Narratology and Literary Theory

“Practically all theories of narrative distinguish between WHAT is narrated (the ‘story’) and HOW it is narrated (the ‘discourse’). Some theorists, among them Gérard Genette, opt for a narrow meaning of the term ‘narrative’, restricting narratives to verbally narrated texts (Genette 1988 [1983]: 17); others (Barthes 1975 [1966], Chatman 1990, Bal 1985) argue that anything that tells a story, in whatever genre, constitutes a narrative” (JahnN2.1.2).

Narratology is the study of narrative. It consists of one school of criticism: structuralism. Similar to the scientific method and mathematic formulas, narratology is the scientific approach to reading literature. Narratology consists of semiotics, the study of signs and symbols, and linguistics, the scientific study of language and its structure. These two disciplines are reminiscent of an English course I took during the summer: Introduction to Literary Theory. It revolved around four different theories used in interpreting literature such as reader-response, new criticism, structuralism, and deconstructionalism. Since narratology consists only of one of these literary techniques, structuralism, then meaning is produced by a system (structure) of differences through binaries. Meaning is produced by relations of difference.

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