The study of narrative, as opposed to the ‘pure’ study of, say, the novel or film, obviously has a wide compass. Where analysis focuses upon one particular narrative genre it may be forced to neglect commonalities of process across different kinds of text in favour of investigating the specificities of enunciation in the genre in question. The advantage of general narrative analysis is that it identifies mechanisms which may be integral to linguistically-or visually-based genres without becoming embroiled in parochial questions to do with the ‘effectiveness’ of given modes, or the relative ‘value’ of different genres. This also allows narrative analysis to track the development of a specified process as well as its embodiment in a range of generic and technological forms. Yet narrative analysis is not without its problems, one of the

chief ones arising from the fact that narrative is used not only to record fictional events but also to record events that actually happened. At first glance, this fact might seem to pose no difficulty: discerning the difference between non-fictional and fictional narratives often appears to be an easy matter. Narrative accounts of contemporary events in discourses such as news are relatively simple to identify in the present as ‘factual’ in

opposition to, say, the ‘fictional’ events to be found in drama. In its print and broadcast versions, news has developed a repertoire of devices, ranging from a specific syntax to the authoritativeness of its presentation, which have enabled a quick recognition of it as a discourse distinct from fiction (see Hartley 1982; McNair 1996, Conboy and Johnson 2010). Furthermore, in the present it is sometimes possible to verify that events depicted in non-fiction actually happened or occurred in a particular way. Narrative accounts of events produced in the distant past,

however, are another matter. The events that they recount are so remote that there will be difficulties in establishing whether the events depicted actually took place or whether they are embellished, embroidered or plain fiction. Clearly, this creates a difficulty for the practice of history which

seeks to untangle that which is true from that which is demonstrably untrue. But it also has consequences for investigation of the early variants of the kind of narrative with which we are concerned in this book: fiction. The temptation to consider ‘narrative’ and ‘fiction’ as synonymous is countered both by the recognition of the role of narrative in historical discourse and the consideration of the possible purposes for the implementation of narrative form by early cultures. Let us briefly expand on these two points.