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Space Narratology

Author: LongDiYong
Tutor: ChenWei
School: Shanghai Normal University
Course: Literature and Art
Keywords: narratological study spatial turn spatial narrative spatial form image narrative character narrative
CLC: I207.42
Type: PhD thesis
Year: 2008
Downloads: 2220
Quote: 17
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Narration is a basic and inherent human impulse, with its history as long as that of human beings. It is, however, very late that narration was formally brought into research. In late 1960s, under the influence of structuralism, narratology, as a discipline, was born in due form in France. It should be admitted that, structuralist narratology, with its great achievements and far-reaching influence, its theoretical mode enables people to conduct particular and precise analysis of the complicated internal mechanism of narrative works, so as not to, due to the lack of analytical tools as before, make a rough description of the big categories such as plot and characters. Of course there are obvious limitations with structuralist narratology, which has the main manifestations as follows: (1) research objects are confined to narrative fictions while abandoning history, biography and image narrative works; (2) it separates works, to different extents, from society, history and cultural contexts. In recent years, more and more scholars have been aware of the limitations of structuralist narratology. Thus, since 1990s,“postclassical narratologies”, aiming to surpassing structuralist narratology, began to spring up in the West.“Postclassical narratologies”mainly bear the following three characteristics: (1) attaching more importance to the role of readers and social and historical context; (2) reviewing or deconstructuring some theoretical concepts of structuralist narratology; (3) stressing crossdisciplinary and cross-media research.“Classical narratology”or“postclassical narratologies”, however, both lay particular stress on study of temporal dimension while neglecting, intentionally or unconsciously, that of spatial dimension. Under the impression of the lack of the latter, I attempt to carry out an all-round and in-depth probe into narrative and space in this dissertation.This dissertation consists of three parts:“spatial turn”in narratological studies (Introduction), spatial problems relevant to narrative texts (Chapters 1~3) and narrative problems of image works as a spatial art (Chapters 4~5).In Introduction part, this dissertation points out that there exist both temporal and spatial dimensions in narratological studies, but in traditional narratological studies (no matter classical narratology or postclassical narratologies), people have neglected the latter. Now, it’s time to attach importance to studies on spatial dimension in narratological studies. In fact, narratological studies today are confronted with“spatial turn”, which reflects in both theoretical and composition practice level. In this case, it’s imperative to carry out an all-round and in-depth probe into narrative and space, and if we fail to do so, theoretical integrity and self-uniform can’t be achieved, not to mention the explanation and solution to many new phenomena and problems in fiction composition. What with an expansive field in spatial narratological studies, there is a problem domain analysis of it in the Introduction part from four aspects—narrative activity, narrative text, reading activity and image narrative.The first three chapters make discussions of spatial problems involved in narrative texts which are structured by language, a narrative medium of temporality. It should be accepted that the importance of media is self-evident to narratological studies. Media for narration can be different and inconstant, but there is no denying that language is still the dominating, the best and the most applicable narrative medium as well. Language, however, is a medium of temporality, which doesn’t fit spatial manifestation. Yet a creative impulse of human beings is to breakthrough native deficiency of medium manifestation, to represent space with medium of temporality. Chapter 1 mainly treats of internal psychological mechanism for the emergence of spatial manifestation of narrative medium of temporality, and from the perspective of the symbolic essence of language, analyzes types and idiosyncrasies of spatial manifestation. Chapter 1 stresses theoretical discussion, while the following two chapters, combined with texts respectively, conduct concrete and in-depth analysis of“spatial narrative”as a“technique”and“spatial form”as a“structure”mainly arisen in modern novels. Chapter 2 points out that, as to many modern or postmodern novelists,“space”has become a technique or instrument being consciously applied, and they not only view space as where the story happens and a necessary scene for narration, but also utilize space to represent time, to arrange the structure of the novel, and even to push forward the whole narrative process. Chapter 3 probes into“spatial form”as narrative structure of modern novels, and analyzes concretely several main types of spatial form in modern novels: box set style, ring style, chain style and orange lamella style, etc. Of course, space mentioned here is not the space of concrete objects or scenes in daily life experience, but a kind of abstract space, perceptual space and“illusory space”. Such“space”will not present in readers’consciousness until the timeline of the novel is completely raveled, and the structure of the whole novel is wholly grasped. What constitutes the key component of modern novels is time or time series.The last two chapters deal with image narrative. Chapter 4 discusses the essence of image narrative, and based on this, summarizes three modes of single image narrative. As we know, events in real life always happen in certain contexts, in particular spaces and have certain timelines. But photographers and painters move things in the form of images out of the currency of life, which leads to the decontextualized existence of images. Due to decontextualization (isolation from other things in the context) and time chain rupture, the meanings of image become suspended and undetermined. We cannot“imitate”acts, that is, attaining the aim of narration, until we restore the image to its original context or reconstruct another one, and resume the image of spatiality to time flow. Therefore, temporality of space is the essence of image narrative. As for a single image, according to its way of time management, three modes of narrative can be generalized: narration of a single scene, program narration and circular narration. There exist complex relations between image and text. Chapter 5, through a concrete review of narrative pictures, probes into an aspect of complex relations between narrative image and narrative text: image’s imitation or representation of the text. Narrative picture is a special narrative image, that is: its narrative object is not something that really happens in real life, but“story”existing in other texts. If texts imitated by narrative pictures are narrations of real or imaginary things, narrative pictures themselves are narrations of the“stories”already narrated in texts—narration in narration. The tendency of narrative pictures imitating narrative texts in the history of western art persisted to 19th century. The narrative history of western art before 20th century is, so to speak, the history of images imitating texts. This is a thorough text-centrism, a result of the thinking modes of rationalism or logos-centrism originating from ancient Greek.

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