Fabula and syuzhet

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Timeline of fabula vs syuzhet in Memento

In narratology, fabula (Russian: фабула, IPA: [ˈfabʊlə]) equates to the thematic content of a narrative and syuzhet[1] (Russian: сюжет, IPA: [sʲʊˈʐɛt] ) equates to the chronological structure of the events within the narrative. Vladimir Propp and Viktor Shklovsky originated the terminology as part of the Russian Formalism movement in the early 20th century.[2] Narratologists have described fabula as "the raw material of a story", and syuzhet as "the way a story is organized".[3]

Since Aristotle's Poetics, narrative plots have been described as having a beginning, middle, and end. Classical narratives tend to have synchronous fabula and syuzhet, but they may be treated asynchronously according to a modern or postmodern style. Films and novels often achieve an asynchronous effect via flashbacks or flashforwards. For example, the film Citizen Kane starts with the main character's death, and then tells his life through flashbacks interspersed with a journalist's present-time investigation of Kane's life. The fabula of the film is the actual story of Kane's life the way it happened in chronological order, while the syuzhet is the way the story is told throughout the movie, including flashbacks.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Also romanised as sjuzhet, sujet, sjužet, siuzhet or suzet.
  2. ^ Propp, Vladimir, Morphology of the Folktale (1929), Austin, University of Texas Press, 2010; Shklovsky, Viktor, Literature and Cinematography (2008) by Dalkey Archive Press (first published 1923)
  3. ^ Cobley, Paul. "Narratology." The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, Web.


  • Aristotle. Poetics.
  • Bakhtin, M. (1973). Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics (C. Emerson, ed. and trans.). Manchester, England: Manchester University Press.
  • Bakhtin, M. (1981). The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M.M. Bakhtin (ed. Holquist, M.). Austin: University of Texas Press.
  • Benjamin, W. (1969). The Storyteller: Observations on the Works of Nikolai Leskov, in Illuminations (Ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn). New York: Schoken Books.
  • Boje, D. M. (2001). Narrative Methods for Organizational and Communication Research. London: Sage.
  • Bruner, Jerome. (1986). Actual Minds, Possible Worlds. Cambridge, MASS.: Harvard University Press.
  • Cox, James. (2006). Muting White Noise: The Subversion of Popular Culture Narratives of Conquest in Sherman Alexie's Fiction. University of Oklahoma Press.
  • Culler, Jonathan. (1981). The Pursuit of Signs: Semiotics, Literature, Deconstruction. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
  • Derrida, Jacques. (1979). ‘Living On – Border Lines’ in Deconstruction and Criticism (NY: Seabury Press, edited by Harold Bloom et al., 1979).
  • King, Thomas. (2003). The Truth about Stories: A Native Narrative. Toronto: House of Ananasi.
  • Mos, Leendert. (2003). Jerome Bruner: Language, Culture, Self. Canadian Psychology (Feb), on line review of David Bakhurst & Sturart Shanker (Eds.( Jerome Bruner: Language, Culture, Self. London: Sage Publications, 2001. Accessed at Bruner
  • Propp, Vladimir. (1928/1968). Morphology of the Folk Tale. English trans. Laurence Scott. TX: University of Texas Press (first published in Moscow in 1928; English, 1968).
  • Shklovsky, Viktor. (1917/1965). Art as Technique in L T Lemon and M Reis, eds., (1965) Russian Formalist Criticism. University of Nebraska Press.
  • Shotter, John (1993). Conversational Realities. London: Sage.
  • Silko, Leslie Marmon. (1981). Storyteller. NY: Arcade Publishing
  • Whorf, Benjamin Lee (1956). Language, Thought and Reality - Selected Writings.

Further reading[edit]