ENGL 6470/7470 / Studies in Narratology

Spring 2015 | Room: PH 327 | Time: M 600-900


Office Hours: M: 1000-1200 am; 100-300 pm; 300-400 pm by appointment; T: 900-1200; 230-400 pm; Th: 900-1200; 230-400 pm


"Critical terms are rare pearls born of the irritation that the mind feels at not being able to account to itself for something it repeatedly encounters."—Jacques Barzun


About the Course | About David Lavery | Texts | Class Members |  Course Requirements | Power Points | Agenda Endings Blog | Websites, Links, Readings | Exemplary Narrative Texts | PDF of The Sense of an Ending

About the Course


According to the catalog description, 6470/7470

Examines modern and contemporary theories of narrative (modernist, rhetorical, structuralist, dialogical) with particular application to selected authors and texts.

In his Introduction to Narratology website, Dino Felluga observes helpfully.

Narratology examine the ways that narrative structures our perception of both cultural artifacts and the world around us. The study of narrative is particularly important since our ordering of time and space in narrative forms constitutes one of the primary ways we construct meaning in general. As Hayden White puts it, "far from being one code among many that a culture may utilize for endowing experience with meaning, narrative is a meta-code, a human universal on the basis of which transcultural messages about the nature of a shared reality can be transmitted" (Content 1). Given the prevalence and importance of narrative media in our lives (television, film, fiction), narratology is also a useful foundation to have before one begins analyzing popular culture.

And in his Glossary of Literary Terms, M. H. Abrams explains

Narratology denotes a recent concern with narrative in general. It deals especially with the identification of structural elements and their diverse modes of combination, with recurrent narrative devices, and with the analy­sis of the kinds of discourse by which a narrative gets told. This theory picks up and elaborates upon many topics in traditional treatments of fictional narratives, from Aristotle's Poetics to Wayne Booth's The Rhetoric of Fiction (1961), but applies to them concepts and analytic procedures which derive from recent developments in Russian formalism and especially in French structuralism. Narratologists treat a narrative not in the traditional way, as a fictional representation of life, but as a systematic formal construction.

Subjects to be considered include

anachrony | analepsis | authors | Mikhail Bakhtin | baroque narratives | beginnings/endings | Campbell’s monomyth | crux | diegesis | dialogism | the episodic | extradiegetic | the fictional | frames | gap | genre/intertextuality | heterodiegetic | hyperdiegetic | implied authors | implied readers | intertextuality | metalepsis | mimesis | narratees | narrative DNA | paratexts | prequels | point of view | previously-on | prolepsis | Vladimir Propp | readers | reflexivity | semiotics | sequels | serials | spinoffs | spoilers | unreliable narrators | vast narratives

In keeping with the multi-media nature of our department's course offerings (and your professor), seminarians will read three books (1) the second edition of Porter Abbott's excellent and readable Cambridge Introduction to Narrative; (2) Jonathan Gray's ingenious Show Sold Separately: Promos, Spoilers, and Other Media Paratexts; and (3) Frank Kermode's magisterial The Sense of an Ending Studies in the Theory of Fiction; and consult the exhaustively comprehensive Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory.

Class Members

Nancy Blomgren [Queer Theory | The Fiction of Borges] | Bethany Boswell [Author | Magnolia] | Brandon Hardy [Point of View | Tron] | Sarah L. Campbell [xxx | Eve's Bayou] | Sara Hays [Extradiegetic Narrator | A Muppet Christmas] | Cory Hudson [Implied Author | Infinite Jest] | Cheryl Jensen [Dream Narrative | Wes Craven's New Nightmare] | Kristeena Lute [Philosophy Narrative | True Detective] | Hillary Yeager [Possible Worlds | Doctor Who]




Dr. David Lavery

Office PH 316A | Office Hours TBA | E-mail david.lavery@mtsu.edu | Office Phone/Voice-Mail 615-898-5648 | Home Page http//davidlavery.net/


Dr. Lavery is Director of Graduate Studies and Professor in the English Department at Middle Tennessee State University (1993- ). The recipient of the University's 2006 Distinguished Research Award, he is the author of over one hundred and fifty published essays, chapters, and reviews and the author / co-author / editor / co-editor of twenty-two books, including Joss Whedon, A Creative Portrait From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to The Avengers, TV Goes to Hell An Unofficial Road Map of Supernatural, The Essential Cult Television Reader, and The Essential Sopranos Reader. The co-convener of international conferences on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the work of Joss Whedon and The Sopranos; co-founder of the Whedon Studies Association and its journal Slayage and founding editor of Critical Studies in Television, he has lectured around the world on the subject of television (Australia, Turkey, the UK, Portugal, New Zealand, Ireland, Germany), been a guest/source for the BBC, NPR, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, The New York Times, A Folha de Sao Paulo (Brazil), Publica (Portugal), Information (Netherlands), AP, The Toronto Star, USA Today, and from 2006-2008 taught film and television at Brunel University in London. With MTSU's Jane Marcellus, he is the co-convener of an international symposium on Mad Men to be held in New York City in October 2015.



Click on the images to go to the Amazon page for each book or order online from any other seller. Both SSS and RENT are available electronically through the Walker Library.


 CIN | SSS                              SE | RENT



Course Requirements

Writing: Completion of any two of the following:


[1] a narratological study of a single discrete/minor work (possibilities include but are not limited to prose fiction [short stories]; one-act plays; narrative poems; an episode of a television series; an advertisement; a music video; a video game; a short film; a children's book);

[2] a narratological study of a major work/vast narrative (possibilities include but are not limited to prose fiction [novels, multi-volume novels]; a play; an epic poem; a season [or multiple seasons] of a television series; a video game; a movie/movies [including a work and its prequels/sequels, a trilogy, etc.]);

[3] a study of a major narratological concept [go here to see a list of possible choices];

[4] a study of the ending of a work of fiction, a movie, a television episode/season/series, a poem, a play, etc.;

[5] an essay-review of a book on narratology [go here to see suggested titles];

[6] a study of a major narratologist (go here to find some possible subjects);

[7] an examination of a groundbreaking/envelope-pushing/experimental/exemplary narrative (any medium). Go here to see a suggestive list.


Length:  Project A [any of the seven choices above], should be 1500 words (MA students) / 2,000 words (PhD students); the other (your choice), Project B [any of the seven choices above] should be 3,000 words (MA students) / 4,000 words (PhD students) | Weight: Project A: 30% of Grade; Project B: 40% of Grade. Due: See the course agenda. Submit via the appropriate D2L drop boxes. 

Endings Blog [15% of grade]: Each class member will contribute at least five significant posts on a blog on narrative endings. [Your posts should be completed before the last week of class.] You may write about the endings of any narrative in any medium. Nota bene: before the semester begins you will receive an invitation to become an author of the blog. Once you have accepted, you will be able to post.

Class participation [15% of grade]: (1) involvement in class discussion of daily readings; (2) presentation of a lexicon item: NLP (at each class meeting a different class member will introduce us to a term selected from the RENT in a 5 to 10 minute presentation); (3) presentation of an exemplary text of your choosing: ETP (at each class meeting a different class member will introduce us to a text approved by me [see number 7 above] in a 5 to 10 minute presentation); (4) other presentations as assigned. Nota bene: presenters may use any/all of the following in their presentations: handouts, Power Points/Prezi, audio/videoclips.   




Meeting 1 | 1/26/15: CIN  1—Narrative and Life | SSS Introduction | Power Point(s):  Syllabus | Meeting One

Meeting 2 | 2/2/15: CIN  2—Defining Narrative | SSS 1—From Spoilers to Spinoffs | SE I—The End | Power Point(s):  Meeting Two

Meeting 3 | 2/9/15: CIN 3—The Borders of Narrative | Power Point(s):  Meeting Three

Meeting 4 | 2/16/15: Class Cancelled

Meeting 5 |  2/23/15: CIN 4—The Rhetoric of Narrative | SSS 2—Coming Soon! | SE II—Fictions | Power Point(s):  Meeting Four  Genre [from ENGL 6750/7750, Film Studies] | NLP: Blomgren (Queer Theory); Boswell (Author); ETP: Yeager (Doctor Who); Lute (True Detective)

Meeting 6 | 3/1/15: CIN  5 | 3/2/15—Closure | SSS 3—Bonus Materials | Power Point(s):  Meeting Five  | ETP: Jensen (Wes Craven's New Nightmare)

3/9-14 Spring Break

Meeting 7 | 3/16/15: CIN 6—Narration | SE III—World without End or Beginning  | Power Point(s):  Meeting Six  | NLP: Hardy (Point of View); Campbell (Magic Realism); ETP: Hudson (Infinite Jest) | Writing Project Due

Meeting 8 | 3/23/15: CIN 7—Interpreting Narration | SSS 4—Under a Long Shadow | Power Point(s):  Meeting Seven | NLP: Hays (Extradiegetic Narrator)

Meeting 9 | 3/30/15:CIN 8—Three Ways to Interpret Narrative | SE IV—The Modern Apocalypse | Power Point(s):  Meeting Eight  | NLP: Hudson (Implied Author); ETP: Boswell (Magnolia); Blomgren (The Short Fiction of Borges)

Meeting 10 | 4/6/15: CIN 9—Adaptation Across Media | SSS 5—Spoiled and Mashed Up | Power Point(s):  Meeting Nine | NLP: Jensen (Dream Narrative); ETP: Hardy (Tron)

Meeting 11 | 4/13/15: CIN 10—Character and Self in Narrative | SE V—Literary Fiction and Reality | Power Point(s):  Meeting Ten  | NLP: Lute (Philosophy Narrative); ETP: Campbell (Eve's Bayou)

Meeting 12 | 4/20/15: CIN 11—Narrative and Truth | SSS 6—In the World, Just Off Screen | Power Point(s):  Meeting Eleven| NLP: Yeager (Possible Worlds); ETP: Hays (Muppet Christmas Carol)

Meeting 13 | 4/27/15: CIN 12—Narrative Worlds | SE VI—Solitary Confinement | Power Point(s):  Meeting Twelve  | Writing Project Due

Meeting 14 | 5/1-5/7 Final Exam Week] | 5/4/15: CIN 13 & 14—Narrative Contestation/Negotiation | SSS—Conclusion | SE—Epilogue | Power Point(s):  Meeting Thirteen