Narratology is the ensemble of theories of narratives, narrative texts, images, spectacles, events; cultural artifacts that ‘tell a story’.[1] Narratology examines the ways that narrative structures our perception of both cultural artifacts and the world around us.[2] In other words, narratology is the study of story-telling and interpretation. Although interpreting these stories and cultural artifacts can differ based on an individual’s point of view, there is a narrative point of view in a narratological sense; point of view is defined here as the complex, formed by internal and external factors , of conditions for the comprehension and representation of happenings.[3] Although there can be many ways to interpret a specific text by means of this narrative point of view, there is one ultimate goal: to move from a taxonomy of elements to an understanding of how these elements are arranged in actual narratives, fictional and nonfictional.[4]
Narratology depicts stories as following these 31 functions[5]: absentation, interdiction, violation of interdiction, reconnaissance, delivery, trickery, complicity, villainy or lack, mediation, beginning counter-action, departure, first function of the donor, hero’s reaction, receipt of a magical agent, guidance, struggle, branding, victory, liquidation, return, pursuit, rescue, unrecognized arrival, unfound claims, difficult task, solution, recognition, exposure, transfiguration, punishment, and wedding.
In other words, narratology is the study of stories, and based on research by multiple scholars, each narrative story follows these, or most of these, functions and guidelines.

Notable Scholars

Throughout history there have been many scholars of narratology. Some of the most notable are Vladimir Propp, Roland Barthes, and Tzvetan Todorov.

Vladimir Propp


Vladimir Propp was born on April 17, 1895 in St. Petersburg, Russia. After graduating St. Petersburg University, he taught German at a college. Vladimir Propp was one of the first people to ever study narratology, he is often known as the "Father of Structuralism." [6] He is the one who said there are eight basic characters (villain, hero, princess, false hero, dispatcher, magical helper, donor, and the princess's father). He also analyzed stories and fairy tales to see if they matched the 31 steps that take place in a story. He greatly expanded on the Russian Formalist approach. [7]His new ideas were a huge breakthrough in the field of narratology. His ideas became well known in the west in the 1950s when his works were translated into English. Propp died in August 1970 in Leningrad, Russia.

Roland Barthes
Roland Bathes was born on November 12, 1915 in Normandy. Barthes had many illnesses such as tuberculosis, which kept him from fighting in World War 2. It also kept him out of French universities. [8]Barthes' work with structuralism dealt with the relationship of the structure of a sentence and the structure of the narrative. Barthes continued his work based on the work done by Vladimir Propp. He spent much of his life doing academic work and teaching in universities. Barthes' mother died in 1977; he had lived with her for 60 years. He died a short time later (March 25, 1980). He was hit by a van in Paris.

Tzvetan Todorov
Tzvetan Todorov was a French philosopher who was born on March 1, 1939 in Sofia, Bulgaria. His greatest contribution to literary theory was redefining the fantastic, the fantastic uncanny, and the fantastic marvelous. He went on to describe that the fantastic as anything in our universe that appears to be supernatural. Todorov applied this definition of fantastic in understanding literature, and applied it to different styles of literature. [9] He resides in France with his wife and two children. His most famous work defining fantastic is The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre.

Narratology as seen in House


The television series House can be viewed through the narratology lens in every episode. I will be examining an episode of House titled “A Pox on Our House” which aired in the seventh season. Dr. House is the main character of the series, and he is a doctor that treats patients with rare diseases. He is the hero in every episode because Dr. House always figures out what is wrong with the patient, and almost always saves the patient’s life.

In the episode “A Pox in Our House” a patient comes into Dr. House’s hospital with symptoms including high temperature, sore muscles, and pustules (blisters filled with puss) on her feet and back. Dr. House and his team decide the patient could have Smallpox, so the Center of Disease Control is called in to make sure the possible Smallpox doesn’t spread. Dr. House is not completely convinced the patient has Smallpox, and he still believes he can find the real disease and cure. As the episode progresses, Dr. House attempts to prove the patient doesn’t have Smallpox, but he is met with resistance from the rest of the doctors because they all believe Smallpox is the correct diagnosis. Finally, Dr. House comes to the conclusion the patient has a similar condition called Rickettsial Pox. Rickettsial Pox has many of the same symptoms as Smallpox, but a distinct symptom for Rickettsial Pox is found on one of the patient’s back. The girl ends up being saved because Dr. House’s correct diagnosis of Rickettsial Pox. [10]This episode of House also features emotional struggles of the main characters, Dr. House’s relationship with his boss, and the God complex Dr. House has. None of these features have a specific role in my analysis through the narratology lens, but they are worth being noted.

“A Pox in Our House” follows a very typical plot for the series House and the narratology lens. A patient comes in sick with a strange disease, the doctors make a diagnosis that is incorrect, and Dr. House makes the correct diagnosis and saves the patient’s life. Dr. House is the hero in the television series, and this episode follows hero’s journey aspect of the narratology lens perfectly.

Narratology as seen in The Matrix


Classic narratology, in the form on Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, is ingrained deep in the DNA of the 1999 film, The Matrix. The eight-step system of the monomyth includes: The Call To Adventure, The Road of Trials, The Vision Quest, The Meeting With The Goddess, The Boon, The Magic Flight, The Return Threshold, & The Master of Two Worlds [11]. This abridged version of Campbell’s original 17 steps was created and formalized by Phil Cousineau in his 1987 book, The Hero’s Journey.

Within The Matrix [12], the hero is Neo, who receives his Call To Adventure when as a lowly office worker, he is contacted by Morpheus and Trinity, who attempt to explain what exactly the Matrix is to him and free him from it. Later, after he has been given his adventure, Neo undergoes his Road of Trials, where he must train before setting out to defeat The Agents by learning how the Matrix works and engaging in combat with his mentor. Happening concurrently with the next step - The Meeting of The Goddess - wherein Neo starts to fall in love with his fellow exile on board, Trinity.

The Vision Quest is the main adventure itself, and in The Matrix, it is the attacks on Neo and his crew from the Agents while they're exploring the Matrix and later, Neo's decision to stand and fight them, which was considered suicide by all others. After he completes his Vision Quest, Neo receives The Boon, here embodied by Neo's complete mastery of the physics within the Matrix and apparent unstoppable power over the Agents. He has achieved what he set out to, and now must embark on The Magic Flight back to his roots - defeating Agent Smith and scaring the others into fleeing. Neo has crossed The Return Threshold - by vowing to stay voluntarily in the Matrix and continue fighting Agents - and is now The Master of Two Worlds: both the Matrix and the real world, where he saved the crew's ship, The Nebuchadnezzar, from destruction. Neo's journey is complete, with he and the people he's interacted with, completed a transformation from who they were in the beginning.

For More Information on The Matrix & The Hero's Journey:

Notable Readings
Vladimir Propp and the Universal Folktale byPeter Gilet
The Limits of Art by Tzvetan Todorov
Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative by Mieke Bal
Narratology: An Introduction by Wolf Schmid
Narratology and Interpretation: A Rejoinder to David Darby by Tom Kindt
History of Narratology: A Rejoinder by Monika Fludernik
The Death of the Author by Roland Barthes
Morphology of the Folktale by Vladimir Propp
The Hero's Journey by Phil Cousineau & Joseph Campbell
The Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
The Power of Myth by Bill Moyers
The Fantastic: A Structural Approach the the Literary Genre by Tzvetan Todorov

[1] Bal, Mieke. Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative. Canada: University of Toronto Press Incorporated, 1985. Print.
[2] Felluga, Dino. “General Introduction to Narratology.” Introductory Guide to Critical Theory. 2010. Purdue U. Web. 11 Feb. 2011.
[3] Schmid, Wolf. Narratology: An Introduction. Berlin: AZ Druck und Datentechnik GmbK, 2010. Print.
[4] Pradl, Gordon. “Narratology: The Study of Story Structure.” (1984): ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading and Communication Skills. Web. 7 Feb. 2011.
[5] Propp, Vladimir. Morphology of the Folk Tale. P25. Print.
[6] Olshansky, Dmitry. "Vladimir Propp." Gallery of Russian Thinkers, 23 Feb. 2011. Web.
[7]Everard, Jerry. "Introduction to Vladimir Propp." Web. 23 Feb. 2011.
[8]Liukkonen, Petri. "Roland Barthes." Encyclopedia Britanica. Web. 25 Feb. 2011.
[9] “What is the Fantastic?” University of North Carolina. Web. 10 Feb. 2011.
[10]"A Pox in our House." House. Fox. WTTE, Columbus. 15 Nov. 2010. Television.
[11] Campbell, Joseph, Phil Cousineau, and Stuart L. Brown. The Hero's Journey: the World of Joseph Campbell : Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1990. Print.
[12] The Matrix. Prod. Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski. Dir. Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski. By Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski. Perf. Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, & Carrie-Ann Moss. Warner Bros., 1999. DVD.