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date: 16 January 2021

narrative, narrationlocked

  • Massimo Fusillo


In the last 30 years, interest in narrative has developed at an incredible pace. Two branches of this ‘narratology’ may be distinguished. The one is oriented towards the ‘story’ as signified (‘what happened’: cf. especially the work of Greimas and Bremond, looking back to Propp's famous Morphology of the Folktale); the other is oriented rather towards the narrative as signifier (‘the way it is told’: Stanzel, Genette, in the line of the Russian formalists, Henry James, and E. M. Forster). Both approaches have been widely applied in classical studies, but the first has perhaps been more successful in the anthropological study of myth (see mythology), the second in literary studies, in that it focuses on the rhetorical construction of the work rather than its underlying functional structure. The sophisticated armoury of methods that is modern narratology is one of the products of structuralism and semiotics, and like those more general movements it has in recent times been subject to qualifications and criticisms from post-structuralists and from reception theorists and students of literary pragmatics with their greater focus on the audience or readership of a work.

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