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Chapter 12 - Narrative worlds

H. Porter Abbott
Affiliation:
University of California, Santa Barbara
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Summary

Narrative space

In Chapter One, I noted that even when you look at pictures you often see narrative. In fact, many pictures cannot be understood without this narrative reflex. Now I want to reverse this insight for one that is equally true: we grasp narrative of any length not only in time but in space as well. The case is easy to make in film and drama. Filmed narrative, after all, is a matter of “moving pictures.” And even plays on a bare stage present us with characters in spatial relations that shift over narrative time. Nonetheless, it was perhaps in part because the plays he watched were performed on a bare stage that Aristotle featured what he called the muthos or, roughly, the course of the action. Since then, most studies of narrative (including this one) have tended to follow Aristotle in his emphasis. Yet, however true it may be that narrative is the representation of events in time, it is no less true that these representations are in space as well.

I'm only speculating, but it could be that the neglect of space in the study of narrative may have come from the fact that narrative scholars, especially in the early years, tended to focus on verbal narrative, oral and written. These are forms where the audience cannot physically see what's happening. Or it may have come from an emphasis on suspense, the engine of narrative.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2008

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  • Narrative worlds
  • H. Porter Abbott, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Book: The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative
  • Online publication: 05 June 2014
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511816932.014
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  • Narrative worlds
  • H. Porter Abbott, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Book: The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative
  • Online publication: 05 June 2014
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511816932.014
Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

  • Narrative worlds
  • H. Porter Abbott, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Book: The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative
  • Online publication: 05 June 2014
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511816932.014
Available formats
×