Narrative Motivation


  • Wolf Schmid


Casual and artistic motivation, motivation from behind, final motivation, Aristotle, Russian formalists


This paper offers a brief passage through the history of concepts from Aristotle to Russian formalists, thus tracing powerful conceptions about motivation. Some fundamental distinctions are made such as the one between the motivation of the work (motivation A, motivirovka, Motivierung) and the motivation of a character’s actions (motivation B, motivacija, Motivation). Concepts relevant for the analysis of the work are offered – the final motivation; the motivation from behind; the dichotomies of causal and artistic motivation. Russian formalists did not seek motivation B, and they were not particularly interested in causal motivation A. In contrast to the provocatively “formalistic” concepts of Školvskij (according to which content motivates form, which is considered to be the essential object of aesthetic perception), and the widespread conception of Tomaševskij, which is oriented toward the thematic, the most convincing approach is that of Jurij Tynjanov, who has renounced the fixed assignment of motivating and motivated to content and form, instead assuming an historical dynamic of the assignments.