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Stylistics Week 7: Narrative Structure

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Stephen Pihlaja

on 5 September 2013

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Transcript of Stylistics Week 7: Narrative Structure

What events happen in the section of the novel?
 How is the narrator oriented towards time?
In what ways does this paragraph follow (and not follow) Labov's narrative structure?
I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up. I had just gotten over a serious illness that I won’t bother to talk about, except that it had something to do with the miserably weary split-up and my feeling that everything was dead. With the coming of Dean Moriarty began the part of my life you could call my life on the road. Before that I’d often dreamed of going West to see the country, always vaguely planning and never taking off. Dean is the perfect guy for the road because he actually was born on the road, when his parents were passing through Salt Lake City in 1926, in a jalopy, on their way to Los Angeles. First reports of him came to me through Chad King, who’d shown me a few letters from him written in a New Mexico reform school. I was tremendously interested in the letters because they so naively and sweetly asked Chad to teach him all about Nietzsche and all the wonderful intellectual things that Chad knew. At one point Carlo and I talked about the letters and wondered if we would ever meet the strange Dean Moriarty. This is all far back, when Dean was not the way he is today, when he was a young jailkid shrouded in mystery. Then news came that Dean was out of reform school and was coming to New York for the first time; also there was talk that he had just married a girl called Marylou.
1. Abstract: “one or two clauses summarizing the whole story”
2. Orientation: “at the outset, it is necessary to identify in some way the time, place, persons and their activity or the situation”
3. Complicating Action: “a series of temporally ordered clauses which we may call narrative clauses”
4. Evaluation: “the means used by the narrator to indicate the point of the narrative, its raison d’être: why it was told, and what the narrator is getting at”

Types of evaluation:
External: “the narrator can stop the narrative, turn to the listener, and tell him what the point is”
Embedding: somebody says something. The narrator
quotes the sentiment as something occurring to him at the moment rather than addressing it to the listener
or quotes himself as addressing someone else
or introduces a third person who evaluates the antagonist’s actions
Evaluative action: tell what people did rather than what they said
Evaluation by suspension of the action: “the listener’s attention is suspended, and the resolution comes with much greater force”

5. Result/resolution: “the termination of the series of events in ‘complicating action’ “
6.Coda: “signals that the narrative is finished... may also contain general observations or show the effects of the event on the narrator”
1: Narrative is the primary means of comprehension and expression for our experience of events changing over time.

2: Narrative time is subjective, not objective; elastic, not metronomic.

3: Event selection and event sequencing are two crucial functional elements of narrative construction, and they are reciprocally related to the subjective experience of time described in the narrative.

4: A narrative is re-presentation of reality from a particular perspective: reality reconfigured to express meaning.

5: Oral narratives always have structure. The prototypical six-part structure as described by Labov and Waletzky includes Abstract, Orientation, Complication, Evaluation, Resolution, and Coda.

6: In practice this structure is subject to reconfiguration as meaning is socially situated.

7: Narrative is implicated in the efficient organization and encoding of memory.

8: Narrative is implicated in planning and problem-solving abilities.

9: Following from the two points above, we can locate narrative at the heart of the learning process.
From Paul Hazel 'Introduction to Narrative' (pg. 8)


Read Labov & Hazel posted on Moodle.
Exercise for Week 3
Read the whole first section of 'On the road' (eBook pages 4–7) http://tinyurl.com/bqw4dwf
Using examples from the text, comment on one element of the narrative structure, either from Hazel's summary of Narrative or Labov's narrative structure.
Week 7
Think of your favourite story or novel. Can you think of the main events that happen in the story?
Could the events be changed around? How? How would changing the sequence of events change the meaning of the story?
 What relationships do the events have to each other?
Activity 1
Narrative (a Summary)
Labov's Narrative Structure
For Seminar
by Jack Keroac (First paragraph)
On the Road
Activity 2
Narrative Structure
Full transcript