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date: 17 May 2021

Narratology, narrativitylocked

  • Fred Everett Maus


Terms referring respectively to the study and intrinsic quality of narrative; recently, and especially from the 1980s on, these concepts have been applied to musical studies in various ways.

Narratology, the study of narrative, is associated historically with east European formalism and European structuralism, intellectual movements that borrowed tools from social science, especially linguistics, for the study of many aspects of culture. Formalists and structuralists studied different kinds of story-telling such as myth and literary fiction in order to discover recurring patterns, much as grammarians study a language to discover the principles of its well-formed utterances. (Barthes, Chatman, Genette, Greimas, Propp and Todorov provide characteristic examples of these approaches; classic surveys include Ehrlich and Culler.) Narrativity is the quality of some artefact that makes it an example of narrative or, in some usages, a quality that creates a resemblance to narrative.

Formalist and structuralist work emphasized that story-telling follows norms of which story-tellers and audiences may not be conscious, just as speakers of a language unconsciously follow grammatical norms. These norms of story-telling constitute a layer of intervention, perhaps of arbitrary or mutable convention, that shapes individual narrative representations. When a story seems like an accurate account of the world, or a satisfying fiction, this is partly because it meets the appropriate norms of story-telling; some of these may be general constraints on narrative, others may be specific to certain times and places. Thus, as writers in formalist and structuralist traditions maintained, it can be important to recognize and perhaps question the narrative norms that shape historical or biographical story-telling, and to discern the recurring patterns that make fictional works seem whole....

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