DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-M031-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved February 26, 2020, from

Article Summary

Narrative, in its broadest sense, is the means by which a story is told, whether fictional or not, and regardless of medium. Novels, plays, films, historical texts, diaries and newspaper articles focus, in their different ways, on particular events and their temporal and causal relations; they are all narratives in the above sense. Accounts of mathematical, physical, economic or legal principles are not. A narrower sense of narrative requires the presence of a narrator mediating between audience and action, and contrasts with imitative discourse wherein the action is presented directly, as in drama. The boundary between narration narrowly construed and imitation is disputed, some writers arguing that apparently imitative forms are covertly narrated.

Attempts have been made to characterize fictional narratives in linguistic terms; another view is that fictions are things which have certain (intended or actual) effects on the audience. Theorists of narrative have mostly concentrated on narratives of the fictional kind and have developed a complex taxonomy of the various narrative devices, some of which are discussed in more detail below. Recently, pressure has been placed on the distinction between historical and fictional narrative by those who believe that history is nothing distinct from the various and conflicting narrative versions we have. It has also been argued that value accrues to an agent’s life and acts when those acts conform to a conception of that life as exemplifying narrative.

    Citing this article:
    Currie, Gregory. Narrative, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-M031-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
    Copyright © 1998-2020 Routledge.

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