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Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel

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Volume 2007, Issue 165


The story turned upside down: Meaning effects linked to variations on narrative structure

Peer F Bundgaard / Svend Østergaard
Published Online: 2007-07-31 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/SEM.2007.043


This text has two parts. In the first section, we intend to define the narrative schema — the canonical plot structure — as a symbolic form in Ernst Cassirer's sense of the term. This basically implies that the narrative schema is not an invariant higher order combinatorial form, but may itself be subject to variations in view of yielding specific meaning effects. This is because the production and reception of a narrative is a dynamic process where physical forces, modal forces and intentions set up a space of possibilities for the narrative trajectory. We therefore propose a determination of the narrative schema in terms of ‘force dynamics.’ In the next section we proceed to an analysis of Ernst Hemingway's ‘A Very Short Story’ in order to illustrate this point. We lay down the main elements of its remarkable, if not simply outstanding both narrative and semantic-configurational structure: its plot structure is indeed driven by an inverted narrative schema and each significant event in the story but one (as well as each physical paragraph but one) has its rigorously symmetrical counterpart. Moreover, this inverted schema can be explained in terms of the modal forces at stake in the narrative.

About the article

Peer F Bundgaard

His research interests include morphodynamic semotics, cognitive linguistics and phenomenology of language, and aesthetic semiotics. His recent publications include ‘Presentation and representation in art — ontic and Gestaltic constraints on aesthetic experience’ (2002); Kunst — semiotiske beskrivelse af æstetisk betydning og oplevelse (2004); ‘The ideal scaffolding of language — E. Husserl's fourth logical investigation in the light of cognitive linguistics' (2004); and ‘Configuration sémantique et combinaison syntaxique dans la quatrieme recherche logique de Husserl’ (2004).

Svend Østergaard

His research interests include cognitive lingusitics, morphodynamic semiotics and the philosophy of mathematics. His publications include Mathematical Meaning (1997).

Published Online: 2007-07-31

Published in Print: 2007-06-19

Citation Information: Semiotica, Volume 2007, Issue 165, Pages 263–275, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/SEM.2007.043.

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Peer F. Bundgaard
Acta Linguistica Hafniensia, 2010, Volume 42, Number sup1, Page 64

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