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Narratology

Morphology of the Folk Tale, S/Z, Narrative Discourse

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Mr Polly to New France

is the study of narrative methods and strategies. It assumes that story-telling is a fundamental human activity which can be explored in different cultures and different modes which will reveal common, or at least comparable, features and habits. Narratologists examine fairy tales, myths, detective stories, classic novels, films, epic poems, gossip, jokes, advertising, comic strips—it is the management of the story that interests them, rather than the genre or the status of the text. Their characteristic questions concern time and structure, point of view, recurring themes. Are there flashbacks in a narrative, for example? Does it look forward to its own conclusion? Are characters arranged in pairs, do certain events mirror each other? An early influential work in this field is V. Propp's Morphology of the Folk Tale (1928); a major study is Roland Barthes's S/Z (1970), and Gérard Genette's Narrative Discourse (1972), although largely dedicated to the work of Marcel Proust, is lucid and helpful about more general technical matters.

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