Summary and Keywords
Narratology studies what all and only possible narratives have in common as well as what allows them to differ from one another qua narratives, and it attempts to characterize the narratively pertinent set of rules and norms governing narrative production and processing. This structuralist-inspired endeavor began to assume the characteristics of a discipline in 1966 with the publication of the eighth issue of Communications, which was devoted to the structural analysis of narrative and included contributions by the French or francophone founders of narratology. In its first decades, or what has come to be viewed as its classical period, narratology dedicated much of its attention to characterizing the constituents of the narrated (the “what” that is represented), those of the narrating (the way in which the “what” is represented), and the principles regulating their modes of combination. Though classical narratology had ambitions to be an autonomous branch of poetics rather than a foundation for critical commentary and a handmaid to interpretation, the narrative features that it described made up a toolkit for the study of particular texts and fostered a considerable body of narratological criticism. Besides, by encouraging the exploration of the theme of narrative as well as the frame that narrative constitutes, it contributed to the so-called narrative turn, which is the reliance on the notion “narrative” to discuss not only representations but any number of activities, practices, and domains. In part because of the influence of narratological criticism and that of other disciplines; in part because of its biases and insufficiencies; and in part because of its very concerns, goals, and achievements, classical narratology went through important changes and evolved into postclassical narratology. The latter, which rethinks, refines, expands, and diversifies its predecessor, comes in many varieties, including feminist narratology, which exposes the way sex, gender, and sexuality affect the shape of narrative; cognitive narratology, which examines those aspects of mind pertaining to narrative production and processing; natural narratology, in which experientiality, the evocation of experience, is the determining element of narrativity; and unnatural narratology, which concentrates on nonmimetic or anti-mimetic narratives and tests the precision or applicability of narratological categories, distinctions, and arguments. Other topics—for example the links between geography and narrative or the narratological differences between fictional and nonfictional narrative representations—have lately evoked a good deal of interest. Ultimately, whatever the specific narratological variety or approach involved, narratologists continue to try and develop an explicit, complete, and empirically or experimentally grounded model of their singularly human object.
Access to the complete content on Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription. If you are a student or academic complete our librarian recommendation form to recommend the Oxford Research Encyclopedias to your librarians for an institutional free trial.
If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.