Fabula and Syuzhet

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The Origin of the Terms


The terms fabula and syuzhet came from Russian formalism - an influential school of literary criticism from the 1910s to 1930s. Russian formalism is distinctive for its emphasis on the functional role of literary devices and its original conception of literary history.



Fabula vs. Syuzhet/Sjuzet

"Fabula" means "story" in Russian, while "syuzhet" is the plot of a narrative.



The syuzhet is actually present in the work, and hence an objective entity. Syuzhet is more of one-point perspective from the author, which is open to interpretation by the reader. Syuzhet combines the events of the fabula together into a coherent plot. Some examples include flash-backs, such as those of Humbert Humbert in Lolita.




Fabula is a story, composed of all casual events in the work. It is produced by the reader of the work, through interpretation. In fabula (events) of a story, it is the world that is the plot, where anything can happen. Fabula implies that the story is nonexistent, yet believable.


Fabula is not strictly defined by the author and is open to interpretation by the reader who has a choice of whose point of perspective to believe. For example, a single event may be told from the perspective of two characters.




The fabula is defined as the chronological series of events that are represented or implied in a fiction, while the sjuzet or syuzhet is considered to be the order, manner and techniques of their presentation in the narrative (for example, in movies this can be done by camera angles and lighting).







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