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Theories that describe narratives and structures of stories

Code From the 1960s on, the philosophy of language has extended its attention in the direction of pragmatics, the contextual use of language and the specific norms it creates. Language use is not a chaotic parole, as the Saussurian model would lead us to think.

Using narratives and storytelling to communicate science with nonexpert audiences

There are norms of discursive interaction beyond the level of the sentence. The speech act is the simple language action that is effected through the communicative use of a proposition e. The discursive act is hierarchically is a web of such conventionalized speech acts, and it involves not a single proposition, but an actual discourse event --in the case of literature, the writing or reading of a literary text.

In his study of speech acts, Austin has proposed some fundamental concepts. The first basic distinction is the opposition between locutionary, illocutionary and perlocutionary acts. A locutionary act is a speech act considered from the point of view of classical linguistics: When the locution is uttered in a particular speech situation, it becomes an illocution, a communicative act of some kind whereby a social interaction is established between the speaker and the addressee an affirmation, an order, a promise.

In order to occur, a locutionary act must be identified as such by the hearer. A perlocution or perlocutionary act is the non-conventionalized effect the illocutionary act provokes on the hearer. Recognizing that a threat is a threat is an illocutionary maneuver; the fear or laughter which may result from the threat are perlocutionary effects. According to Austin, a classification of illocutionary speech acts could establish the following types: As such, none of these categories is adequate to describe narration.

Simple, true narration of real facts would seem to be a kind of expositive speech act, derived from the simple statement, affirmation or telling of a fact cf. How to do Things with Words 162. Other kinds of narration could be derived from this basic type of narration. Austin and Searle study speech acts in a very abstract and simplified way, as if they always consisted of theories that describe narratives and structures of stories utterances occurring in conventional contexts. But in fact speech acts occur only in discursive activity.

What we might call primitive speech acts are linked, combined and transformed as they are used in wider units of social interaction. These units can be called discourses, discourse acts or discursive activities.

A piece of discourse can often be described as a macro-speech act, a wide-ranging speech act to which the micro-speech acts occurring at sentence level are subordintated. Micro-speech acts are therefore instrumental in the configuration of macro-speech acts or discursive acts, which in turn are determined by the structure of social relationships.

Linguistic including literary narrative is one variety of discursive act: This approach can offer a new perspective on the literary genres and modes of discourse.

For instance, we can use it to rethink the third frontier of narrative drawn by Genette. This last distinction refers to the opposition between histoire and discours first introduced by Benveniste in his discussion of the tense system in French.

In histoire, there are no signs of enunciation; in discours there are references to the speaking subject with first-person pronouns, to the time or place of enunciation theories that describe narratives and structures of stories means of deictics, etc. Discours is the natural mode of speech, while histoire is defined by a series of exclusions. But it can never completely exclude the marks of enunciation.

The reason is not, however, that a certain quantitative proportion of enunciation always seeps in, as Genette seems to think in this passage. Every narrative text is also and primarily an enunciation, an act of literary discourse. Only by means of an abstraction can we consider it as an histoire, a story.

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The conceptual distinctions we shall use in our analysis fabula, storytext theories that describe narratives and structures of stories to be understood in this same way: But let us return to our definition of narrative in order to have a closer look at these concepts. Basic Directions in Analysis In which sense can we analyze narrative?

How can we begin? From the definition of narrative we have proposed, "the representation of a series of theories that describe narratives and structures of stories, we already see that narratives are composite entities in a number of senses.

In the definition we mention a series of events: Also, these events can be studied according to their temporal sections. In a series of events some are at the beginning, some in the middle, some at the end. So, in our first approach, a narrative consists of a number of successive parts: A narrative is a compound in other senses, too.

Let us note that in our definition a narrative is not "a series of events", but "the representation of a series of events". Here the composite nature of narrative appears not as a number of succesive parts, in length or horizontally, but, as it were, vertically, in depth: What we get in a narrative text are not events as such, but representations of events.

Here an infinite amount of complexity begins to appear. In which way are the events represented? How is the narrative similar or different from the events it represents?

The following chapters will largely consist of possible answers to these questions. We see, then, that the very definition of narrative leads us into the beginning of analysis, and in several directions at once. We shall examine different theories which analyze narratives either horizontally, or vertically, or both. As far as horizontal analysis is concerned, we have spoken so far of beginning, middle, and end.

Other concepts will complicate this simple account of parts. As far as vertical analysis is concerned, we may speak of levels of analysis. Our definition distinguishes at least two levels: The structure of the representation involves study at another level. We shall find that the narratological theories often differ when it comes to defining these levels. Some theorists will distinguish two levels of analysis, others speak of three or four levels.

Mieke Bal tells us that there are three basic levels of analysis of narrative: In fact, this problem appears in all areas of literary study. Theories which are presumably about "the same" often turn out to be different. Let us concentrate for one moment on this issue of identity and difference. Identity and difference between narratives and between narratological models Identity and difference are not absolute concepts; they involve an abstraction and need a reference point.

Saussure pointed this out with reference to semiotic phenomena as a whole, using the example of the 8. Is it the same train from one day to the next? It depends on how we see it.

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  • Construal theory explains similar changes in perception based on scale, namely that an event with greater psychological distance, and therefore farther away from immediate human scale, leads to perceptions that are more abstract and emotional than events with less psychological distance 91 , 92.

Saussure used the train as a convenient example to illustrate the structural functioning of language. Language is a system where the relationship between the signifier and the signified is arbitrary. It is not the intrinsic nature of the signifier which determines its signification, but only the place assigned to it within a system of differences. Semiotic identity, that is, is determined by the relationships created within a signifying system, not by the materiality of the signifying phenomenon.

In Saussure's words, "The linguistic mechanism rests entirely upon identities and differences, the latter being merely the counterpart of the former" 151. Thus the possibility of meaning, the origin of the sign, is founded on the possibility of identity through repetition: Saussure's example works both ways. Trains, just as language, are from one point of view semiotic phenomena. This Saussurean example is a convenient way of coming back to the question of the levels of analysis of a text.

Signs may be signs in several senses: A sign, therefore, is a complex entity which may be read at different levels, in the manifold relationships which tie it to the world.

Narratives, being complex signs or structures of signs, can also be considered at several levels of abstraction. This amounts to reading the text according to different interpretive conventions. There can be many kinds of such interpretive conventions, and all need not be narratologically significant. For instance, according to Scholastic hermeneutics, the sacred texts could be submitted to a fourfould interpretation, to yield a variety of meanings. The literal sense was opposed to the mystical sense.

Narrative theory and the dynamics of popular movies

And there were three possible ways of reading a mystical sense in a sacred text: Each kind of reading consisted in relating the text, translating it meaningfully into a particular realm of experience: We could call these four types of reading "levels of analysis" of a text, as well --Northrop Frye makes use of such levels of analysis in his Anatomy of Criticism.

All this should make us keep in mind that there is no such thing as absolute levels of analysis: The levels of analysis we will use here attempt to examine the specificically narrative characteristics of a text. Theories that describe narratives and structures of stories levels of analysis distinguished by Frye, for instance, are not specifically narratological: When we speak of two narratives dealing with the same story, we are of course using "the same" in a relative fashion.

The text is "the same" with respect to our immediate purposes of analysis, just as the Geneva-Paris express is "the same" from one day to another only for certain purposes.

If two narratives dealt with exactly "the same" story, we would not have two narratives, but one. While we speak of two stories having "the same fabula", we still can recognize that the stories, not to speak of the texts in which they are conveyed, are different. When we speak of "the same story" in two narratives, we are implying that they still are different texts.

And we may even speak of "the same text" to refer to a work and its translation, if the language issue is not relevant for our immediate purposes. It follows, too, that considering a text as a narrative is also the result of a methodological choice: Narratological analysis is therefore not a variety of criticism; it is a conceptual instrument used by criticism. While it enhances awareness of the textual structures, it also furthers certain directions in criticism and interpretation.

But the mere analysis of a text using the concepts of narratology is not a critique of that text; there are whole areas of literary study that such an analysis completely ignores, and which have to be taken into account if an interpretation is to be balanced and well informed.