I’ve been reading Bakhtin’s long essay on the chronotopic (that’s his word for time and space) in the novel. Basically, in this essay he’s laying out how the use of time and space has changed since the first novel-like books appeared.
As the earliest novel precusors, Bakhtin identifies the Greek romances. What happens here is that there’s a man who falls in love with a woman, but before the marriage can be achieved something happens, leading to an array of adventures which cumulate in the successful marriage.
Now, a lot of other novelistic genres also use this form, but what Bahktin says sets the Greek romances apart is the utter meaninglessness of everything that happens between the failed marriage and the successful one. All the adventures are just trivial events along the way that serve to put off the final marriage–they lead to no character development, to no discovery about the places where they occur; Bakhtin even says that the characters can’t be said to age during these adventures.
As I read this description of the Greek romance and what defines it, it became clear to me that this more or less mirrors the shape of a large number of action movies. Often the movie starts with some kind of incipient romance which is then interrupted by whatever the hand of fate wishes to deal out, the majority of the movie then covers the hero overcoming fate again and again, and finally the romance is successfully completed.
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