Narratology enters the blogosphere

November 23, 2007

I would like to change gears a little bit here and delve into a conversation on Narratology, a relative new field dealing with narrative and its transmedial aspects. A leading author on the topic, Marie-Laure Ryan, defines a new definition of narratology for the contemporary transmedial world of today in her book Avatars of Story. I would like to start by quoting her definition of story and narrative:


“Story, like narrative discourse, is a representation, but unlike discourse it is not a representation encoded in material signs. Story is a mental image, a cognitive construct that concerns certain types of entities and relations between these entities. Narrative may be a combination of story and discourse, but it is its ability to evoke stories to the mind that distinguishes narrative discourse from other text types.” (p5, Avatars of Story)


Using this definition we can expand the concept of narrative to include more abstract media such as music, where the story is not specifically established but rather our absorption of the melodies are interpreted through narrative means. Ryan acknowledges this through identifying the terms we use to describe musical narrative such as exposition, complication, and resolution. What I find extremely intriguing about her approach to narrative is that she sees it more as a scalar rather than a binary feature. Basically she is of the mind that rather than being or not being a narrative, something (that being a musical score to a novel to a film) falls under a level of narrativity, basically it has a level of storiness that makes it more or less a narrative. What is useful about this definition, and this relates to a recent comment made on my Art or art post by Kaz, is that it removes the debate on whether something is or isn’t a narrative and places the emphasis on how different narratives relate.

            This will become extremely important when we start to look at how the internet functions as a medium of artistic expression. The internet will allow for the audience to become participants in a much more constructive and collaborative way. I bring this up because I think that the exploration of narratology, the storiness of a work of are despite the medium, will have a big impact in looking at how blogs will function as their own style of literature. It is the thesis of my thesis that blogs should be treated as a new genre of writing, something to be compared with poetry or pros. I believe that the largest element that differs the blog from other forms of literature is the blog’s ability to allow for collaborative creation. Unfortunately one only speaks in potentials at this stage and my research has yet to show me established artistic blogs, comparable to say the New York Times Best Seller List, but I doubt that that is entirely true so I ask my readership for help at this point. Show me the hidden treasures of the blogosphere.



Narrative Blogs

November 17, 2007

Narratology, ie the study of narrative, is fairly new and somewhat controversial in the world of critical theory. For reasons that I am only beginning to understand, narratology takes the point of view that a narrative, that which is loosely defined as a story, can exist in any medium, that even music follows a narrative pattern, classical music that is. They are not saying that all music is a narrative at its base but they are saying that a narrative can exist in music and can be expressed by it. Now this idea becomes very interesting because it is something that connects all forms of art. Perhaps the only thing beyond the title of art and the various descriptions of different movements, is narrative. Does it truly exist and some super connection between mediums?

Well I bring this up now because in placing blogs as a medium we have to make sure they fit this mold, and obviously enough they do. However there is something interesting in blogs, that is their innate ability to disrupt one chain of thought with the hyperlink. Blogs being based on hypertext fundamentally do not have to follow a narrative path. Now one could argue that that is true as well as the narrative existence in a blog, that they both can exist, like classical and modern compositions are both music yet one doubles as a narrative. And that is true. But the existence of classical music as a narrative was designed that way, and introduced to its audience that way. Blogs cannot be compared to that because they work fundementally different. When one stumbles upon a blog they rarely stumble upon that first post, I know for myself I did not start receiving views until I posted on journalism, thus it is extremely rare for someone to start reading a blog with the start of the blogs narrative, but not impossible. However this brings up a very important difference between blogs and almost all other types of art, the interaction with the reader. Blogs are not stand alone art works, they exist as art based on their interaction with readers. This last point is very debatable, but what isn’t is that blogs are not linear, even if the creator’s intent is a linear blog, few readers will approach it as such.

A second interesting difference or rather challenge to the idea of narrative in blogs is the influence of the comments, if you have a blogger who is slowly publishing a novel through their blog by publishing each chapter, say each week, that narrative they are developing will be interrupted by the commentary received through replies to the posts.  Yes it is still a narrativ, but it is an evolving narrative, one that one could say is self reflexive, always evolving and reestablishing itself.

These ideas of mine, that of comparing blogs to narratology, are not just my own but rather represent my initial thoughts upon starting to read Avatars of Story by Marie-Laure Ryan, a narratologist with some very interesting ideas.