What narrative is

TitleWhat narrative is
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsSpeidel, K
JournalFrontiers of Narrative Studies
Paginations76 - s104
Date Published2018///
ISBN Number2509-4882
KeywordsExperimental Narratology, Intuition, Ordinary Language, Theory of Definition, Visual Narrative

Unacknowledged by its practitioners, narratology has often been revisionary rather than descriptive when categorizing narratives. This is because definitions, expert judgment and personal intuition, traditionally the main tools for categorization, are vulnerable to media blindness and to being theory loaded. I argue that to avoid revisionary accounts of ordinary everyday practices such as narrative or gameplay of which non-experts have a firm understanding, expert categorizations have to be tested against folk intuitions as they become apparent in ordinary language. Pictorial narrative in single pictures is introduced as a specific case of categorization dispute and an experiment laid out in which non-experts assess if different pictures tell stories. As the chosen pictures correspond to different criteria of narrative to varying degrees, the experiment also serves as an implicit test of these criteria. Its results confirm monochrony compatibilism, the position that single monochronic pictures can autonomously convey stories. While the pictures rated high in narrativity correspond to traditional criteria of narrative, I argue that the way in which these criteria are usually interpreted by narratologists is problematic because they exclude these pictures from the realm of narratives. It is argued that the way marginal phenomena are categorized is essential for a sound understanding of even the most paradigmatic objects of a domain because categorizations influence definitions and definitions ultimately guide interpretations.


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ENN is the European Narratology Network, an association of individual narratologists and narratological institutions. ENN aims to foster the study of narrative representation in literature, film, digital media, etc. across all European languages and cultures.