chapter  22
10 Pages

Narrative analysis

WithMONA BAKER

It is difficult to determine the origins of narrative analysis as a methodology, given that the key concept it draws on has pervaded practically all areas of scholarly endeavour, to the point of being considered “a meeting ground of disciplines” (Baker 2008: 21). “Narrative” is understood as a story that unfolds in time, with a (perceived)

beginning and a (projected) end. A narrative is constructed and emplotted; it is populated by participants, real or imaginary, human or non-human, in a configured relationship to each other and to the unfolding story. This much is shared by practically all definitions of “narrative.” Where definitions vary is with respect to the ontological status of narrativity: whether narrative is a mode of discourse, to be contrasted with other modes, such as exposition and argumentation; one of two modes of constructing the world, the other being “logical-scientific reality construction” (Bruner 1991: 4); or, as assumed in this chapter and now increasingly accepted in studies of translation and interpreting that draw on narrative analysis, the only means by which we experience the world and hence “the shape of knowledge as we first apprehend it” (Fisher 1987/1989: 193). What the latter definition assumes is not that everything we know about the world comes to us already constructed in narrative form, but rather that in order to make sense of experience, the human mind ultimately has to emplot whatever comes its way within the format of a narrative. Given the ubiquity of the concept across the humanities, and indeed the

natural sciences, there are naturally numerous models of narrative analysis being applied to different types of data. For example, models applied in literary narratology tend to focus on the formal structure of fictional narratives and draw on a set of conceptual tools that include plot, characters, point of view, focalization, and setting. Labovian narrative analysis, which originated in linguistics, focuses on naturally occurring, mostly elicited oral speech, which is then transcribed and analyzed to extract the narrative and parse it into numbered clauses, with each clause assigned to one of six elements: Abstract; Orientation; Complicating Action; Evaluation; Result; and Coda (Patterson 2008/2012: 24).1