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This subject is concerned with discovering what difference the medium transmitting a narrative makes to its overall import and effect. For this reason, it is clearly important for us to have some means of analyzing the features of stories in order to determine what makes two narratives that differ in several ways nonetheless count as versions of the same story. Our discussions will rely upon one of several possible models for the analysis of story-features the model developed by A. J. Greimas in chapter ten of his Structural Semantics. In particular, Greimas refers every story to a paradigm schematism involving seven basic kinds of antants. It is important to remember that an actant is not a person or even a thing but an element of narrative grammar, just as the subject or object of a verb is an element of the grammar of a sentence. There seven actants are:

  1. Subject or Agent
  2. Object
  3. Helper
  4. Antagonist
  5. Sender
  6. Receiver

We will refer both to Greimas’s exposition and also to a simplified exposition of Greimas’s analytic procedure, "Narrative Semiotics: Theory, Procedure and Illustrations" by Marlene Fiol, in Mapping Strategic Thought, edited by A. S. Huff. Copies of these two texts will be made available to students during the course of the semester. The analytical model offered in these two accounts will be referred to herein as the basic schematism of a story.

Questions for Discussion of Materials

Introduction (PDF)

Unit One (PDF)

Unit Two (PDF)

Unit Three (PDF)

Unit Four (PDF)

Unit Five (PDF)

Unit Six (PDF)

Unit Seven (PDF)

Unit Eight (PDF)

Unit Nine (PDF)

Unit Ten (PDF)

Unit Eleven (PDF)