Life, Stories, Narrative

Edward has good notes about the ‘my life is a narrative’ thread. Koston has good things too. No idea where this up after last week’s discussion of hammers, cause and effect, and stories are machines to narrate stories so if that’s the machine you use, then everything will look like a story. It’s a good post. It is trivial to narrate things after they have happened, but if my life is a story, (and a story is a thing narrated, that has cause and effect understandable within the story world, with sentient agents), could someone let me know how it ends please? The point is that as it is happening it is not a story, but after it’s happened, it is simple to make it a story. They are two different things.

On Ryan (1)

Grace finds the reading tough (welcome the realm of narratology), but remains unsure if, as Ryan argues, the best definition of narrative requires the context of its receivers as that which trumps anything else. Interesting problem. Is that mountain there a ‘narrative’ in this sense? If I’m a geologist? No. I can explain its presence, but explaining isn’t a narrative or story. However, if I’m indigenous and there is a story about how and why that mountain got there, and is what it is, then yes, it’s a story. In Ryan’s sense. Imogen discusses the Ryan stuff on narrative and Bogost on lists.

Lives, Stories, Narrative, Teleology

You can narrate your own life, but you do that after the fact, not during it. Just as I can narrate a football game after the fact and now infer an narrative arc, and even intentionality. However, while living my life, and even while playing the game, I am not narrating. This difference is important (in relation to understanding what narrative is, and is also the foundation of ethics) because one is always happening now and the other, even with our grammatical tricks of using the present tense, is always was. It is easy (and trivial) to infer causation afterwards, even where the causation is wrong, and causation is the heart of narrative.

The second problem arises because it makes my life the centre of how I want to think about narrative, and then there seems a small step to thinking that narrative equals the world, and if it can’t be narrated then it either can’t be understood, or doesn’t matter. This could be as simple an issue as using ‘me’ as the measuring instrument for the discussion (my life is a narrative). We can narrate anything we like about the world, but this is not the same thing as what the world is. This is similar to my point that I can narrate the ‘story’ of the match, but this is not the same thing as what the match is. To make it blunt: I can narrate sex, but I think you’re an idiot if you think that is the same thing as experiencing sex or what sex is (or love, hate, anger, joy, hunger, being drunk, coffee, blue, the sky the other night, a lover’s touch) – though it would our lives much less complicated.

In a story everything happens for a reason. Everything. The reason is to progress the story to its resolution, to what we call ‘closure’. Realist stories (and the definition of realism) is to make this highly artificial model appear natural, so that it relies on coincidence and character and various ways of representing itself (e.g. hiding the fact that it is a made up thing) so that things appear ‘like’ life. But unless you think you live in the Truman Show, our lives bear virtually no relation to stories in this sense, every day they are full of real accidents, coincidences, and, well, life. For instance, in a story, you only get sick for a reason (they’re bad, it’s a moral reflection, the story wants to consider mortality), in the real world we get sick because of ‘reasons’ but these reasons are germs, bugs, malevolent cells, etc, not because I want to consider mortality – just as many ‘bad’ people get cancer in the real world and die as ‘good’ people, it’s an unusual story that does that.

Reading 04

The last readings (Bordwell and Thompson) was about narrative, documentary, non narrative and experimental film. The things we want to think about for Korsakow, and our Korsakow films, fall closer to non narrative and the experimental. One way to think about what then to “narrate” (in scare marks as it isn’t really narrative) and as a method to compose such works in Korsakow is through the idea of the list. So, this week’s readings, which I confess are on the academic scale at the upper end, begin from Ryan’s outline of narrative and story, where we can see that diaries and the like might not, for her, fit the definition. This definition, which is independent of any particular media (unlike Bordwell and Thompsons), also emphasises the role that the reader has, where the reader’s attribution of ‘intent’ (so understanding what ‘intent’ is is important) is the clincher.

From Ryan there is an extract from the computer game and platform studies scholar Ian Bogost. He is a materialist media scholar, who argues that to understand software, media, and so on it is not enough to pay attention to meaning but also to what the things are, and what they can do. A method he proposes to begin to do this is ‘ontography’, and in the extract he discusses how lists are not narrative, and what they might do. Listing, in some form, turns out to be a very practical way to approach making, and reading, Korsakow films.

Finally there is a supplementary reading from material media archeologist Wolfgang Ernst. This is heavy going (well, he is German), and like Bogost, Ernst argues that simply studying media from the point of view of what they mean (whether sociopolitically, as texts, or for audiences doesn’t much matter) very much misses what they are.

[Extract] Ryan, Marie-Laure. Avatars of Story. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006. (PDF)

[Extract] Bogost, Ian. Alien Phenomenology, or What It’s Like to Be a Thing. Minneapolis: University Press of Minnesota, 2012. Print. (PDF)

Supplementary Reading (mega advanced)
[Extract] Ernst, Wolfgang. Digital Memory and the Archive (Electronic Mediations). Ed. Jussi Parikka. Univ Of Minnesota Press, 2012. Print. (PDF)

Reading 03

After some readings about interactive documentary and historical examples of the relationship of cinema and documentary to technology now we turn to basics. While reasonably long this is simple to read, and many of you will have read this already. It is from Bordwell, David, and Kristin Thompson. Film Art: An Introduction. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill, 2013. Print. (PDF here.)

I’ve put them all into the one document but they are an introduction to narrative, then an introduction to experimental film, and the last bit is about documentary, nonnarrative, and two nonnarrative documentary forms. We want to make more visible to ourselves what a narrative actually is, and then to think about what experimental practices can teach us to better see the role of multilinearity in general, and for our Korsakow films specifically.