General Introduction to Narratology

NARRATOLOGY EXAMINES THE WAYS that narrative structures our perception of both cultural artifacts and the world around us. The study of narrative is particularly important since our ordering of time and space in narrative forms constitutes one of the primary ways we construct meaning in general. As Hayden White puts it, "far from being one code among many that a culture may utilize for endowing experience with meaning, narrative is a meta-code, a human universal on the basis of which transcultural messages about the nature of a shared reality can be transmitted" (Content 1). Given the prevalence and importance of narrative media in our lives (television, film, fiction), narratology is also a useful foundation to have before one begins analyzing popular culture. The pages in the narratology site therefore attempt to introduce important theorists of narrative and the basic terms needed to explain both fiction and film.

Narratology is complicated by the fact that different theorists have different terms for explaining the same phenomenon, a fact that is fueled by narratology's structuralist background: narratologists love to categorize and to taxonomize, which has led to a plethora of terms to explain the complicated nature of narrative form. In this site, I have attempted to present those terms that seem to me the least confusing in describing how narrative functions. My goal has been to provide a basic foundation, one that should help you then tackle the works of individual narratologists. As in the other sections of this Guide to Theory, I here also provide Modules on individual theorists in order to give a somewhat more detailed introduction to a few influential figures. The links on the left will lead you to Modules explaining in more detail specific concepts by these individual thinkers; however, you might like to begin with a quick overview:


PETER BROOKS is of particular interest for this site since he melds the insights of narratology and of Freudian psychoanalysis in his examination of the erotic charge of narrative form. In so doing, he provides a dynamic as well as organic model for the understanding of narrative progression, one that has influenced a number of important theorists (including his former student, D. A. Miller). This module also allows the viewer to think about the ways that different critical schools can enlighten each other.

ROLAND BARTHES's original critical work, S/Z, provides an alternative way of thinking about narrative plot, one that refuses to be bound by traditional (what Barthes terms "readerly") structures. Barthes's distinction between hermeneutic and proairetic codes is also extremely helpful in thinking about the two driving forces of narrative form.

ALGIRDAS GREIMAS provides us with a hyper-structuralist approach to narrative form. These Modules pay special attention to Greimas' understanding of the semiotic square since this term will be picked up by Fredric Jameson in his Marxist understanding of ideological contradiction. (For Jameson's theories, see the Modules under Marxism.)



Proper Citation of this Page:

Felluga, Dino. "General Introduction to Narratology." Introductory Guide to Critical Theory.[date of last update, which you can find on the home page]. Purdue U. [date you accessed the site]. <>.






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