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Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405183123.2011.x


The conceptually related terms fabula and sjuzhet , rendered into English approximately as “story” and “plot,” were elaborated by the Russian formalists within their overall theory of narrative prose. In formalist usage, the two terms acquire a significance markedly different from that of their English equivalents, as well as from their traditional meaning in Russian. Thus sjuzhet is best understood as plot construction (or emplotment), viewed formally, while fabula should be grasped as the sequence of events making up a story (or storyline), but viewed outside the artistic process of narration. The distinction between the two allowed the formalist theoreticians to make significant headway in grasping the workings of form in literary fiction. More specifically, it provided them with the conceptual means for bringing the essential topics of “deformation,” “perceptibility,” and “defamiliarization” outside the initial sphere of poetic language and extending their applicability to the narrative genres of literature. The differentiation between storyline and the manner of its emplotment has had foundational importance for the discipline of narratology. Influential Western theories have relied on analogous dichotomies to analyze the structure of fictional texts: histoire vs. recit (Gerard Genette), “story” vs. “discourse” (Seymour Chatman), “fabula” vs. “story” (Mieke Bal) ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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