Continuity and change in narrative study

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Since its ancient origins, narrative theory has involved two broad types of analysis — componential and functional. Componential analysis seeks to isolate the elements and operations that make up narrative. Functional analysis explores the purposes of narrative. Commonly, writers isolate two functions — one emotive, the other ethical and/or political. The broad framework of narrative theory has remained largely the same since its inception. Changes have primarily been a matter of expanding the scope or detail of componential or functional analyses. In the twentieth century, there was a particular expansion of the ethico-political part of functional analysis. One distinctive feature of very recent narrative theory is its use of cognitive neuroscience to expand our componential analyses treating narrative causality and plot organization and our functional analyses treating emotion. Unfortunately, the work on emotional functional analysis has not been integrated with its ethico-political counterpart. This lack of integration may be due to the political economy in which cognitive literary study arose. Moreover, the future of such integration may be less a matter of the analyses themselves and more a matter of the political economy in which these analyses are embedded.


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