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Avatars of Story

Marie-Laure Ryan
Volume: 17
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Avatars of Story
    Book Description:

    Marie-Laure Ryan moves beyond literary works to examine other media, especially electronic narrative forms, revealing how story, a form of meaning that transcends cultures and media, achieves diversity by presenting itself under multiple avatars. Ryan considers texts such as the reality television show Survivor, the film The Truman Show, and software-driven hypertext fiction, and anticipates the time when media will provide new ways to experience stories.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9786-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xxiv)

    The recent explosion of “media,” “new media,” and “comparative media” studies at universities all over the world is premised on the belief that the introduction of a new technology that affects the creation, preservation, and transmission of a certain type of information represents a revolutionary change with potential implications for multiple aspects of life: the economy, social relations, political systems, knowledge and scholarship, art and entertainment, and through all these domains, for that elusive experience that we call “identity,” “sense of self,” or “subjectivity.” The development of some information technologies, such as writing and print, had indeed far-reaching consequences for...

  5. I. Narrative in Old Media

    • 1. Narrative, Media, and Modes
      (pp. 3-30)

      Academic disciplines, unlike people, usually don’t have birthdays, but if one could be given to narratology, it would fall on the publication date of issue 8 of the French journalCommunicationsin 1966. The issue contained articles by Claude Bremond, Gérard Genette, A. J. Greimas, Tzvetan Todorov, and Roland Barthes. (One of Genette’s favorite stories is that Barthes’s invitation to contribute to this issue was the incentive that resulted in his lifelong dedication to narrative.) In his contribution, “L’Analyse structurale du récit,” Barthes wrote:

      The narratives of the world are numberless. . . . Able to be carried by articulated...

    • 2. Drawing and Transgressing Fictional Boundaries
      (pp. 31-58)

      Fiction lies at the intersection of two fundamental modes of thinking. One is narrative, the set of cognitive operations that organizes and explains human agency and experience. Fiction does not necessarily fulfill all the conditions of narrativity that I have spelled out in chapter 1, but it must create a world by means of singular existential propositions, and it must offer, to the very least, an embryonic story.¹ The other mode of thinking is what we may variously call “off-line thinking,” “virtual thinking,” or “non factual thinking”: the ability to detach thought from what exists and to conduct mental experiments...

    • 3. Narrative in Fake and Real Reality TV
      (pp. 59-77)

      If the producers of the so-called reality TV shows have any say in defining reality, Jean Baudrillard and Michel Foucault are not merely towering figures of postmodern thought; they are the true prophets of this young millennium. By placing human subjects under the never-ending surveillance of cameras, and by labeling the resulting spectacle reality, these shows seem to have been conceived for the specific purpose of implementing Foucault’s dystopic vision of a panoptic society, and Baudrillard’s doctrine of the (hyper) reality of the image in contemporary culture. Postmodern theory tells us that “reality” is what comesoutof the media,...

    • 4. Narrative in Real Time
      (pp. 78-94)

      Life is lived looking forward, but it is told looking backward. Whether invented or experienced, events are normally emplotted retrospectively. Knowledge of the outcome shapes the narrator’s selection and evaluation of the preceding states and events; the crisis to be highlighted determines the exposition and the complication; the point to be made specifies the arguments to be used. While the laws of material causality operate forward, the laws of narrative, artistic, textual, or more generally of communicative causality operate overwhelmingly backward.

      Modern literature attempts to reconcile the prospective orientation of life with the retrospective orientation of narrative through the use...

  6. II. Narrative in New Media

    • 5. Toward an Interactive Narratology
      (pp. 97-125)

      InCybertext,a book whose contribution to digital textuality truly deserves to be called ground-breaking, Espen Aarseth attempts to analyze two types of digital texts, hypertext fiction and text-based adventure games (also known as interactive fiction) according to the parameters of what he calls the “communication model of classical narrative” (1997, 93): a transaction involving a real author, an implied author, a narrator, a narratee, an implied reader, and a real reader.¹ He suggests some adjustments, such as redefining the relations between the parameters for hypertext (the author no longer controls the narrator, the reader no longer identifies with the...

    • 6. Interactive Fiction and Storyspace Hypertext
      (pp. 126-147)

      We all know that computers are programmable machines. This means, technically, that they execute commands, one after the other, in a tempo controlled by the pulses of an internal clock. This also means, in the domain of artistic expression, that the behavior of digital objects is regulated by the invisible code of a program. This program often plays a double role: it presides over the creation of the text, and it displays it on the screen. If we regard dependency on the hardware of the computer as the distinctive feature of digital media, then the various types of text-creating and...

    • 7. Web-Based Narrative, Multimedia, and Interactive Drama
      (pp. 148-180)

      In the early to mid-1990s, computer systems underwent two developments that deeply affected digital textuality: the ability to encode and transmit visual and aural data efficiently; and the ability to connect personal computers into a world-spanning network. The textual consequences of these new features are publicly posted on millions of Internet pages. Though Web pages implement the same hypertextual architecture as Storyspace fiction, they differ significantly from the latter in their linking philosophy and graphic appearance. From a visual point of view, the major design characteristic of Web pages is what Bolter and Grusin have called their “hypermediated structure”: the...

    • 8. Computer Games as Narrative
      (pp. 181-203)

      In this chapter, I propose to revisit a question that has split, but also animated and energized, the young academic discipline of video game studies: is the concept of narrative applicable to computer games, or does the status of an artifact as game preclude its status as narrative? This dilemma has come to be known as the ludology versus narrativism (or narratology) controversy. But the terms are slightly misleading, because the ludology camp enrolls the support of some influential narratologists, while the so-called narratology camp includes both straw men constructed by the ludologists to promote their position and game designers...

    • 9. Metaleptic Machines
      (pp. 204-230)

      Metalepsis, a rhetorical and narrative figure described as early as the seventeenth century,¹ has become one of the favorite conceptual toys of postmodern culture and contemporary critical discourse. In this chapter I propose to explore its special affinities with computers, as well as its multiple manifestations in digital culture. Before I get to computers, however, let me survey other areas of metaleptic activity, starting with its literary homeland.

      To explain the concept of metalepsis, I will resort to the metaphor of the stack (Figure 15), a metaphor that should be familiar to every computer programmer.² A stack is a multileveled...

  7. Notes
    (pp. 231-248)
  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 249-264)
  9. Index
    (pp. 265-276)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 277-277)