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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-M031-2
Version: v2,  Published online: 2011
Retrieved May 19, 2024, 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 people and events and their 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 the audience and the 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 the imitative (or ‘mimetic’) mode is simply one way of storytelling, and hence counts as a kind of narrative.

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. 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, 2011, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-M031-2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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