Narratology: An Introduction

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

2 The Logic of Narrative Possibilities*

CLAUDE BREMOND

This essay, like Barthes' "'Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narrative'", was also published in no. 8 of Communications. Barthes situated the work of the contributors to the journal in a line with the Russian formalists in general and Vladimir Propp and Claude Lévi-Strauss in particular. These writers, Barthes explained, had drawn attention to the fact that, for all the infinite variety of narratives, they share a basic structure which can be isolated and analysed. In his contribution, Claude Bremond sets out to elaborate a comprehensive typology of the structural elements underlying all kinds of fabulas (which he still calls narratives), not just one particular kind, as Propp had done in his Morphology of the Folktale ( 1928). Bremond accepts Propp's fundamental notions of 'function', the basic narrative unit, made up of events and actions; and 'sequence', or basic groupings of functions. The most elementary sequence is made up of three functions: the first opens the possibility of carrying out an action or event; the second achieves the virtuality opened in the first; and the third is the result that closes the process. The range of combinatory possibilities is doubled if the virtuality opened in the first function is not fulfilled. Bremond builds his elementary sequence accordingly: Virtuality -- Actualization // Absence of Actualization -- Goal attained // Goal not attained. As he explains, this basic triadic scheme can be further subdivided into more complex triadic combinations, according to the most recurrent kinds of events and actions and to the perspective from which they are analysed, for the same event may be described, for example, as 'evil performed' (from the perspective of the victim) and as 'deed to be avenged' (from that of the avenger). Bremond's scheme provided a simple typology of actions and events and helped define the different roles of the characters in the fabula according to their function (the seducer, the seduced, the

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*
Reprinted from New Literary History 11 ( 1980): 387-411. Trans. Elaine D. Cancalon. First publ. as "'La logique des possibles narratifs'", Communications 8 ( 1966): 60-76.

-61-

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