Narrativity and Textuality in the Study of Stories

Author Moshe Simon-Shoshan

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Moshe Simon-Shoshan

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Moshe Simon-Shoshan. Narrativity and Textuality in the Study of Stories. In 2013 Workshop on Computational Models of Narrative. Open Access Series in Informatics (OASIcs), Volume 32, pp. 228-237, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2013)


This paper seeks to investigate some of the defining elements of narrative. The underlying assumption of my discussion is that the terms "narrative" and "story" do not refer to clearly defined, self-enclosed genres. Rather, they are part of a spectrum which embraces all forms of texts. Similarly, narratives and stories are not independent discourses but rather are an integral part of virtually all forms of discourse, be it day-to-day conversation or more specialized discourses. In order to analyze the relationship between narratives and other modes of discourse, we introduce the concept of narrativity. Narrativity refers to a collection of textual attributes. All texts exist along a continuum of greater or lesser narrativity, depending on the number and prominence of the narrative attributes they contain. When we refer to a text as a story, we mean that it contains a critical mass of narrativity. Most theorists of narrative have defined narrativity purely in terms of "dynamism" - that is, the extent to which a text portrays transition and change. To this I have added the quality of "specificity". Specificity refers to the extent to which a text focuses on a particular time or place, a unique event, or individual people and objects. Many if not most texts contain a certain degree of narrativity. We established, however, that in order to be considered a story the text must present a sequence of at least two interrelated events that occurred once and only once in the past. In other words, a story must have a certain degree of dynamism in that it portrays the transition from at least one event to another. It must also have specificity at least to the degree that the text narrates events that happened at a fixed time in the past. This theoretical framework allows us to chart the relationship between different types of texts within a single discourse. It also gives us a vocabulary for discussing different parts of more complex narratives which often contain elements of varying narrativity. The paper then goes on to discuss the concept of narrative structure, arguing that narrative structure is not an inherent attribute of narrative texts but a framework that the reader imposes on the text in order to make it intelligible in terms of other narratives. The structure which the reader abstracts from a given narrative will be heavily dependent on the context of the narrative with in a wider discourse.
  • Narrative theory
  • definition of narrative
  • narrative structure
  • anecdotes


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