In general, an essay, a short story, a narrative, and the action of an artistic work, such as a play or a movie, are referred to as a story. In linguistics, the story designates a level of narrative, with its counterpart being the plot. These terms refer to the English narrative theorist E.M. Forster, and are closely connected with the contrasting discours and histoire as well as the subject and the fable (fabula).
The term is taken from English and can be translated with history, narrative or event. As a result, the translation already refers to the fundamental point: the history of a play or a work, or the general concept for a story itself.
Note: In the following, we will discuss the linguistic aspects of the term and how E.M. Forster used it, in which context story and plot, which role here “discours” and “histoire” play and why Seymour Chatman’s translation of the terms complicates the whole.
Story and plot in linguistics
The use of the terms is confused because they are used differently by different translations and are used synonymously with other specialist termini. For this reason, it is very sensible to proceed chronologically, and in linguistic use by E.M. Forster, who used the terms story and plot for the first time in the narrative-theoretical context.
E. M. Forster introduced the term “plot / plot” in the Aspects of the novel and related writings (1927). The concepts fabula and sjužet, which Boris Viktorovič Tomaševskij suggested in his theory of literature (1925), came almost from the Russian formalism. Irritating is that fabula and sjužet have been translated into English with story and plot, which is why there are several meanings.
It was even more tricky in the 1960s when Tzvetan translated Todorov’s terms histoire and discours into English, as well as being a story and discourse in English-language linguistics. In this case, story and discourses are used synonymously to histoire and discours.
Nevertheless, the plot continues to emerge in this context. In part, it is only the translation of sjužet, sometimes it is used synonymously to discours and partly similar to story. This is simply due to the different use of various authors. Let’s start with E.M. Forsters story and plot.
story and plot at E.M. Ranger
Forster, an English narrative theorist, published his work Aspects of the novel and related writings, which used the terms plot and story in the linguistic context for the first time.
The story is the narrative of events in their course of time. This means that this term means the chronological sequence of the individual events within a story. Consequently, the essential question is to ask for the story And then? Let’s look at an example:
At first the king died, then the queen died, and then the princess died.
The story thus only reflects the events of the story, but remains clearly chronological. This means that the chronological sequence, as actually happens, is adhered to. However, the story does not provide a clue as to why something has happened and how it has been linked causally.
Although it encompasses all events, events and actions of history, it considers these as unlinked and unconnected, so that the individual elements can only be regarded as a (chronological) sequence. This level therefore recalls a stringent content rendering, which operates with the combination and then. Let’s look at the plot.
First the king died because he was hit by an opposing arrow. The Queen grieved so much that she fell into death and poisoned the common child, who died shortly thereafter.
The chronological story was justified with justifications. If the story answers the question of why, it is called a plot. Consequently, the plot is the narrative of events under stressing their causality. The cause of the effect (in this case the death) is delivered.
Consequently, the plot contains the same individual elements, but also includes the specific linkage of these elements. This means that the plot traces the motivation of individual actions and reveals the causal connections of the narrative. An examination of the level of the plot is suitable if the literary presentation is complex at this level.
Conclusion: Forster described the terms story and plot for the first time. The story is the chronological sequence of the events of a story, while the plot also contains the causes.
story / plot and fabula / sjužet
Tomaševskij developed the terms fabula and sjužet almost simultaneously to Forster’s theories. These also describe two different levels of narrative, but they are not always to be compared with Forster’s theory. However, the terms fabula and sjužet were translated as a story and plot into English. This is, of course, confusing.
Fabula to Tomaševskij (English story):
All events and motifs in the causal-temporal, logical connection
independent and therefore autonomous from the respective way of representation
Sujet to Tomaševskij (English plot):
Motifs of the fable, however, in order and linkage, as given in the work
affects the respective way of representing a story
to this presentation include:
1. Structure of time as a sequence of events
2. Structure of space
3. Choice of the narrative perspective
histoire / discours and story / discourse
It is now tricky in the 1960s. At this time Tzvetan Todorov developed the terms histoire and discours in his Aufsatz Les catégorie du récit littéraire (1966). These also encompass two levels of narrative, addressing individual ideas of fable and subject.
What is important at this point is that the English word for the French histoire is, of course, a story. Since Todorov’s protagonists were very well received, they were translated into English by Seymour Chatman. They were taken as story and discourses.
They are synonymous with histoire as well as discours, but have very little in common with the original use by Forster and are more like the fable and the subject. An explanation of these terms can be found in the respective contributions (histoire / discours).