Eng495b: Narratives and Narrative Theory

Does the meaning of a story depend on how one tells it? Do physical forms of narration (paper, voice, screen) affect how, or what, a story means? Is there a grammar of narrative, and if so, what does it look like? This course aims to answer those questions by looking at the history of the discipline known as “narratology,” tracing it from its early-ish beginnings with structuralism through to its later manifestations in the field of cyber-literature and cognitive science. We will take the different objects of our narratological analysis, from Proust to Welles to the computer game Civilization 3 to the structure of the human mind, and rub them against the grain of the theories we read, so that the media can frustrate or extend, as it were, the narrative theories we read. When, in a final gesture of self-reflexive fun, we turn our narrative eyes to the narrative theory itself, we will consider “theory” as yet another iteration of narrative possibility, one that may or may not, in the cases of the texts we read, practice what it preaches.

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