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Using Theory in Your Planning

Narrative Theory

Lesson Objectives
To understand a range of narrative theories.  To be able to apply narrative theory to the analysis of a media text.  To evaluate the usefulness of narrative theories.

Put these events in order
Detective investigates  Crime conceived  Crime discovered  Detective identifies criminals  Crime committed  Crime planned

The story is…


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a) Crime conceived b) Crime planned c) Crime committed d) Crime discovered e) Detective investigates f) Detective identifies criminals Could the story events be arranged in a different sequence to make the narrative more interesting?

The plot could be…


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d) Crime discovered e) Detective investigates f) Detective identifies criminals a) Crime is conceived b) Crime is planned c) Crime is committed

Narrative Story vs. Narrative Plot
Narrative Story

Narrative Plot

all events referenced both explicitly in a narrative and inferred (including backstory as well as those projected beyond the action)

the events directly incorporated into the action of the text and the order in which they are presented

Definitions of Narrative

Narrative is defined as ―a chain of events in a cause-effect relationship occurring in time‖ (Bordwell & Thompson).

Narrative is ‗a way of organising spatial and temporal events into a cause-effect chain of events with a beginning, a middle, and end that embodies a judgement about the nature of events‘ (Branigan).

Narrative Theory

Narrative theory analyses the way in which media texts communicate meaning about events. Narrative theory can be applied to range of different media including film, TV. Photographs, and magazines. Narrative analysis of internet based media is more problematic, though may still be relevant. For example, you could consider how someone‘s Facebook profile creates a narrative about their life.

Edward Branigan

Branigan argues that narrative is ‗ a way of organising spatial and temporal data into a cause-effect chain of events with a beginning, a middle and end that embodies a judgement about the nature of events.‘ What is Branigan saying? Can you think of an example? Branigan‘s key point is that the narrative will embody a judgement – ideology and narrative.

Vladimir Propp

Propp suggests that there are a limited number of character types that share a function. When an audience reads a media text it deploys its knowledge of these character types in order to decode the meaning of the text. Can you relate any of the character types to the characters in your coursework products?

Vladimir Propp
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The villain — struggles against the hero. The dispatcher —character who makes the lack known and sends the hero off. The (magical) helper — helps the hero in the quest. The princess or prize — the hero deserves her throughout the story but is unable to marry her because of an unfair evil, usually because of the villain. the hero's journey is often ended when he marries the princess, thereby beating the villain. 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 donor —prepares the hero or gives the hero some magical object. The hero or victim/seeker hero — reacts to the donor, weds the princess. False hero — takes credit for the hero‘s actions or tries to marry the princess.

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Tzvetan Todorov

Equilibrium – disequilibrium – resolution. How might this be used to analyse the ideology of a media text?

Roland Barthes

Barthes identifies 5 narrative codes which readers use to decode texts. The narrative codes are:
Hermeneutic code  Proairetic code  Semantic code  Symbolic code  Cultural code

Hermeneutic code
 Mysteries,

the full truth held back from

the reader
 Snares:

deliberately avoiding the truth  Equivocations: Partial or incomplete answers  Jamming: openly acknowledging that there is no answer to the problem.

Proairetic code

Builds tension by referring to something else that is going to happen, getting the reader guessing.
Example  A person walks down the street.  A tile falls off the roof of a building.

Semantic code
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Semantic code – something that a signifier signifies that is one step beyond its basic meaning. Very similar to signified E.g. – woman pulls up in a Ferrari. Semantic code for – she is rich and likes fast cars.

Roland Barthes

Symbolic code – similar to a semantic code, but on a wider level. More than one semantic code is organised together to give a broader meaning. Barthes was most interested in antithesis to create meaning:

Roland Barthes

Cultural code – refers to a body of knowledge, like science or religion.

Claude Levi-Strauss

Narratives are structured by pairs of binary oppositions. How can this be used to analyse media texts?

Postmodern Narratives

Some theorists suggest that postmodern narratives are different from previous narrative structures. Characteristics of postmodern narratives include:  Irony, playfulness, and black humour  Intertextuality  Pastiche  Metanarratives  Extreme self-reflexivity  Temporal distortion  Hyperreality
Linda Hutcheon argues that postmodern narratives can critique contemporary society by calling attention to the constructed nature of the society.

Review Theorists
Theorist Todorov Propp Key Words

Levi-Strauss
Barthes

Analyse this trailer with respect to the theorists

Postmodern approach - Pastiche

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Frederic Jameson argues that postmodern texts are characterised by pastiche. A pastiche is an imitation of another genre or text. Jameson argues that "Pastiche is...the imitation of a peculiar or unique, idiosyncratic style, the wearing of a linguistic mask, speech in a dead language.‖ Linda Hutcheon disagrees with this view arguing that postmodern texts use pastiche in a knowing way acknowledging the constructed nature of representation. Does the cliched nature of the video act as a critique of the values it promotes?

How useful is narrative theory?

Consider how useful you think each of the following perspectives is:
 Propp  Barthes

 Todorov
 Levi-Strauss  Postmodern

Theory