Here’s my idiosyncratic bibliography covering narrative, cinema, and new media. Many, but not all, are academically oriented, clicking on the book cover images will take you to the Amazon book page. Please support your local independent bookseller if possible. In the Boston area, The Harvard Book Store and the New England Mobile Book Fair are treasures. But if you don’t have access to a good local bookseller, purchasing books through the links on this page helps to support this web site. Thank you!
The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative
H. Porter Abbott
Cambridge University Press, 2008.
By far this is the best introduction to narrative currently available, encompassing the range of narrative forms including literature, cinema, and new media. Abbott emphasizes that narrative is not just in found in literature, cinema, and theater, but throughout the ordinary course of our lives. The book is informed by recent scholarship in the field but avoids the more esoteric arguments in order to present a clear and concise introduction to the most important topics in narrative studies. The book covers the definition of narrative, the rhetoric of narrative, closure, the process of narration, interpretation of narratives, adaptation across media forms, character and self in narrative, truth and narrative, narrative worlds, and more. Abbott provides a excellent starting point for both students and specialists in a wide range of fields from literature to media studies, and each chapter ends with recommendations of both secondary and primary texts for further study. If you read only one book on the topic of narrative, this should be it. While theoretical in perspective, it’s written in a manner that will appeal to anyone involved in telling stories. Source: Based in part on publisher’s information.
Narration in the Fiction Film
University of Wisconsin Press, 1985.
How do films tell stories? This book argues that the best way to answer this question is not to assume that they are simply novels or plays on celluloid. Although film borrows from other media, it has distinctive tools for telling tales. The first part of the book criticizes “mimetic’’ theories (which liken film to plays or paintings) and “diegetic’’ theories (which treat cinema as a language or a literary medium). The second part of the book lays out key concepts for analyzing narration in any medium (fabula, syuzhet, style). This part also argues that a cognitive approach to narrative best captures the main features of filmic narration. The third part of the book argues that across the history of cinema several traditions (“norms’’) of storytelling have emerged, and viewers who have mastered those norms are able to understand and enjoy films in those modes. The norms discussed are “classical’’ narration, “art-cinema’’ narration, and “historical-materialist’’ narration. The book concludes by examining the ways in which Jean‑Luc Godard challenges these norms, and indeed many of the concepts in the book as a whole. Source: Publisher.
Narrative Comprehension and Film
How does cinematic fiction render the ordinary world intelligible? Narrative is one of the ways we organize and understand the world. It is found everywhere: not only in films and books, but also in everyday conversations and in the nonfictional discourses of journalists, historians, educators, psychologists, and others. In Narrative Comprehension and Film, Edward Branigan presents a telling exploration of the basic concepts of narrative theory and its relation to film–and literary–analysis, bringing together theories from linguistics and cognitive science, and applying them to the screen. Individual analysis of classical narratives form the basis of a complex study of every aspect of filmic fiction, exploring, for example, subjectivity in Lady in the Lake, multiplicity in Letter from an Unknown Woman, postmodernism and documentary in Sans Soleil. Through his exploration of film, Branigan expresses how the study of narrative should be viewed as a distinctive strategy for recognizing, isolating, and articulating the fundamental role which narrative plays in our response to the world as a whole. Source: Publisher.
Actual Minds, Possible Worlds
Harvard University Press, 1986.
In this characteristically graceful and provocative book, Jerome Bruner, one of the principal architects of the cognitive revolution, sets forth nothing less than a new agenda for the study of mind. According to Professor Bruner, cognitive science has set its sights too narrowly on the logical, systematic aspects of mental life–those thought processes we use to solve puzzles, test hypotheses, and advance explanations. There is obviously another side to the mind–a side devoted to the irrepressibly human acts of imagination that allow us to make experience meaningful. This is the side of the mind that leads to good stories, gripping drama, primitive myths and rituals, and plausible historical accounts. Bruner calls it the “narrative mode,” and his book makes important advances in the effort to unravel its nature. Drawing on recent work in literary theory, linguistics, and symbolic anthropology, as well as cognitive and developmental psychology Professor Bruner examines the mental acts that enter into the imaginative creation of possible worlds, and he shows how the activity of imaginary world making undergirds human science, literature, and philosophy, as well as everyday thinking, and even our sense of self. Over twenty years ago, Jerome Bruner first sketched his ideas about the mind’s other side in his justly admired book On Knowing: Essays for the Left Hand. Actual Minds, Possible Worlds can be read as a sequel to this earlier work, but it is a sequel that goes well beyond its predecessor by providing rich examples of just how the mind’s narrative mode can be successfully studied. The collective force of these examples points the way toward a more humane and subtle approach to the investigation of how the mind works. Source: Publisher.
Acts of Meaning
Harvard University Press, 1990.
Bruner provides a summary of past trends in the field and argues that the idea of the mind as an “information processor” has led psychology away from seeing the mind as a creator of meanings. Only by breaking out of the limitations of a computational model of mind can we grasp the interaction through which mind constitutes and is constituted by culture. A delightful follow-up to Actual Minds, Possible Worlds. Source: Based in part on publisher’s information.
Hypertext 3.0: Critical Theory and New Media in an Era of Globalization
George P. Landow
John Hopkins University Press, 2006.
George Landow’s widely acclaimed Hypertext was the first book to bring together the worlds of literary theory and computer technology. Landow was one of the first scholars to explore the implications of giving readers instant, easy access to a virtual library of sources as well as unprecedented control of what and how they read. In hypermedia, Landow saw a strikingly literal embodiment of many major points of contemporary literary theory, particularly Derrida’s idea of “de-centering” and Barthes’s conception of the “readerly” versus “writerly” text. From Intermedia to Microcosm, Storyspace, and the World Wide Web, Landow offers specific information about the kinds of hypertext, different modes of linking, attitudes toward technology, and the proliferation of pornography and gambling on the Internet. For the third edition he includes new material on developing Internet-related technologies, considering in particular their increasingly global reach and the social and political implications of this trend as viewed from a postcolonial perspective. He also discusses blogs, interactive film, and the relation of hypermedia to games. Thoroughly expanded and updated, this pioneering work continues to be the “ur-text” of hypertext studies. Source: Publisher.
The Science of Stories: An Introduction to Narrative Psychology
The Science of Stories explores the role narrative plays in human life. Supported by in-depth research, the book demonstrates how the ways in which people tell their stories can be indicative of how they construct their worlds and their own identities. Based on linguistic analysis and computer technology, Laszlo offers an innovative methodology which aims to uncover underlying psychological processes in narrative texts. The reader is presented with a theoretical framework along with a series of studies which explore the way a systematic linguistic analysis of narrative discourse can lead to a scientific study of identity construction, both individual and group. The book gives a critical overview of earlier narrative theories and summarizes previous scientific attempts to uncover relationships between language and personality. It also deals with social memory and group identity: various narrative forms of historical representations (history books, folk narratives, historical novels) are analyzed as to how they construct the past of a nation. The Science of Stories is the first book to build a bridge between scientific and hermeneutic studies of narratives. As such, it will be of great interest to a diverse spectrum of readers in social science and the liberal arts, including those in the fields of cognitive science, social psychology, linguistics, philosophy, literary studies and history. Source: Publisher.
The Language of New Media
MIT Press, 2001.
Manovich offers the first systematic and rigorous theory of new media. He places new media within the histories of visual and media cultures of the last few centuries. He discusses new media’s reliance on conventions of old media, such as the rectangular frame and mobile camera, and shows how new media works create the illusion of reality, address the viewer, and represent space. He also analyzes categories and forms unique to new media, such as interface and database. Manovich uses concepts from film theory, art history, literary theory, and computer science and also develops new theoretical constructs, such as cultural interface, spatial montage, and cinegratography. The theory and history of cinema play a particularly important role in the book. Among other topics, Manovich discusses parallels between the histories of cinema and of new media, digital cinema, screen and montage in cinema and in new media, and historical ties between avant-garde film and new media. Source: Publisher.
Fluid Screens, Expanded Cinema
Janine Marchessault and Susan Lord
University of Toronto Press, 2007.
As a medium, film is constantly evolving both in form and in content. Fluid Screens, Expanded Cinema considers the shift from traditional cinema to new frontiers of interactive, performative, and networked media. Using the theories of Marshall McLuhan and Gilles Deleuze as a starting point, renowned scholars from the fields of film theory, communication studies, cultural studies, and new media theory explore the ways in which digital technology is transforming contemporary visual culture. The essays consider a series of questions: What constitutes the “new” in new media? How are digital aesthetics different from film aesthetics? What new forms of spectatorship and storytelling, political community, and commodity production are being enabled through the digital media? Using Gene Youngblood’s 1970 book Expanded Cinema as an anchor for the volume, Fluid Screens, Expanded Cinema understands the digital not simply as a technological form, but also as an experience of space and time that is tied to capitalism. This important collection is unique in framing a range of social justice issues with aesthetic theories of new digital screen culture that will appeal to scholars and multimedia artists prepared to break new ground. Source: Publisher.
Michael Mateas and Phoebe Sengers
J. Benjamins, 2003.
Narrative Intelligence – the confluence of narrative, Artificial Intelligence, and media studies – studies, models, and supports the human use of narrative to understand the world. This volume brings together established work and founding documents in Narrative Intelligence to form a common reference point for NI researchers, providing perspectives from computational linguistics, agent research, psychology, ethology, art, and media theory. It describes artificial agents with narratively structured behavior, agents that take part in stories and tours, systems that automatically generate stories, dramas, and documentaries, and systems that support people telling their own stories. It looks at how people use stories, the features of narrative that play a role in how people understand the world, and how human narrative ability may have evolved. It addresses meta-issues in NI: the history of the field, the stories AI researchers tell about their research, and the effects those stories have on the things they discover. Source: Publisher.
Pause & Effect: The Art of Interactive Narrative
Mark Stephen Meadows
New Riders, 2003.
Interactive narrative is the cornerstone for many forms of digital media: web sites, interface design, gaming environments, and even artificial intelligence. In Pause & Effect, Mark Stephen Meadows examines the intersection of storytelling, visual art, and interactivity. He takes the key principles from these areas and applies them to the design, architecture, and development of successful interactive narrative. This book will appeal to designers with its edgy aesthetic and artistic sensibility. Striking graphic and typographic imagery complement unique design features that encourage interactivity through varying levels of information, different navigational possibilities, and even flip-book animations. Source: Publisher.
Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace
Janet H. Murray
MIT Press, 1997.
Technology changes storytelling–movies don’t tell stories in the same manner as wandering bards. Janet H. Murray, director of the Laboratory for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is fascinated with the changes emerging technologies may bring. Interactive tales, more versatile structures, stories as games, and games as stories are among the topics she explores in her very personable and entertaining style. And what about fears that interactive escapism could be the coming addiction? She makes an unblinking examination of this question with insight into both the technological possibilities and the strengths of the human psyche. Strongly recommended for anyone who loves the art of storytelling in any medium. Source: Publisher.
Understanding Video Games: The Essential Introduction
Simon Engelfeldt Nielsen, Jonas Heide Smith, Susana Pajares Tosca
From Pong to PlayStation 3 and beyond, Understanding Video Games is the first general introduction to the exciting new field of video game studies. This textbook traces the history of video games, introduces the major theories used to analyze games such as ludology and narratology, reviews the economics of the game industry, examines the aesthetics of game design, surveys the broad range of game genres, explores player culture, and addresses the major debates surrounding the medium, from educational benefits to the effects of violence. Throughout the book, the authors ask readers to consider larger questions about the medium: What defines a video game? Who plays games? Why do we play games? How do games affect the player? Understanding Video Games is an indispensable and comprehensive resource for those interested in the ways video games are reshaping entertainment and society. Source: Publisher.
Narrative as Virtual Reality: Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media
The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.
Is there a significant difference in attitude between immersion in a game and immersion in a movie or novel? What are the new possibilities for representation offered by the emerging technology of virtual reality? As Marie-Laure Ryan demonstrates in Narrative as Virtual Reality, the questions raised by new, interactive technologies have their precursors and echoes in pre-electronic literary and artistic traditions. Formerly a culture of immersive ideals–getting lost in a good book, for example–we are becoming, Ryan claims, a culture more concerned with interactivity. Approaching the idea of virtual reality as a metaphor for total art, Narrative as Virtual Reality applies the concepts of immersion and interactivity to develop a phenomenology of reading. Ryan’s analysis encompasses both traditional literary narratives and the new textual genres made possible by the electronic revolution of the past few years, such as hypertext, interactive movies and drama, digital installation art, and computer role-playing games. Interspersed among the book’s chapters are several “interludes” that focus exclusively on either key literary texts that foreshadow what we now call “virtual reality,” including those of Baudelaire, Huysmans, Ignatius de Loyola, Calvino, and science-fiction author Neal Stephenson, or recent efforts to produce interactive art forms, like the hypertext “novel” Twelve Blue, by Michael Joyce, and I’m Your Man, an interactive movie. As Ryan considers the fate of traditional narrative patterns in digital culture, she revisits one of the central issues in modern literary theory–the opposition between a presumably passive reading that is taken over by the world a text represents and an active, deconstructive reading that imaginatively participates in the text’s creation. Source: Publisher.
Narrative across Media: The Languages of Storytelling
University of Nebraska Press, 2004.
Narratology has been conceived from its earliest days as a project that transcends disciplines and media. The essays gathered here address the question of how narrative migrates, mutates, and creates meaning as it is expressed across various media. Dividing the inquiry into five areas: face-to-face narrative, still pictures, moving pictures, music, and digital media, Narrative across Media investigates how the intrinsic properties of the supporting medium shape the form of narrative and affect the narrative experience. Unlike other interdisciplinary approaches to narrative studies, all of which have tended to concentrate on narrative across language-supported fields, this unique collection provides a much-needed analysis of how narrative operates when expressed through visual, gestural, electronic, and musical means. In doing so, the collection redefines the act of storytelling. Although the fields of media and narrative studies have been invigorated by a variety of theoretical approaches, this volume seeks to avoid a dominant theoretical bias by providing instead a collection of concrete studies that inspire a direct look at texts rather than relying on a particular theory of interpretation. A contribution to both narrative and media studies, Narrative across Media is the first attempt to bridge the two disciplines. Source: Publisher.
Avatars Of Story
University Of Minnesota Press, 2006.
Traces the transformation of storytelling in the digital age. Since its inception, narratology has developed primarily as an investigation of literary narrative fiction. Linguists, folklorists, psychologists, and sociologists have expanded the inquiry toward oral storytelling, but narratology remains primarily concerned with language-supported stories. In Avatars of Story, Marie-Laure Ryan moves beyond literary works to examine other media, especially electronic narrative forms. By grappling with semiotic media other than language and technology other than print, she reveals how story, a form of meaning that transcends cultures and media, achieves diversity by presenting itself under multiple avatars. Ryan begins by considering, among other texts, a 1989 Cubs-Giants baseball broadcast, the reality television show Survivor, and the film The Truman Show. In all these texts, she sees a narrative that organizes meaning without benefit of hindsight, anticipating the real-time dimension of computer games. She then expands her inquiry to new media. In a discussion covering text-based interactive fiction such as Spider and Web and Galatea, hypertexts such as Califia and Patchwork Girl, multimedia works such as Juvenate, Web-based short narratives, and Façade, a multimedia, AI-supported project in interactive drama, she focuses on how narrative meaning is affected by the authoring software, such as the Infocom parser, the Storyspace hypertext-producing system, and the programs Flash and Director. She also examines arguments that have been brought up against considering computer games such as The Sims and EverQuest as a form of narrative, and responds by outlining an approach to computer games that reconciles their imaginative and strategic dimension. In doing so, Ryan distinguishes a wide spectrum of narrative modes, such as utilitarian, illustrative, indeterminate, metaphorical, participatory, emergent, and simulative. Ultimately, Ryan stresses the difficulty of reconciling narrativity with interactivity and anticipates the time when media will provide new ways to experience stories. Source: Publisher.
Tell Me a Story: Narrative and Intelligence
Northwestern University Press, 1995.
How are our memories, our narratives, and our intelligence interrelated? What can artificial intelligence and narratology say to each other? In this pathbreaking study by an expert on learning and computers, Roger C. Schank argues that artificial intelligence must be based on real human intelligence, which consists largely of applying old situations – and our narratives of them – to new situations in less than obvious ways. To design smart machines, Schank therefore investigated how people use narratives and stories, the nature and function of those narratives, and the connection of intelligence to both telling and listening. As Schank explains, “We need to tell someone else a story that describes our experiences because the process of creating the story also creates the memory structure that will contain the gist of the story for the rest of our lives. Talking is remembering”. This first paperback edition includes an illuminating foreword by Gary Saul Morson. Source: Publisher.
First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game
Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan
MIT Press, 2004.
Electronic games have established a huge international market, significantly outselling non-digital games; people spend more money on The Sims than on “Monopoly” or even on “Magic: the Gathering.” Yet it is widely believed that the market for electronic literature—predicted by some to be the future of the written word—languishes. Even bestselling author Stephen King achieved disappointing results with his online publication of “Riding the Bullet” and “The Plant.” Isn’t it possible, though, that many hugely successful computer games—those that depend on or at least utilize storytelling conventions of narrative, character, and theme—can be seen as examples of electronic literature? And isn’t it likely that the truly significant new forms of electronic literature will prove to be (like games) so deeply interactive and procedural that it would be impossible to present them as paper-like “e-books”? The editors of First Person have gathered a remarkably diverse group of new media theorists and practitioners to consider the relationship between “story” and “game,” as well as the new kinds of artistic creation (literary, performative, playful) that have become possible in the digital environment. Source: Publisher.
Second Person: Role-playing and story in games and playable media
Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan
MIT Press, 2007.
Second Person—so called because in these games and playable media it is “you” who plays the roles, “you” for whom the story is being told—first considers tabletop games ranging from Dungeons & Dragons and other RPGs with an explicit social component to Kim Newman’s Choose Your Own Adventure-style novel Life’s Lottery and its more traditional author-reader interaction. Contributors then examine computer-based playable structures that are designed for solo interaction—for the singular “you”—including the mainstream hit Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and the genre-defining independent production Façade. Finally, contributors look at the intersection of the social spaces of play and the real world, considering, among other topics, the virtual communities of such Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) as World of Warcraft and the political uses of digital gaming and role-playing techniques (as in The Howard Dean for Iowa Game, the first U.S. presidential campaign game). In engaging essays that range in tone from the informal to the technical, these writers offer a variety of approaches for the examination of an emerging field that includes works as diverse as George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards series and the classic Infocom game Planetfall. Second Person features three complete tabletop role-playing games that demonstrate some of the variations possible in the form: in John Tynes’s Puppetland, players take on the roles of puppets in a land ruled by the villainous Punch; Greg Costikyan’s Bestial Acts imports the techniques of Bertolt Brecht’s theater of alienation into a dark role-playing structure; and in James Wallis’s The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen, the gameplay revolves around spinning elaborate tales in the style of the famous raconteur. Source: Publisher.
Third Person: Authoring and Exploring Vast Narratives
Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan
MIT Press, 2009.
The ever-expanding capacities of computing offer new narrative possibilities for virtual worlds. Yet vast narratives—featuring an ongoing and intricately developed storyline, many characters, and multiple settings—did not originate with, and are not limited to, Massively Multiplayer Online Games. Thomas Mann’s Joseph and His Brothers, J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Marvel’s Spiderman, and the complex stories of such television shows as Dr. Who, The Sopranos, and Lost all present vast fictional worlds. Third Person explores strategies of vast narrative across a variety of media, including video games, television, literature, comic books, tabletop games, and digital art. The contributors—media and television scholars, novelists, comic creators, game designers, and others—investigate such issues as continuity, canonicity, interactivity, fan fiction, technological innovation, and cross-media phenomena. Chapters examine a range of topics, including storytelling in a multiplayer environment; narrative techniques for a 3,000,000-page novel; continuity (or the impossibility of it) in Doctor Who; managing multiple intertwined narratives in superhero comics; the spatial experience of the Final Fantasy role-playing games; World of Warcraft adventure texts created by designers and fans; and the serial storytelling of The Wire. Taken together, the multidisciplinary conversations in Third Person, along with Harrigan and Wardrip-Fruin’s earlier collections First Person and Second Person, offer essential insights into how fictions are constructed and maintained in very different forms of media at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Source: Publisher.
E. P. Dutton, 1970.
A unique book that discusses both film and video art from a perspective of expanding technological change. It is perceptive considering its date of publication and covers early materiel well. It is still an important reference on pre-1970 computer-generated film and early American video art. A must read for the serious student of video art. Youngblood shares with Russell Connor the credit of introducting the term ‘video art’ into critical discourse. Connor, who curated Vision and Television, a pioneer museum video art exhibition at the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis in January of 1970, used the term in his catalog. Expanded Cinema came out shortly after. Before that, not even the artists knew what to call it. Based in part on text from http://davidsonsfiles.org/Videobooks.html. This full text of this book is available online.
This list was last revised on February 18, 2010.
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