Thursday, 7 October 2010

Narrative Codes

For this lesson we looked at Roland Barthes, who was a semiologist. He said that narratives are like a ball of string. 
If the story is 'open' then it can be unravelled in a lot of different ways, and can lead to different things. This is seen in a lot of soaps such as Eastenders.
If it is 'closed' then there is only one obvious thread to pull on. This is often seen in children's programmes, since they almost always have happy endings. 

Barthes also said that you have to fill stories with narrative codes. Examples of these are: 

Action code: Implies a further narrative action scene. Eg: a man draws a gun. 
 Enigma Code:  Element in a story that is not explained, it raises questions that demand explanations. The audience is intrigued as to what will happen.
Semantic Code: Any element in a text that suggests a particular, often additional meaning by way of connotation. Like if it is saying one thing, yet implying something else. 
Cultural code: Any element in a narrative that refers 'to a science or a body of knowledge' The cultural code tends to point to our shared knowledge about the way the world works. So although we would immediately recognise Santa and all the things associated with him in our culture, other places around the world would just see a 'man in a beard and red suit'. You should always refer to this.  
Symbolic codes: It is quite a grey area between binary opposites. For example in the Eisenstein montage the dramatically sounding noises suggested a negative atmosphere and linking this to religion tell us symbolically that religion is bad. It is very difficult to explain, but links to what Levi-Strauss argued; that narrative structures have binary opposites. So good could not exist without bad simply because if there wasn't one then we would not know the other to be an actual thing.


  1. Becca. The symbolic is often the 'grey' area between binary opposites. You could think of a rich businessman stood smoking a cigar next to a poor starving child. We'd think how and why has this happened?

    Similarly if you think back to the Eisenstein montage with the bongs and bings played whilst religious iconography is displayed in the background we inferred a symbolic meaning that religion was bad.

  2. Ok thanks sir, I'll add that into it.