Motif (narrative)

Last updated

In narrative, a motif Loudspeaker.svg (pronunciation)   repetition, can help produce other narrative (or literary) aspects such as theme or mood. [1] [2]

Contents

A narrative motif can be created through the use of imagery, structural components, language, and other elements throughout literature. The flute in Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman is a recurrent sound motif that conveys rural and idyllic notions. Another example from modern American literature is the green light found in the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Narratives may include multiple motifs of varying types. In Shakespeare's play Macbeth , he uses a variety of narrative elements to create many different motifs. Imagistic references to blood and water are continually repeated. The phrase "fair is foul, and foul is fair" is echoed at many points in the play, a combination that mixes the concepts of good and evil. The play also features the central motif of the washing of hands, one that combines both verbal images and the movement of the actors.

In a narrative, a motif establishes a pattern of ideas that may serve different conceptual purposes in different works. Kurt Vonnegut, for example, in his non-linear narratives such as Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat's Cradle makes frequent use of motif to connect different moments that might seem otherwise separated by time and space. [3] In the American science fiction cult classic Blade Runner , director Ridley Scott uses motifs to not only establish a dark and shadowy film noir atmosphere, [4] but also to weave together the thematic complexities of the plot. Throughout the film, the recurring motif of "eyes" is connected to a constantly changing flow of images, and sometimes violent manipulations, in order to call into question our ability, and the narrator's own, to accurately perceive and understand reality. [5] [6] [7]

Narrative motifs can be ironic. For example, in Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park novel, control is a recurring motif via chapter title and topic of discussion; it's an ironic motif that is instantiated in the constant creation of the unknown and the belief that it can be controlled and contained. The irony is explained through the articulation of Dr. Ian Malcom’s dialogue.

Usage

Any number of narrative elements with symbolic significance can be classified as motifs—whether they are images, spoken or written phrases, structural or stylistic devices, or other elements like sound, physical movement, or visual components in dramatic narratives. While it may appear interchangeable with the related concept theme, [8] a general rule is that a theme is abstract and a motif is concrete. [9] A theme is usually defined as a message, statement, or idea, while a motif is simply a detail repeated for larger symbolic meaning. In other words, a narrative motif—a detail repeated in a pattern of meaning—can produce a theme; but it can also create other narrative aspects. Nevertheless, the distinction between the two terms remains difficult to pinpoint. For instance, the term "thematic patterning" has been used to describe the way in which "recurrent thematic concepts" are patterned to produce meaning, such as the "moralistic motifs" found throughout the stories of One Thousand and One Nights . [10]

See also

Related Research Articles

Film genre Classification of films based on similarities in narrative elements

A film genre is a motion-picture category based on similarities either in the narrative elements, aesthetic approach, or the emotional response to the film. Drawing heavily from the theories of literary-genre criticism, film genres are usually delineated by "conventions, iconography, settings, narratives, characters and actors". Standard genre characters vary according to the film genre; for film noir, for example, standard characters include the femme fatale and the "hardboiled" detective; a Western film may portray the schoolmarm and the gunfighter. Some actors acquire a reputation linked to a single genre, such as John Wayne or Fred Astaire. A film's genre will influence the use of filmmaking styles and techniques, such as the use of flashbacks and low-key lighting in film noir, tight framing in horror films, fonts that look like rough-hewn logs for the titles of Western films, or the "scrawled" title-font and credits of Se7en (1995), a film about a serial killer. As well, genres have associated film-scoring conventions, such as lush string orchestras for romantic melodramas or electronic music for science-fiction films.

Poetry Form of literature

Poetry is a form of literature that uses aesthetic and often rhythmic qualities of language—such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre—to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the prosaic ostensible meaning.

Symbol Something that represents an idea, a process, or a physical entity

A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that indicates, signifies, or is understood as representing an idea, object, or relationship. Symbols allow people to go beyond what is known or seen by creating linkages between otherwise very different concepts and experiences. All communication is achieved through the use of symbols. Symbols take the form of words, sounds, gestures, ideas, or visual images and are used to convey other ideas and beliefs. For example, a red octagon is a common symbol for "STOP"; on maps, blue lines often represent rivers; and a red rose often symbolizes love and compassion. Numerals are symbols for numbers; letters of an alphabet may be symbols for certain phonemes; and personal names are symbols representing individuals. The variable 'x', in a mathematical equation, may symbolize the position of a particle in space.

Melody Linear succession of musical tones in the foreground of a work of music

A melody, also tune, voice or line, is a linear succession of musical tones that the listener perceives as a single entity. In its most literal sense, a melody is a combination of pitch and rhythm, while more figuratively, the term can include successions of other musical elements such as tonal color. It may be considered the foreground to the background accompaniment. A line or part need not be a foreground melody.

Ecchi

Ecchi is an often used slang term in the Japanese language for playfully sexual actions. As an adjective, it is used with the meaning of "sexy", "dirty" or "naughty"; as a verb, ecchi suru means “to have sex” or, as a noun, to describe someone of lascivious behavior. It is perhaps softer than the Japanese word ero, and does not imply perversion in the way hentai does.

A leitmotif or leitmotiv is a "short, constantly recurring musical phrase" associated with a particular person, place, or idea. It is closely related to the musical concepts of idée fixe or motto-theme. The spelling leitmotif is an anglicization of the German Leitmotiv, literally meaning "leading motif", or "guiding motif". A musical motif has been defined as a "short musical idea ... melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic, or all three", a salient recurring figure, musical fragment or succession of notes that has some special importance in or is characteristic of a composition: "the smallest structural unit possessing thematic identity."

A narrative, story or tale is any account of a series of related events or experiences, whether nonfictional or fictional. Narratives can be presented through a sequence of written or spoken words, still or moving images, or any combination of these. The word derives from the Latin verb narrare, which is derived from the adjective gnarus. Along with argumentation, description, and exposition, narration, broadly defined, is one of four rhetorical modes of discourse. More narrowly defined, it is the fiction-writing mode in which the narrator communicates directly to the reader.

Motif (music)

In music, a motif(pronunciation)  is a short musical phrase, a salient recurring figure, musical fragment or succession of notes that has some special importance in or is characteristic of a composition: "The motive is the smallest structural unit possessing thematic identity".

In literature and writing, stylistically elements are the use of any of a variety of techniques to give an auxiliary meaning, ideas, or feeling to the literalism or written.

In contemporary literary studies, a theme is a central topic, subject, or message within a narrative. Themes can be divided into two categories: a work's thematic concept is what readers "think the work is about" and its thematic statement being "what the work says about the subject". Themes are often distinguished from premises.

Postmodern literature is a form of literature that is characterized by the use of metafiction, unreliable narration, self-reflexivity, intertextuality, and which often thematizes both historical and political issues. This style of experimental literature emerged strongly in the United States in the 1960s through the writings of authors such as Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Pynchon, Kathy Acker, and John Barth. Postmodernists often challenge authorities, which has been seen as a symptom of the fact that this style of literature first emerged in the context of political tendencies in the 1960s. This inspiration is, among other things, seen through how postmodern literature is highly self-reflexive about the political issues it speaks to.

Neo-noir is a revival of the genre of film noir. The term film noir was popularized in 1955 by French critics Raymond Borde and Étienne Chaumeton. It was applied to crime films of the 1940s and 1950s, mostly produced in the United States, which adopted a 1920s/1930s Art Deco visual environment. The English translation is dark movie, indicating something sinister and shadowy, but also expressing a cinematographic style. The film noir genre includes stylish Hollywood crime dramas, often with a twisted dark wit. Neo-noir has a similar style but with updated themes, content, style, visual elements and media.

<i>Anatomy of Criticism</i> Literary criticism book by Northrop Frye

Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays is a book by Canadian literary critic and theorist Northrop Frye that attempts to formulate an overall view of the scope, theory, principles, and techniques of literary criticism derived exclusively from literature. Frye consciously omits all specific and practical criticism, instead offering classically inspired theories of modes, symbols, myths and genres, in what he termed "an interconnected group of suggestions." The literary approach proposed by Frye in Anatomy was highly influential in the decades before deconstructivist criticism and other expressions of postmodernism came to prominence in American academia circa 1980s.

Paradigmatic analysis is the analysis of paradigms embedded in the text rather than of the surface structure (syntax) of the text which is termed syntagmatic analysis. Paradigmatic analysis often uses commutation tests, i.e. analysis by substituting words of the same type or class to calibrate shifts in connotation.

Visual design elements and principles describe fundamental ideas about the practice of visual design.

"The best designers sometimes disregard the principles of design. When they do so, however, there is usually some compensating merit attained at the cost of the violation. Unless you are certain of doing as well, it is best to abide by the principles."

Motif (visual arts)

In art and iconography, a motif is an element of an image. A motif may be repeated in a pattern or design, often many times, or may just occur once in a work.

Theme (arts)

In art, theme is usually about life, society or human nature, but can be any other subject. Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a work. Themes are usually implied rather than explicitly stated. Deep thematic content is not required in a work, but the great majority of works have some kind of thematic content, not always intended by the author. Analysis of changes in dynamic characteristics of the work can provide insight into a particular theme.

A literary trope is the use of figurative language, via word, phrase or an image, for artistic effect such as using a figure of speech. The word trope has also come to be used for describing commonly recurring literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or clichés in creative works.

A Romantic thriller or a romance thriller is a narrative that involves romance and thriller. Etymology of the word thrill comes from English root meaning “to pierce”. A thrill is a sharp sensation.

Thematic analysis is one of the most common forms of analysis within qualitative research. It emphasizes identifying, analysing and interpreting patterns of meaning within qualitative data. Thematic analysis is often understood as a method or technique in contrast to most other qualitative analytic approaches - such as grounded theory, discourse analysis, narrative analysis and interpretative phenomenological analysis - which can be described as methodologies or theoretically informed frameworks for research. Thematic analysis is best thought of as an umbrella term for a variety of different approaches, rather than a singular method. Different versions of thematic analysis are underpinned by different philosophical and conceptual assumptions and are divergent in terms of procedure. Leading thematic analysis proponents, psychologists Virginia Braun and Victoria Clarke distinguish between three main types of thematic analysis: coding reliability approaches, code book approaches and reflexive approaches. They describe their own widely used approach first outlined in 2006 in the journal Qualitative Research in Psychology as reflexive thematic analysis. Their 2006 paper has over 59,000 Google Scholar citations and according to Google Scholar is the most cited academic paper published in 2006. The popularity of this paper exemplifies the growing interest in thematic analysis as a distinct method.

References

  1. James H. Grayson. Myths and Legends from Korea: An Annotated Compendium of Ancient and Modern Materials (p. 9). New York and Abingdon: Routledge Curzon, 2000. ISBN   0-7007-1241-0.
  2. Alain Silver and James Ursini, (2004) Some Visual Motifs of Film Noir, ISBN   0-87910-197-0
  3. "Kurt Vonnegut, Jr." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Thomson Gale. 2004. HighBeam Research. 26 August 2010
  4. Blade
  5. Saini, Tinku (1996), Eye disbelieve, Tinku Saini, University of Washington, archived from the original on 2007-12-27, retrieved 2008-01-31
  6. McCoy, John (1995), The Eyes Tell All, University of Texas at Austin, archived from the original on 2013-09-16, retrieved 2008-02-01
  7. Bukatman, pp. 9–11.
  8. "WordNet 3.0". Princeton University. 2006. Retrieved 2010-08-26.
  9. Abbott, H. Porter (2008). The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 95. ISBN   978-0-521-88719-9.
  10. Heath, Peter (May 1994), "Reviewed work(s) Story-Telling Techniques in the Arabian Nights by David Pinault", International Journal of Middle East Studies , Cambridge University Press, 26 (2): 358–360 [359–60], doi:10.1017/s0020743800060633