in the world.

    Both George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg were heavily influenced by Campbells theories and Star Wars conforms to Campbells model of the Monomyth almostexactly.

  • Ordinary World the ordered world that the hero will choose (or be forced) to abandon.

    Call To Adventure a problem or challenge arises. Refusal Of The Call fear or reluctance may strike the hero. Meeting With The Mentor the mentor is a key character. Crossing The First Threshold the hero commits to the adventure. Test, Allies, Enemies the hero must learn the rules that will govern his quest. Approach To The Innermost Cave the most dangerous confrontation yet,

    perhaps the location of the treasure, or the object of the quest. Ordeal the hero must face his fear or mortal enemy who will seem more

    powerful. Mental or physical torture may occur. Reward (Seizing The Sword) the hero can celebrate the victory. The Road Back vengeful forces controlled by the villain are unleashed. Resurrection perhaps a final confrontation with death. Return With The Elixir return to the ordinary world with some wisdom,

    knowledge or something else gained from the adventure.

  • Claude Lvi-Strauss (1958) ideas about narrative amount to the fact that he believed all stories operated to certain clear Binary Opposites e.g. good vs. evil, black vs. white, rich vs. poor etc.

    The importance of these ideas is that essentially a complicated world is reduced to a simple either/or structure. Things are either right or wrong, good or bad. There is no in between.

  • Music Video audio visual poetry?

    Michael Shore(1984) argues that music videos are:

    recycled styles surface without substance simulated experience information overload image and style scavengers ambivalence decadence immediate gratification vanity and the moment image assaults and outr folks the death of content anesthetization of violence thorough chic adolescent male fantasies speed, power, girls and wealth album art come to turgid life classical storytellings motifs

  • Andrew Goodwin (1992) argues that in music video, narrative relations are highly complex and meaning can be created from the individual audio-viewers musical personal musical taste to sophisticated intertextuality that uses multidiscursive phenomena of Western culture.

    Many are dominated by advertising references, film pastiche and reinforce the postmodern re-use tradition.

  • Sven Carlsson (1999) suggests that musicvideos in general, videos fall into two rough groups: performance clips and conceptual clips.

    When a music video mostly shows an artist (or artists) singing or dancing, it is a performance clip.

    When the clip shows something else during its duration, often with artistic ambitions, it is a conceptual clip.

  • Performance Clip

    If a music video clip contains mostly filmed performance then it is a performance clip. A performance clip is a video that shows the vocalist(s) in one or more settings.

    Common places to perform are the recording studio and the rehearsal room. But the performance can take place anywhere, from the bath tube to outer space. Walking down the street is another performance clich, which is common in rap videos.

  • The performance can be of three types:

    song performance, dance performance and

    instrumental performance. Almost every music video includes song performance.

    Some videos combines song and dance performances.

  • Narrative Clip

    If a music video clip is most appropriately understood as a short silent movie to a musical backgroun