Archives / Christina Lydia / Essays, Feminism, & Academia / Pt. 1

Narrative Criticism and its four distinctive elements | TBL part one

Narrative Criticism

Narrative criticism is best used to analyze how certain artifacts create a “particular, sharable, and personal” world (308). There are four distinctive elements of narrative criticism (307-8):

1) a narrative is comprised of at least two events, either active or stative;
2) a narrative is organized by a specific time order;
3) a narrative has a casual or contributing relationship; and
4) a narrative must be about a unified subject.

These features are used when one analyzes an artifact’s setting, characters, and narrator(s). (312).

An example of narrative criticism in action is Aaron Hess’s “You Don’t Play, You Volunteer” provided in Foss’s book. In the essay, Hess examines how a realistic WWII video game provides gamers with a personal and immersive historical narrative. Hess bases his analysis on the effectiveness of Medal of Honor: Rising Sun’s (MHRS) construction of a historical narrative. He highlights that MHRS emphasizes “orientalism” and “othering” by juxtaposing the civility of American and American allies with Japanese “barbarity.” Hess shows that American and American allies are depicted as civilized while the Japanese are shown with “uncivilized” Samurai-like style sword fighting and other “barbaric” behavior.

The point of Hess’s narrative analysis is to look at how, from the video game’s point of view, the narrator, the movie-like music and visual quality, the setting, the characters, the audience (in game as well as specific outside players), and the type of narration, aim to uphold American patriotism and public pride, within the video game world. Hess ultimately shows that MHRS performs a narrative of “historical and personal vengeance” (331). Hess’s use of narrative criticism not only adheres to Foss’s four distinctive elements, but it also shows that video games provide a space for public memory, similar to that of a public museum.

Source: Sonja Foss’s Rhetorical Criticism: Exploration and Practice, 4th ed. (Waveland, 2009). | Buy on Amazon.


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