narrative theory

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BORDWELL AND THOMPSON [1997]STORYPLOTwhat we seeinferred eventsnon-diegeticmaterial(how we are shown what happens)(what happens)TIM OSULLIVAN ET AL. [1998]This theory argues that all media texts tell the audience some kind of story. Through careful mediation, texts offer a way of telling stories about ourselves, not necessarily as individuals but the stories of us as a culture or set of cultures.Narrative theory shows us that what we experience when we read or consume a media text is an understanding of a particular set of constructions or conventions and that its important for us to be aware of how these constructions are put together.


KATE DOMAILLE [2001]Every story ever told can be categorised into eight narrative types according to Domailles 2001 theory. Each type has a source an original story upon which the others are based. The types are:

AchillesThe fatal flaw that leads to the destruction of the previously flawless (or seemingly flawless) individual e.g. Superman, Fatal Attraction.

CandideThe indomitable hero who cannot be put down e.g. Indiana Jones, James Bond, Rocky.

CinderellaThe dream come true e.g. Pretty Woman

CirceThe chase, the spider and the fly, the innocent victim and the attacker e.g. Smokey and the Bandit, Duel, The Terminator.

FaustSelling your soul to the devil may bring riches but eventually your soul belongs to him e.g. Bedazzled, Wall Street.

OrpheusThe loss of something personal, the gift that is taken away, the tragedy of loss or the journey which follows the loss e.g. The Sixth Sense, Love Story, Born on the Fourth of July.

Romeo and JulietThe love story e.g. Titanic.

Tristan and Iseult The love triangle: man loves woman but unfortunately one or both of them are already spoken for or a third party intervenes e.g. Casablanca.


SVEN CARLSSON [1999]Music videos generally fall into two groups performance and conceptual. Performance refers to the artist or actors singing, dancing etc. Conceptual means something else with artistic ambition.

Performance clipsCan be vocal, instrumental, dance etc.Locations may include rehearsal rooms, concerts, studios etc.Shows vocalistsClichs walking down the street in the rap genre for example

Narrative ClipsMost appropriately understood as a short filmContains a visual story thats easy to followCan be a pure narrative, meaning no performance is present at all

Art ClipsNo perceptive narrativeNo lip-synced or live performanceArtistic


PAM COOK [1985]TODOROV [1977]Standard Hollywood narrative structure should have:Linearity of cause and effect within an overall trajectory of enigma resolutionA high degree of narrative closureA fictional world that contains verisimilitude governed by a spatial and temporal coherenceEquilibrium of DiegesisRe-equilibriumboygirlDISRUPTION(enigma)QUESTRESOLUTIONCause and effectL i n e a r i t y


CLAUDE LEVI-STRAUSS [1958]Levi-Strauss was a structuralist whose ideas about narrative amount to the fact that he believed all stories operated to certain clear Binary Opposites such as good vs evil, rich vs poor etc. The importance of these ideas is that essentially a complicated world can be reduced to simplicity with an either/or structure: things are either right or wrong, there is no inbetween.

This theory can be applied to stereotypical mise-en-scene:PROTAGONISTANTAGONISTCOLOURwhite, bright coloursblack, dark coloursLOCATIONcountryside, naturalurban areaPROPSnature, plants etc.guns, cars etc.


MICHAEL SHORE [1984]This theory sees music videos as audio visual poetry. Shore argued that music videos are/can be any of the following concepts:

Recycled styles (borrowing from past times)Surface without substance (the look is more important than the meaning)Simulated experiencesInformation overload (caused by the surface without substance idea)Image and style scavengersAmbivalenceDecadenceImmediate gratificationVanity and the momentImage assaults and outr folksThe death of contentAnaesthetisation of violenceThorough chicAdolescent male fantasiesSpeed, power, girls and wealthAlbum art come to turgid lifeClassical storytellings motif

Weezers Buddy Holly video (above) is an example of recycled styles as they borrow heaving from Happy Days, as is the Oasis video for The Importance of Being Idle (below).


ANDREW GOODWIN [1992]Goodwin argues that meaning can be created from the individual audio-viewers personal music taste to sophisticated intertextuality that uses multi-discursive phenomena of Western culture (not as a group but as an individual). Essentially this means we create meaning based on our own understanding of our culture whether its Western or otherwise. Many are dominated by advertising references and film pastiche (copy), and reinforce the postmodern re-use tradition.