Annotated Bibliography #12

Got a big one today. A big, useful one.

Cavazza, Marc and David Pizzi. “Narratology for Interactive Storytelling: A Critical Introduction.” Technologies for Interactive Digital Storytelling and Entertainment: Third International Conference, TIDSE 2006, Darmstadt, Germany, December 4-6, 2006. Proceedings, Edited by Stefan Göbel, Rainer Malkewitz, and Ido Iurgel, Springer, 2006, DOI: 10.1007/11944577.

Cavazza and Pizzi’s paper covers the effective usage of narratology elements in understanding Interactive Storytelling (IS) design while surveying the relationship between the two over the development of both IS and narratology as a whole.

The section following the introduction is titled “Aristotle and the Foundations of Drama Theory.” This section posits that Aristotle provided one of the first analysis of a traditional drama that had remained virtually unchallenged up to at least the 20th century. However, the Aristotelian model does not accommodate for much in the way of agency and IS theorists posit a neo-Aristotelian structure for IS. While Aristotle’s work is fundamental to the understanding of the evolution or narratology regarding IS, it provides theoretical challenges because it does not account for the agency required for IS projects.

The following section, “Propp and the Formalist Turn” covers an evolution in the thinking of narrative through the contributions of Vladimir Propp who worked with structural analysis and symbolic notation regarding Russian folktales. By breaking down these narratives and crafting systems of classification, formalist approach to narrative became more common. The section describes Propp’s approach to exploring these Russian folktales which seem to boil down to a sort of formula of story that lacks branching functions. This lack of branching is remarked on by the authors of the paper, however. While Propp’s approach is important and illuminating for its breakdown of formal elements of folklore, it is merely a chapter in the larger development of narratology.

With the next section, “Greimas: A Linguistic Perspective on Narrative Analysis,” we turn to semiotics and their role in the development of narratology. Algirdas Julien Greimas’ works were not geared specifically toward understanding the structure of narrative, but was a result of his work within semiotics. He introduced what is described as “the first role-based analysis of narratives” that stems from his explorations on semiotic oppositions. Roland Barthes suggested of Greimas’ proposal of defining and categorizing characters was based not on who they are, but by what they would do. Greimas’ work focuses on archetypes of oppositions, such as Hero vs Sought-for Person, or Helper vs. Opponent. In a few ways this sort of breakdown evokes the concept of the monomyth, which is not mentioned in this paper overall, however, it feels important to note for my own exploration further. Continuing with Greimas, however, his interest in this model of binary opposition plays out in thematic investment. Semiotically speaking, these roles have their attachments from the specific perspective from which they are viewed, such as the case of a philosophical approach, or a Marxist approach, for example. One’s perspective affects the reading of these binaries. While Greimas’ work is key and it often cited, it is not directly associated with IS.

In the section titled “Barthes and the Interpretative Codes” the authors turn to Roland Barthes, another theorist in semiotics who also made huge contributions to the study of narratology. In particular, Barthes published a great deal of work using structuralist analysis to explore classic and, for the 1970s, contemporary literature. As a structuralist, Barthes studied the syntagmatic and paradigmatic components of narrative. Barthes’ syntagmatic approach builds on Propp’s work in linear sequencing by introducing moments of potential choice based. For a paradigmatic approach, Barthes goes beyond Propp. The following is based on some theory I am still trying to wrestle with, but I’ll explain it to the best of my ability. For Barthes, narrative action was not constrained by moments, but rather have the “dimension of the semantic field” (p. 76). In a sense, these semiotic moments encompass multiple dimensions and occurrences that are not necessarily linear. For example, murder does not only encompass the action of murder, but the surrounding events such as motivation, build up, and the fallout from the murder. These events are semantically related but are not necessarily locked toward Propp’s notion of a continuous sequence. Barthes’ narrative theory is particularly interesting due to the usage of five “codes”; ACTion, REFerence, SYMbolic, SEMantic, and HERmeneutic. This is something I will need to explore further, and I would like to read it in Barthes’ own writing.

The final section, titled “Bremond and the Reintroduction of Characters” explores the work of Claude Brémond, a French narratologist. Brémond’s contribution to the field of narratology specifically centered around character roles. Like Barthes, Brémond uses the semiotic in the development of the Agent and the Patient, essentially the dichotomy of an active character vs. a passive one. However, Brémond emphasizes that the Agent and Patient states are liminal and in the course of a narrative that characters can drift between them. Of course, with any theory, it is not so clean and tidy, as Brémond introduces a great many sub-roles in the larger roles of Agent and Patient. Beyond this, Brémond’s model becomes more complicated as characters themselves, beyond their Agent/Patient roles, also have motivations and psychology to account for. Additionally, one must take into account, for example, that Patients can become satisfied or dissatisfied based on their needs. This, of course, means that one can approach each character as a fully formed entity in writing. For IS, in particular, Brémond’s model would factor in a great deal toward dialogue trees and sequences of the like, where a fleshed out character’s agency and motivations should have an effect on how the dialogue exchange is handled.

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