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IM1 – Reading #04

So this week we had 2 required readings, and I’ll start off by discussing the first; Avatars of Story by Marie-Laure Ryan. 

Not going to lie to you, people of the internet, but I did have to read this a few time to catch the gist of what was going on here (would you cut me a break if I told you I was sick??) Anyways, the reading was about ‘Defining Narrative’. Literally. That’s what the sub heading was.

According to Ryan, the past few years for the word ‘Narrative’, have been some seriously confusing times, with no one really having a solid definition. For the sake of this reading, Ryan has use the H. Porter Abbott understanding of ‘narrative’, which “…reserves the term ‘narrative’ for the combination of story and discourse and defines its two components as follows: “story is an event or sequence of events (the action), and narrative discourse is those events as represented”” (6).
Basically, according to this concept, narrative “…is the textual actualisation of story, while story is narrative in virtual form” (6).
Furthermore, Ryan goes on to speak of story, relating it to narrative discourse (being a representation), but highlights it’s differences. Ryan describes Story as being a ‘mental image, a cognitive construct that concerns certain types of entities and relations between these entities” (7). Where as narrative, while it is seen as story and discourse combined,  it is it’s ability to create stories in the mind of the reader, that separates it from alternative forms of texts.

Through the mid section of this document (specifically pages 7 & 8), Ryan refers to the conditions of Narrativity. While these are moth interesting and totally confusing, it was in the final paragraph of this document that a point raised caught my attention.
Ryan states that “according to cognitive scientists…most, if not all memories are indeed stored in the form of stories” (9). Ryan continues on to state that he is not implying that life is a narrative, however it “…can in certain circumstances suggest a quality that we may call narrativity” (9). So why did this stand out to me?
In our previous lecture, Adrian spoke of how our life isn’t a story. (I wrote a blog post on it here). And I do agree. We can’t control what happens…we only get to “write” our life to a certain extent, because somewhere along the way fate, chance and pure luck take over and knock over any control we may have had. (Also, as Adrian pointed out, the next time I walk outside I could be squished by a bus). But when we look back over our life, when we sit back in our chairs as one hundred year old’s, racing our wheel chairs around; we will inevitably tell anyone who is willing to listen about ‘the good ol days‘. And as we sit there, probably boring everyone to tears, it will sound like a story, because it will be our story. It had a beginning, middle and an end. It had it’s problems and it’s ups and downs, and it even had solutions – or maybe it didn’t. But it will have elements of narrativity, although it won’t be a narrative. If it was, 100 year old me would have lived a pretty crazy lifestyle.

The next extract we were given to read over was “Alien Phenomenology, or What It’s Like to Be a Thing” by Ian Bogost. I have always found extracts difficult, as obviously they are only a small part of something. Though the passages that came before it may not have added any substance to the ones we were given, I found it difficult to wrap my head around what we were given. However, from what I was able to understand, Bogost was highlighting the benefits to using Lists as opposed to language – which I gathered he meant as flowing passages. 

Bogost compares language and lists, stating that lists “…divide, or leave divided, the things they include. They offer only the relationship of accumulation… Lists refuse the connecting powers of language, in favour of a sequence of disconnected elements” (40).
When I read this extract, I feel like lists are like the rebel of the language world. Bogost speaks of them as “inexpressive” (40), which makes them “perfect tools to free us from the prison of representation…” (40).  Lists are the important parts of language, they are a brief summary of everything we need to say. As Bogost points out, no one will write a song before they go shopping.
However, lists are not just compiled of milk, bread and eggs. They are able to tell us about a person, and that persons surroundings. If I wrote a list of everything important in my room to me, not only would you get a sense of who I am as a person, you would also be able to piece together what my surroundings would look like, furthering your knowledge of my character.
A list such as this could be referred to as cataloguing, which would reveal “…a tiny part of the expanding universe”

– First Reading: [Extract] Ryan, Marie-Laure. Avatars of Story. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006.
– Second Reading: [Extract] Bogost, Ian. Alien Phenomenology, or What It’s Like to Be a Thing. Minneapolis: University Press of Minnesota, 2012.

rebeccaskilton • March 28, 2014

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