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Narrative Analysis

ENGL 260.401
instructor(s):
TR 3-4:30

Text: Michael Toolan, Narrative: a critical linguistic introduction. 2nd edition London: Routledge, 2001. Available at Penn Bookstore.

The course will develop our understanding of narrative structure on the basis of oral narratives of personal experience, told by speakers from a wide range of geographic backgrounds and social classes. It will link the principles governing oral narratives to the narratological examination of myth, literature and film by Propp, Greimas, Prince, Chatman, and others. The course will link with the concerns and interests of the course on Narratology taught by Prof. Gerald Prince in the spring of 2003. The general theory includes an analysis of the organization of temporal sequencing, the evaluation of the narrative events, the polarization of participants, the maintenance of credibility, and the underlying theory of causality that links the chain of events reported. A central theme of the class will be the general principles of interest: the study of what makes a narrative interesting, what holds the attention of the audience or the reader, and the relation between interest and entertainment. The principles that emerge from the study of oral narrative will be re-examined in literary narrative, including Scandinavian, Greek and Hebrew epics, medieval romances, and modern novels, with attention to the differences between vernacular, literary and academic style. The class will then consider the narratives written for children of elementary school age, particularly those designed to reflect the cultural and linguistic framework of African American children.