Beginning Theory: Peter Barry. Narratology
Story vs Plot. Story = actual sequence of events. Plot = (‘discourse’) those events as they are ordered, presented and packaged. Including style, viewpoint, pace etc.
- Aristotle’s categories (Theme)
- Propp’s system (Plots)
- Genette on how the story is told (narration)
- Barthes’ five codes (the reader experience)
Narratology is about looking at a number of different stories and looking for elements in common.
- hamartia = character fault
- anagnorisis = recognition. The truth of the situation is recognised by the protagonist
- peripeteia = reversal of fortune
Can be multiple instances of all of these within one story. These categories are about 'deep content’. The inner events (recognition and consequences) and moral impact.
Vladimir Propp (1895-1970): Morphology of the Folktale (1928)
Propp examined 100s of Russian folktales and derived 31 'functions’ = possible actions. Any folktale will consist of a series of these functions. The functions always occur in the order listed. (eg the villain cannot be punished until the hero defeats him.)
The approach is more superficial than Aristotle as it is looking at surface events.
Propp Character types - the functions group into ’spheres of action’. roles rather than characters. (This relates back to Aristotle who says that character is expressed in action.)
- The villain
- The donor (provider)
- The helper
- The princess (sought after person) and her father
- The dispatcher
- The hero (seeker or victim)
- The false hero
These elements can generate all of Russian folklore.
Robert Scholes points out the versatility that one character can play any of thes roles in a given tale and one role may employ several characters.
Realist fiction – character more important than action. But Propp’s archetypes can be seen as underlying these. eg Cinderella archetype can be seen as behind novel like Mansfield Park and Jane Eyre.
Gerard Genette. Narrative Discourse (1972)
Not about the content, but how it is presented.
1. Is the basic narrative mode 'memetic’ or 'diegetic’?
Mimetic = dramatised. We 'see’ the events.
Diegetic = reported. Summarised.
Almost all prose mixes the two. Esc longer works.
2. How is the narrative focalised?
external = outside the characters. What they say and do.
internal = how they think and feel.
If there is a main POV character she is the focaliser/ reflector.
zero = internal focus on multiple characters. (Omniscient narrator)
3. Who is telling the story?
Authorial persona. Also called 'covert’, 'effaced’, non-intrusive’, 'non-dramatised’.
Named characters. Also called 'overt’, 'dramatised’, 'intrusive’.
These have subtypes:
- 'heterodiegetic’. (’other telling’) An outsider to the story being narrated.
- 'homodiegetic’. (’same telling’) A character in the story being told. eg Jane Eyre.
Omniscient narrators are 'heterodiegetic’.
4. How is time handled in the story?
analeptic = ('back-take’). eg flashback
prolepsis = ('fore-take’). eg flash forward. Also show in foreshadowing. eg spilt wine is proleptic of split blood later.
5. How is the story 'packaged’?
Frame narratives ('primary narratives’) contain within them embedded narratives ('secondary narratives’ or in Genette’s terms ’meta-narratives’). The primary narrative is just the one that comes first. Not usually the main narrative.
Frame narratives are also single-ended or double-ended. If single-ended the frame situation is not returned to at the end of the story.
Frames can be 'intrusive’. The embedded tale can be interrupted by the frame situation.
6. How are speech and thought represented?
Genette’s terms are generalised to three layers:
- Mimetic - “I have to go,” I said.
- Transposed - I told her I had to go
- Narrated - I informed her it was necessary for me to leave.
Barry explains thus:
direct and tagged - “What’s your name?” Joe asked.
direct and untagged - “What’s your name?”
direct and selectively tagged - “What’s you name?” asked Joe. “Thelma.”
tagged indirect - He asked her what her name was and she told him it was Thelma.
free indirect speech - What was her name? It was Thelma.
(The last is good for 'stream of consciousness’ type stuff.)
- Look at individual narratives to pick out structures recurrent to all narratives.
- Focus on the teller and the telling rather than comtent.
- Use structures derived from sort narratives and apply to longer forms.
- Foreground action and structure rather than character and motive
- Foreground affinities between narratives rather than look for afew unique highly regarded examples.
Some practical points
What is the frame for? Resonance? Wider applicability? Delaying tactic?
'Narrativised’ - we don’t actually 'see’ what is happening. Vs 'full mimesis’ we 'see’ what happens. Mid-points of 'slightly narratised’ or 'partial mimesis’. eg 'making forcible entrance’