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Narrative Theory. What are the basic requirements of a narrative? What is the structure of the “ideal” narrative?

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Presentation on theme: "Narrative Theory. What are the basic requirements of a narrative? What is the structure of the “ideal” narrative?"— Presentation transcript:

1 Narrative Theory

2 What are the basic requirements of a narrative? What is the structure of the “ideal” narrative?

3 “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.” “Practically all theories of narrative distinguish between WHAT is narrated (the 'story') and HOW it is narrated (the 'discourse').” (Jahn)

4 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)

5 So makes up a narrative? Features (agreed to by most): – It has animate characters – It has events (usually several) – The events are logically (usually causally) related – The events occur over time Classic story runs on a linear timeline – May start with birth of main character However, storytelling may skip back and forth on the timeline – Flashbacks – Flashforwards – There is some form of narration

6 A man was born, he lived and he died. Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after.

7 Musical examples Mark Dimming/Teen Angel John Hiatt/Have a Little Faith in Me Bruce Springsteen/The Rising

8 Mark Dinning - Teen Angel Lyrics Teen Angel.. Teen Angel.. Teen Angel.. woo woo (verse 1) That fateful night, The car was stalled Upon the railroad tracks. I pulled you out and we were safe, But you went running back. (Chorus) Teen Angel, can you hear me? Teen Angel, can you see me? Are you somewhere up above, And am I still your own true love? (verse 2) What was it you were looking for, That took your life that night? They said they found my high school ring clutched in your fingers tight... (chorus) (verse 3) Just sweet sixteen, and now you're gone. They've taken you away I'll never kiss your lips again They buried you today... (chorus)(2x) Teen Angel... Answer me... please...

9 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 And 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, Ive 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

10 Bruce Springsteen The Rising Cant see nothin in front of me Cant see nothin coming up behind I make my way through this darkness I cant 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 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,li, li,li,li Theres 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,li, li,li,li I see you Mary in the garden In the garden of a thousand sighs Theres 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

11 Typical narrative structure A wide variety of narratives can be said to follow a basic structure, as outlined by Freitag

12 Freitag’s Pyramid/Triangle

13 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.

14 Exposition often occurs during this stage—the audience is made aware of important ‘backstory,’ the setting, characters and other important information


16 Then Something happens to disturb the equilibrium, upset the people or threaten their happiness. Often this is the result of actions taken by an antagonist—a character that will be in conflict with the protagonist (the main positive character who will soon be revealed or chosen).

17 Introduction of conflict Conflict is introduced, often through the actions of a malevolent character – In some cases conflict is longstanding and someone has finally decided to do something about it – The protagonist may recognize a “lack”—a divergence between what she wants and what she has

18 Conflict Conflict may be of several sorts – Human (or humanlike character) v. human – Human v. nature – Human v. society – Human v. technology

19 Someone (usually the protagonist) must take action to restore the equilibrium


21 Rising action Though the pyramid 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

22 Rising action The protagonist must overcome obstacles to his success, often proving himself worthy as a result. The trials become progressively difficult and often include direct or indirect confrontation with the antagonist. Sometimes one or more helper characters are involved

23 Rising action often includes individual subplots/conflicts


25 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


27 Falling action The intensity of conflict often falls off fairly quickly after the climax – climax rarely occurs at the very end of the narrative There are sometimes continuing conflicts of one sort or another The implications of the outcome of the climax are presented


29 Denouement Any remaining questions are answered – The detective tells the former suspect why the real criminal committed the crime A new equilibrium is established – The new conditions may be quite different from those at the outset

30 Variations In episodic television, etc. there may be a number of minor narratives that reach conclusion within a major one that does not – Lost Often there are multiple protagonists and/or antagonists Characters may not represent classic ‘types’ – Anti-heros (Sopranos, Grand Theft Auto, Dirty Harry)

31 Variations Lack of resolution (aperture) Lack of coherence/causal chain – Character-driven

32 TV Narrative is open-ended. Many episodes are used to tell a story. These stories unfold in a “story world,” a setting or situation in which the characters live. 4 3 2 1 The Story World of the Series (Plot A) The individual episode Each episode has its own storyline. This is often called Plot B. In some instances there are multiple plots (B, C, D) in each episode— Friends, Seinfeld, for example. The Story World establishes a context in which weekly or daily episodes unfold. The overall plot of the series moves slowly. This is considered Plot A.

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