The assumption that there are a limited number of stories to be told has endured from Carlo Gozzi's schematic of thirty-six possible plots in 1916 (Polti) to Christopher Booker's taxonomy of seven in 2005. Yet the categorization of plots that transcend boundaries of culture, geography, and time is less useful to the field of media studies than analyses of the manner in which they are expressed in various media, circulated in distribution systems, and experienced by spectators. Even if there are a limited number of plots, there remain many more ways in which stories can be told; as a result, such narrative and storytelling techniques have been an enduring preoccupation in film and media studies. Scholars have identified narrational modes that have enabled them to talk about conventions and historically contingent norms of storytelling craft practice. Methods and techniques of storytelling have similarly been examined as evidence of social and cultural trends in particular times and places. Narrative has been studied in relation to artistry, as a purveyor of ideology, as an institutional showcase for advances in technologies, and in terms of its appeals to diverse audiences.
Early examination of the function of cinematic narration in anticipating and eliciting active viewing processes (Bordwell) and the study of viewers engaging with television as consumers and producers simultaneously (Allen) have provided valuable theoretical grounding for more recent analyses of narrative within and across media. Questions of how spectators engage with narrative in a multimedia environment (in which film and television coexist with newer digital forms, each of which has its own comparative storytelling capabilities) have increasingly come to the fore. Recent discussions have evolved concerning transmedia storytelling and narrative form, with anthologies like King and Krzywinska's Screenplay: Cinema/Videogames/Interfaces examining how spectacular narratives emerge from cross-media interaction as film and video games remediate one another. Given all these platforms for mediated storytelling, the works in Marie Laure Ryan's anthology Narrative Across Media have attempted to understand how narratology can exist as a discipline across media while still accounting for the ways that the form of media contributes to the experience of the narrative. Steven Johnson's Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Making Us Smarter, a popular press examination of the contemporary trends in the development and reception of complex narratives in video games, television, and the internet, is indicative of both current concerns in the study of storytelling and the widespread, commonsense feeling that even if the stories are not new, contemporary media forms are conveying them by new means.
As a part of this continuing scholarly interest the articles in this issue will open up innovative questions, debate, and avenues of study in terms of techniques and technologies involved in film and television narratives. The scholars represented here examine the development of contemporary narrative forms on television, the importance of sound technology to the experience of cinematic storytelling, and experiments with temporality in contemporary film. They engage with debates about classicism and postclassicism and film form, narrative strategies in relation to industrial imperatives, and innovations in narrative style. Further, while many of these articles provocatively suggest that new contemporary forms of narrative have indeed become more complex, those that consider prior narrational modes within similarly shifting historical contexts suggest that we should be careful to equate change to complexity. As the means of telling stories via film and television are altered by new technologies, digital or otherwise, narrational development must be considered in relation to larger histories of the relationships between narrative, innovation, institution, and culture. [End Page 1]
Patrick Keating's article "Emotional Curves and Linear Narratives" offers a new way to study Hollywood narrative. While the relationship between narrative and spectacle in Hollywood cinema has already been much discussed, Keating argues that previous theoretical models have proven inadequate for describing the complex interplay between story elements and visual attractions. He proposes a "cooperation" model that examines the ways in which narrative and spectacle work together in...