Narratology is the study of narrative and narrative structure and the ways that these affect our perception.[1] While in principle the word may refer to any systematic study of narrative, in practice its usage is rather more restricted.[citation needed] It is an anglicisation of French narratologie, coined by Tzvetan Todorov (Grammaire du Décaméron, 1969).[2] Narratology is applied retrospectively as well to work predating its coinage. Its theoretical lineage is traceable to Aristotle (Poetics) but modern narratology is agreed to have begun with the Russian Formalists, particularly Vladimir Propp (Morphology of the Folktale, 1928), and Mikhail Bakhtin's theories of heteroglossia, dialogism, and the chronotope first presented in The Dialogic Imagination (1975).


The origins of narratology lend to it a strong association with the structuralist quest for a formal system of useful description applicable to any narrative content, by analogy with the grammars used as a basis for parsing sentences in some forms of linguistics. This procedure does not however typify all work described as narratological today; Percy Lubbock's work in point of view (The Craft of Fiction, 1921) offers a case in point.[citation needed]

In 1966 a special issue of the journal Communications proved highly influential, becoming considered a program for research into the field and even a manifesto.[3][4] It included articles by Barthes, Claude Brémond, Genette, Greimas, Todorov and others, which in turn often referred to the works of Vladimir Propp[3][4] (1895–1970).

Jonathan Culler (2001) describes narratology as comprising many strands

implicitly united in the recognition that narrative theory requires a distinction between "story," a sequence of actions or events conceived as independent of their manifestation in discourse, and "discourse," the discursive presentation or narration of events.'[5]

The Russian Formalists first proposed such a distinction, employing the couplet fabula and sujet. A subsequent succession of alternate pairings has preserved the essential binomial impulse, e.g. histoire/discours, histoire/récit, story/plot. The Structuralist assumption that one can investigate fabula and sujet separately gave birth to two quite different traditions: thematic (Propp, Bremond, Greimas, Dundes, et al.) and modal (Genette, Prince, et al.) narratology.[6] The former is mainly limited to a semiotic formalization of the sequences of the actions told, while the latter examines the manner of their telling, stressing voice, point of view, transformation of the chronological order, rhythm and frequency. Many authors (Sternberg, 1993,[7] Ricoeur, 1984, and Baroni, 2007)[8] have insisted that thematic and modal narratology should not be looked at separately, especially when dealing with the function and interest of narrative sequence and plot.

James Phelan, editor of Narrative (the journal of the International Society for the Study of Narrative), has written numerous books and articles on narrative theory (see reference list). With Frederick Luis Aldama, Brian McHale and Robyn Warhol, Phelan directs Project Narrative at The Ohio State University:)

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