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Visual narrative and the media (Week 7)

The term ‘narrative’ simply means ‘story-telling’ which can be either spoken or written. In this modern world, narratives can be found in popular media such as film, television, radio, newspaper and so forth. They function as a way to structure and represent lived experiences. The nature of narrative can be divided  into two; story and discourse. Story is about trying to determine the key conicts, main characters, setting and events. Discourse is about how the content of a story is structured and arranged. In Aristotle on the art of poetry, he stated that  “A whole is that which has beginning, middle, and end” (Chapter 7, para 1). This forms the dramatic or a plot structure which concludes that a narrative must have a beginning, middle and an end.

In narrative, there are two types of theories. The structuralist narrative theory and the post-structuralist narrative theory. The structuralist narrative theory basically means that a narrative must be structured by following certain concepts. These concepts includes the subject which can either be the speaking subject or the subject of speech, the genre; the framework and discourses, the point of focus, temporality and the duration to describe the length of time and duration of speed. On the other hand, the post-structuralist narrative theory basically attempts to focus on the essential “incompleteness” of narrative or to simply put it, this theory goes against the narrative structure.

This is an example of  a film that has a structural narrative. The genre of this film here is an animated-fantasy cartoon. The characters involved are the princess, the prince, the fairy, the king and queen and etc. The discourses can be love, friendship, magic, marriage,violence and so on. All these makes up the paradigm. According to Daniel Chandler (2009), paradigm and syntagm are the structural forms through which signs are organized into codes. The syntagm here are simply the storyline or the plot.

In narrative, a story can be presented in two ways, through mimesis and digesis. Mimesis is the imitation of the supposed words of another, as in order to represent his or her character. In digesis, the narrator tells the story. In ‘Sleeping Beauty’, the story is being presented through digesis, which means that the story is being told from the narrator’s point of view.

Post-structuralists argues that nothing is universal and that interpretation of meaning is not fixed. This is an example of a post-structuralism film. It is a parody of the movie ‘300’. It follows the typical structure of the ‘300’ movie but the paradigm or ideology is changed. According to Walter Fisher, a narrative must have fidelity and coherence. In ‘Meet the Spartans’, the characters in the film do not act consistently in the plot and most of the characters involved are not connected to the story at all. For example, in the movie we see Britney Spears and Ellen Degeneres popping out from no where which completely makes no sense. Therefore, there is no coherence in the film because the story does not hang together. The story itself has no or less fidelity as most of the time it does not relate to our real experiences. For example,who would believe that a Spartan soldier can do a 360 head spin or break dancing? To summarize this, in post-structuralism, meaning is not coherent as intended by the producer of the text.

References

Aristotle . Aristotle on the art of poetry .Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library: http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/AriPoet.html

Chandler, D. (2009). Semiotics For Beginners. Retrieved August, 21, 2010, from Prifysgol Aberystwyth University Website: http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/S4B/

Fulton, H. (2005). Narrative and Media. United States of America: Cambridge University Press.

Griffin, Em, (2009). A First Look At Communication Theory. Narrative Paradigm. New York: Mc Graw Hill Company.

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