Narrative Theory in Rhetoric

There are many branches to the tree of narrative. Rhetorical narrative theory may be differentiated from other species by its focus on public narratives that play out in the public sphere, and by its emphasis on audience knowledge.
The area of rhetoric known as narrative theory focuses on the creation, transmission and reception of stories in public communication. Its scope extends to exploring how individuals and communities utilize narratives to convince others, shape attitudes and construct personal identities or worldviews. This approach acknowledges that narratives are not objective representations of events but rather reflect the cultural, social and political frameworks within which they originate and circulate. Rhetorical narrative theory places great emphasis on how the audience's knowledge influences the narrative. The theory acknowledges that individuals bring their own set of values, beliefs and expectations while interpreting a story; which can ultimately affect its reception and understanding. Consequently, rhetorical narrative theorists tend to concentrate on analyzing how various audiences might react or interpret a given storyline. Rhetorical narrative theory also places significance on the concept of narrative coherence, which pertains to how a story is organized in a rational, coherent, and significant manner for its intended audience. A well-structured and credible narrative that aligns with the listeners' beliefs and principles constitutes a coherent narrative. Experts in rhetorical narratives analyze various strategies employed by speakers to establish coherence in their stories like incorporating metaphors, analogies or other devices used in rhetoric. Finally, this theory acknowledges the influence of power on public narratives. This perspective acknowledges that certain narratives possess greater potency than others and possessing control over these narratives can be a means to attain power. Consequently, scholars of rhetorical narrative strive to investigate how individuals exert power through narration and how those who are marginalized may utilize storytelling as a tool for subverting dominant discourses and undermining established hierarchies.

Classical Narrative Theory

Apthonius' Progymnasmata includes narrative forms as school exercises in the parts of the speech. He mentions fables and tales, plus the six "considerations" well known to students of composition: who, what, where, when, how, and why.

Fables are distinct from tales in that they have an animal subject and include a moral.

Aesopica: Aesop's Fables in English, Latin, and Greek

Web Resources

Kurt Vonnegut Lecture at Case Western Reserve University


Sources in Narrative Theory and Criticism

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