1.4.  Basic Directions in Analysis



In which sense can we analyze narrative?  How can we begin?  From the definition of narrative we have proposed, "the representation of a series of events", we already see that narratives are composite entities in a number of senses.  In the definition we mention a series of events: therefore, the narrative can be analyzed into the events that compose it.  Also, these events can be studied according to their position with respect to each other.  In a series of events some are at the beginning, some in the middle, some at the end.  So, in our first approach, a narrative consists of a number of successive parts: it has a longitudinal structure of time and actions.  This "horizontal" approach to narrative description is analogous to syntactic analysis in linguistic studies; we shall call it the syntagmatic  direction in analysis. 


            A narrative, then, is made of juxtaposed parts.  But it is a compound in other senses, too, and can be analyzed in more ways than one.  Let us note that in our definition a narrative is not "a series of events", but "the representation  of a series of events".  Here the composite nature of narrative appears not as a number of succesive parts, in length or horizontally, but, as it were, vertically, in depth:   the narrative is not that which it seems to be; it is only a sign.  This "vertical" direction in analysis leads us from the sign to its signification; the basic movement here is interpretation, and therefore we will call this the hermeneutic  direction in narrative analysis.  What we get in a narrative text are not events as such, but representations of events.  Here an infinite amount of complexity begins to appear.  In which way are the events represented?  How is the narrative similar or different from the events it represents?  The following chapters will largely consist of possible answers to these questions. 


            We see, then, that the very definition of narrative leads us into the beginning of analysis, and in several directions at once.  We shall examine different theories which analyze narratives either syntagmatically, or hermeneutically, or both.  As far as syntagmatic analysis is concerned, we have spoken so far of beginning, middle, and end.  Other concepts will complicate this simple account of parts.  As far as hermeneutic analysis is concerned, we may speak of levels of analysis.  The description of the structure of a narrative work requires several levels of analysis.  So far, our definition distinguishes at least two levels: if narrative is a semiotic representation of a series of events, one level of analysis will examine the events represented.  The structure of the representation involves study at another level. 

             These levels are theoretical constructs,  conceptual tools which allow a theorist to make sense of a text, of the reader's response to a text or of other theorists' constructs.  The ideal description does not exist in vacuo : only in relationship to a particular theoretical project.  In a study of this kind, in which actual responses to a text are examined as a way to test some concepts of hermeneutic theory, it will be convenient to steer a middle course between the concepts most commonly used in nontheoretical textual description and a semiological description of a text which would comprehend both narratology and hermeneutics. 

            We will posit three main levels for the description of narrative literary work: action , narrative , and discourse .  These levels have an Aristotelian ancestry (práxis , mythos  and diégesis, in Poetics 1450a, 1459b), and have been developed in various ways in contemporary theories of narrative. The model I propose is closest to those described by Cesare Segre (1976, 14) and  Mieke Bal (1977).

            We shall find that the narratological theories often differ when it comes to defining these levels.  Some theorists will distinguish two levels of analysis, others speak of three or four levels.  Mieke Bal tells us that there are three basic levels of analysis of narrative: fabula, story, and text;  Tomashevski only speaks of two, fabula and siuzhet.  In fact, this problem appears in all areas of literary study.  Theories which are presumably about "the same" often turn out to be different.  Let us concentrate for one moment on this issue of identity and difference.