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Deconstructing Narratives Narrative Patterns (or structures)
Narrative Patterns (or structures)
Narrative TheoriesIt is important to consider and to learn how to apply traditional narrative theories before we consider how they may have evolved and changed.
These theories are important as they give us a framework for analysing and also creating film and televisions media productions
Tzvetan Todorov (1939)
Todorov is a Bulgarian theorist who suggested that the main function of any narrative was to
solve a problem and that characters pass through a series of stages following a linear narrative where events follow a chronological order
Todorovs TheoryThe narrative starts with an equilibrium
An action/ character disrupts the equilibrium
A quest to restore the equilibrium starts which involves conflict
The narrative moves to a confrontation /climax
Resolution/ equilibrium is restored
Claude Levi-Strauss (1949)
Levi-Strauss is a French anthropologist who studies the myths and legends of many different countries and cultures. He claimed that in any narrative there is the constant creation of conflict/opposition that propels the narrative forwards (binary oppositions)
Narratives can only end on a resolution of conflict.
Opposition can be visual (light/darkness, movement/stillness) or conceptual (love/hate, control/panic good/evil.)
Vladimir Propp (1928)Propp was a Russian critic and folklorist- he researched the characters in myths and fairytales. He was concerned with the relationship between narrative and characters. He argued that stories are character driven and plots develop around characters. He looked at characters and their functions in a story/narrative.
(Morphology of the Folktale -1928)
Propps Theory7 Character Roles & FunctionThe hero (who has a quest)The villain (struggles against the hero, tries to stop him completing his mission.)The donor (prepares the hero or gives the hero some magical object)The helper (helps the hero in the quest)The princess (the heroes reward)Her father (gives the hero his reward for completing the quest)The dispatcher (character who makes the lack known and sends the hero off)
TaskChoose a film or TV programme ( fiction please!) Try to find one that fits Todorovs frame for a linear narrative:
Break down the narrative into sections suggested.
b)What experiences do linear narratives offer audiences?
TaskWatch the Pixar short film Boundin
Apply Levi-Strauss theory/ structure to the film.
Apply Propps theory/ structure to the film.
Challenges to his theoryThis is a simple typical structure that most texts fit into/follow.
However we should be considering the problem of a return to equilibrium or the idea of a resolution
Some media texts that try to challenge audiences have OPEN ENDED NARRATIVES - leaving the audience to interpret what they understand by the ending.
Other resolutions are far from a return to equilibrium e.g. the end of the film Se7en (1995) which is bleak and desolate.
Non- Linear NarrativesAlso not all texts conform to the linear structure.
A key aspect of narrative is its ability to manipulate time and space.
Many narratives are circular in their structure and / or move around in time.
Films like Memento (2000) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) The Butterfly Effect (2001) and Vantage Point (2008)
The narrative can be complicated and can challenge the audience - due to its structure.
In non-fiction - such as sports programmes - time and space is manipulated - we readily accept action replays and the same events from different camera angles.
Multi-strand NarrativesThe narrative structure in many TV programmes and some films does not always follow only one storyline.E.g. series, long running dramas and Soap Operas. Many TV dramas such as Holby City operate a 3 strand narrative structure. Each narrative strand is introduced at the beginning of the episode and then interweave as the programme progresses.
On going storylines - that continue across episodes - appeals to regular loyal audiences.
You can also have split screen narrative techniques
Narrative strands are important in attracting and maintaining audience interest.
Narrative DevicesA narrative device is a technique used to tell a story. Narrative devices have the ability to:
Move the story forwardOrganise time and spaceManipulate audience understanding of events and characters
Narrative DevicesLinearNon-LinearFlashbackFlash-forwardMulti-strand NarrativesPoint of View1st Person Narration3rd Person NarrationOpen and Closed narrativeCliff hangersSplit Screen Real timeRealist/Anti Realist