Narratology denotes both the theory and the study of narrative and narrative structure and the ways that these affect our perception.[1] While in principle the word may refer to any systematic study of narrative, in practice its usage is rather more restricted.[citation needed] It is an anglicisation of French narratologie, coined by Tzvetan Todorov (Grammaire du Décaméron, 1969).[2] Narratology is applied retrospectively as well to work predating its coinage. Its theoretical lineage is traceable to Aristotle (Poetics) but modern narratology is agreed to have begun with the Russian Formalists, particularly Vladimir Propp (Morphology of the Folktale, 1928).



The origins of narratology lend to it a strong association with the structuralist quest for a formal system of useful description applicable to any narrative content, the analogy being to the grammars by reference to which sentences are parsed in some forms of linguistics). This procedure does not however typify all work described as narratological today; Percy Lubbock's work in point of view (The Craft of Fiction, 1921), is a case in point.[citation needed]

In 1966, a special issue of the journal Communications, has been higly influential and considered a program for research into the field and even a manifesto.[3][4] It included articles by Barthes, Brémond, Genette, Greimas, Todorov and others, which in turn often referenced the works of Vladimir Propp.[3][4]

Jonathan Culler (2001) describes narratology as comprising many strands 'implicitly united in the recognition that narrative theory requires a distinction between "story," a sequence of actions or events conceived as independent of their manifestation in discourse, and "discourse," the discursive presentation or narration of events.'[5] This was first proposed by the Russian Formalists, who employed the couplet fabula and sjuzet. A subsequent succession of alternate pairings has preserved the essential binomial impulse, e.g. histoire/discours, histoire/récit, story/plot. The Structuralist assumption that fabula and sujet could be investigated separately, gave birth to two quite different traditions: thematic (Propp, Bremond, Greimas, Dundes, et al.) and modal (Genette, Prince, et al.) narratology.[6] The former is mainly limited to a semiotic formalization of the sequences of the actions told, while the latter examines the manner of their telling, stressing voice, point of view, transformation of the chronological order, rhythm and frequency. Many authors (Sternberg, 1993),[7] Ricoeur, date required, and Baroni, 2007)[8] have insisted that thematic and modal narratology should not be looked at separately, especially when dealing with the function and interest of narrative sequence and plot.


Designating work as narratological is to some extent dependent more on the academic discipline in which it takes place than any theoretical position advanced. The approach is applicable to any narrative, and in its classic studies, vis-a-vis Propp, non-literary narratives were commonly taken up. Still the term "narratology" is most typically applied to literary theory and literary criticism. Atypical applications of narratological methodologies would include sociolinguistic studies of oral storytelling (William Labov) and in conversation analysis or discourse analysis that deal with narratives arising in the course of spontaneous verbal interaction. However, constituent analysis of a type where narremes are considered to be the basic units of narrative structure could fall within the areas of linguistics, semiotics, or literary theory.[9]


  1. ^ General Introduction to Narratology
  2. ^ Gerald Prince, "Narratology," Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism, ed. Michael Groden and Martin Kreiswirth (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1994) 524.
  3. ^ a b Herman, David and Jahn, Manfred and Ryan, Marie-Laure (2005) Routledge encyclopedia of narrative theory, pp.574-5
  4. ^ a b Bamberg, Michael G. W. (1998) Oral Versions of Personal Experience: Three Decades of Narrative Analysis. A Special Issue of the Journal of Narrative and Life History, p.40
  5. ^ Jonathan Culler, The Pursuit of Signs: Semiotics, Literature, Deconstruction, Routledge Classics ed. (London: Routledge, 2001) 189.
  6. ^ Ruth Ronen, "Paradigm Shift in Plot Models: An Outline of the History of Narratology", Poetics Today, 11(4):817-842 (Winter 1990).
  7. ^ Meir Sternberg, Expositional Modes and Temporal Ordering in Fiction, (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1993).
  8. ^ Raphaël Baroni, La Tension narrative. Suspense, curiosité et surprise, (Paris: Seuil, 2007).
  9. ^ Henri Wittmann, "Théorie des narrèmes et algorithmes narratifs," Poetics 4.1 (1975): 19-28.

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  • narratology — [nar΄ə täl′ə jē] n. the theory and critical study of narrative forms in literature * * * ▪ literary theory       in literary theory, the study of narrative structure. Narratology looks at what narratives have in common and what makes one… …   Universalium

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