Narratology: An Introduction

By Susana Onega ; Jose Angel Garcia Landa | Go to book overview

Introduction

Preliminaries

Definition of narratology

Narratology is, etymologically, the science of narrative. The term was popularized, however, by such structuralist critics as Gérard Genette, Mieke Bal, Gerald Prince and others in the 1970s. 1 As a result, the definition of narratology has usually been restricted to structural, or more specifically structuralist, analysis of narrative.

The post-structuralist reaction of the 1980s and 1990s against the scientific and taxonomic pretensions of structuralist narratology has resulted in a comparative neglect of the early structuralist approaches. One positive effect of this, however, has been to open up new lines of development for narratology in gender studies, psychoanalysis, reader-response criticism and ideological critique. Narratology now appears to be reverting to its etymological sense, a multi-disciplinary study of narrative which negotiates and incorporates the insights of many other critical discourses that involve narrative forms of representation. Consequently, while our selection of texts in this reader gives ample representation to the original structuralist core of the discipline, it also includes samples of approaches which are narratological in the wider if not in the strict formalist sense of the term.


Wider and narrower definitions

Is Aristotle Poetics the first narratological treatise? 2 Although Aristotle's work focuses on one specific genre, tragedy, it offers extraordinary narratological insights which are applicable to all genres that use plots. For Aristotle, plot (mythos) is the central element in a literary work, a narrative structure which is common to dramatic and narrative genres proper. The conceptual ambivalence of 'narrative' is present, then, from the very beginning of the discipline. A wider Aristotelian definition of 'narrative' might be 'a

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