1 The Center for Semiotics, Faculty of Humanities, Aarhus University, Aarhus University2 School of Communication and Culture - Center for Semiotics, School of Communication and Culture, Arts, Aarhus University3 School of Communication and Culture - Center for Semiotics, School of Communication and Culture, Arts, Aarhus University
This text has two parts. In the first section we intend to define the narrative schema—the canonical plot structure—as a symbolic form in Ernst Cassirer’s sense of the term. This basically implies that the narrative schema is not an invariant higher order combinatorial form, but may itself be subject to variations in view of yielding specific meaning effects. This is because the production and reception of a narrative is a dynamic process where physical forces, modal forces and intentions set up a space of possibilities for the narrative trajectory. We therefore propose a determination of the narrative schema in terms of “force dynamics.” In the next section we proceed to an analysis of Ernst Hemingway’s A Very Short Storyin order to illustrate this point. We lay down the main elements of its remarkable, if not simply outstanding both narrative and semantic-configurational structure: its plot structure is indeed driven by an inverted narrative schema and each significant event in the story but one (as well as each physical paragraph but one) has its rigorously symmetrical counterpart. Moreover, this inverted schema can be explained in terms of the modal forces at stake in the narrative.