Sunday, 21 February 2010

Aspects of Narrative

Vladimir Propp
In Propps study of fairytales (which continues to influence literary and media studies today) argued that there are essentially just seven basic character types, or archetypes.

  1. The Villan - Struggles against the hero.
  2. The Donor - Prepares the hero or gives the hero some magical object.
  3. The (magical) Helper - Helps the hero in the quest.
  4. The Princess and 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 her father cannot be clearly distinguished.
  5. The Dispatcher - character who makes the lack known and sends the hero off.
  6. The Hero or Victim - reacts to the donor, weds the princess.
  7. The False Hero - takes credit for the hero's actions or tries to marry the princess.

These roles could sometimes be distributed among characters, as the hero kills the villain dragon, and the dragons sister take on the villainous role of chasing him. Conversely, one character could engage in acts as more than one role, as a father could send his son on the quest and give him a sword, acting as both dispatcher and donor.
Disney stories can often relate to Propps theory.

Tzvetan Todorov
Tordorov is associated with the theory that every narrative can be broken down into three basic stages: situation, conflict, resolution. (or equilibrium, dis-equilibrium, new equilibrium).
Crucially, your protagonist is not the same as at the outset, but has changed insome way from events. However, Todorov actually posited five stages:

  1. a state of equilibrium at the outset.
  2. a disruption of the equilibrium by some action.
  3. a recognition that there has been a disruption.
  4. an attempt to repair the disruption.
  5. a reinstatement of the equilibrium.
Roland Barthes
Barthes concept of the narrative enigma: a puzzle created within a narrative. Trying to work out these puzzles is part of the pleasure of watching fictional texts.

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