[NetBehaviour] question about a novel and "chiastic structure"

Edward Picot julian.lesaux at gmail.com
Thu Oct 29 19:52:18 CET 2020


I'm a big fan of chaistic structure - or the 'onion structure', which is 
another term for the same thing. You work your way inwards through 
various layers of narrative to reach the central point, then you work 
your way outwards through the same layers again, ideally in reverse 
order, to complete the story. There are examples of this kind of 
structure in fairy stories - a princess who is exiled does kind deeds to 
a bird, a toad and a fox, and then has to overcome a series of 
apparently-impossible challenges in which she is helped by the fox, the 
toad and the bird in repayment for her kindness. It's a very useful 
alternative to the prevailing 'three act' structure of (for example) 
most Hollywood movies, where everything is geared towards a massive 
cliffhanger/climax/confrontation/resolution at the end. The onion 
structure, by contrast, is more balanced, less end-heavy, and the 
turning-point/crux of the story tends to be the bit in the middle, the 
heart of the narrative, after which good luck turns to bad, the 
protagonist starts to reap the rewards of her good deeds, etc.

I suppose things like mandalas (and possibly mazes) might be examples of 
this kind of structure in the visual arts.


On 29/10/2020 18:00, Max Herman via NetBehaviour wrote:
> Hi all,
> My book club just read Andrew Sean Greer's novel/Less/, which won the 
> Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2018.  It seems to use a lot of 
> "chiastic structure," which is an A-B-B'-A' pattern used in ancient 
> literature.  There are also some biological meanings of the term (for 
> vision and genetics).
> I'd be curious to know if anyone is aware of chiastic structure in 
> visual arts or perhaps computer systems.
> Interesting idea Ricardo about the Rethinking Humanity idea!  Will be 
> interested to hear/see more.
> All best,
> Max
> _______________________________________________
> NetBehaviour mailing list
> NetBehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org
> https://lists.netbehaviour.org/mailman/listinfo/netbehaviour

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