Narrative theory – roland barths
Narrative theory – roland barths
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - Narrative theory – roland barths
Narrative Theory – Roland Barths
Roland Barths (12 November 1915 – 26 March 1980). He
was a French literacy theorist, Philosopher, Linguist, Critic
and a Semiotician. Barthes ideas explored a diverse range
of fields and he influenced the development of schools of
theory including structuralism, semiotics, social theory,
design theory, anthropology and post – structuralism.
In his early work, Barthes was a struturalist and
semiotician, influenced by the writings of Ferdinand de
Saussure’s study of signs and signification. He preferred
not to classify his thoughts, evident in the range of
subject matter for analysis in his works, often to provoke
the bourgeoisie, which is the means of production.
Main Theory – The Hermeneutic Code
and the Proairetic Code
This code refers to any element of the story that is
not fully explained and hence becomes a mystery
to the reader for example a ‘shock factor’ which
will keep the audience intrigued. It refers to any
element in a story that is not explained and
therefore, exists an enigma for the audience,
raising questions that demand explications. Most
stories hold back details in order to increase the
effect of the final revelation of all diegetic truths.
The Hermeneutic Code.
An example of this would be a scene from Fast and Furious 4 & 6
directed by Justin Lin and written by Chris Morgan.
In this shot, of fast and furious we see a
funeral taking place for Letty because
Phoenix killed her while she tried escaping
in her car. Whilst she was escaping Phoenix
hit her car with his, making her car flip and
while she crawled out of her car trying to
escape he shoots her.
However, in fast and furious 6, in this
close up scene we see Dwayne Johnson
(Hobbs) looking at a file when he sees a
photo of Letty finding out she is alive.
This is a shock factor to the audience as
in fast 4 she was shown to be dead.
- Barthes has said that there should be a
shock factor to be shown in a film will
leave an audience intrigued.
This is another scene form fast 6. In this scene
Vin Diesel (Dom) chases after Letty, but she does
not remember who he is to her as she lost her
memory in the car crash that happened to her in
fast 4. So this is why she is holding up a gun at
As said, The Hermeneutic Code refers to a mystery within a text. Clues
are dropped however no clear answers are given which we saw in fast
and furious 4.
- Enigmas within the narrative make the audience want to know
- Unanswered enigmas tend to frustrate the audience.
The Semantic Code
This code refers to connotation within the story
that gives additional meaning over the basic
denotative meaning of the world. It is by the use
of extended meaning that can be applied to
words that authors can paint rich meaningful
pictures with relatively limited text and the way
they do this is a common indication of their
storytelling within films.
The Symbolic Code
This code is very similar to the Semantic code, it
acts upon at a wider level organising semantic
meaning for example in film. This broadens the
set of meaning used in many films. This is
typically done in the use of antithesis, where
new meaning arises out of opposing and
The Cultural Code
This code refers to anything that is founded on
some kind of canonical works that cannot be
challenged and is assumed to work that cannot be
challenged and is assumed to be the foundation of
truth. Mainly this involves either science or religion,
although other canons such as magical truths may
be used in fantasy stories. The Gnomic Code is a
cultural code that particularly refers to sayings,
proverbs, clichés and either common meaning
giving words sets.
The Enigma Code
This code also builds attention, similar to the
Hermeneutic code. It includes any action or event that
indicates something else is going to happen and which
hence gets the reader guessing as to what will happen
next. The enigma and hermeneutic code work in pairs to
develop the story’s tension and keep the reader
interested. Barths described them as
- …’dependent on two sequel codes: the revelation of
truth and the coordination of the actions represented:
there is the same constraint in the gradual order to the
melody and also in the equally gradual order to the