Difference Between Chronicle And Narrative Essay

As a flexible and malleable genre, the chronicle is notoriously difficult to define. For this reason, various texts have struggled with pinpointing the rhetorical and historical characteristics of the chronicle. The texts cited in this section all provide broad guidelines to reflect on the genre and its particularities in Spanish America (for definitions of the Brazilian chronicle, see Brazil). They do not, however, necessarily draw the same conclusions, as can be seen in the dialogue among the chroniclers José Joaquín Blanco, Vicente Leñero, and Juan Villoro in Blanco, et al. 2002. Corona and Jörgensen 2002, in which this dialogue is included, draws from chroniclers and critics alike. Although focused on Mexico, it showcases a diversity of approximations that can be helpful to scholars interested in the genre throughout Latin America. Sefchovich 2009 confirms the difficulties of defining the genre but transforms this limitation into an analytical tool that guides the author’s reflection. Egan 2002 takes a different stance by methodically defining the chronicle as opposed to the essay, thus avoiding the common gesture of recurring to the loose label of “hybrid genre.” Bielsa 2006 also develops the notion of hybridity, parting from a solid contextualization of the high/low culture debate in relation to the chronicle. Monsiváis 1987 was one of the first essays to comprehensively approach the genre’s manifestations in Mexico beyond a specific historical period, thus making the continuity of the chronicle visible to literary history. González 1993 is an analysis of the convergences between literature and journalism in Spanish America: while not devoted exclusively to the genre, it helps situate the chronicle within a broader literary context, and as part of an affinity that spans the 19th and 20th centuries. Finally, Jorgensen 2011 offers a broad and productive theoretical reflection on nonfiction writing that builds on González 1993 and delves into the political and ethical dimensions of the late-20th-century chronicle.

  • Bielsa, Esperança. The Latin American Urban Crónica: Between Literature and Mass Culture. Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2006.

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    Chapters 1 through 4 offer a very useful introduction to the contemporary chronicle by focusing on the high/low culture debate that has long surrounded the genre. Chapters 5 and 6 compare the urban locations of Mexico City and Guayaquil, offering original close readings of two seldom-studied chroniclers: Emiliano Pérez Cruz and Jorge Martillo.

  • Blanco, José Joaquín, Vicente Leñero, and Juan Villoro. “Questioning the Chronicle.” In The Contemporary Mexican Chronicle: Theoretical Perspectives on the Liminal Genre. Edited by Ignacio Corona and Beth E. Jörgensen, 61–68. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002.

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    A brief and engaging discussion by three contemporary chroniclers on their practice. Focuses on the chronicle’s ethical commitment, foreign influences, and the genre’s political and aesthetic dimensions. This text is perhaps most fascinating because of the diverse range of responses from these authors: their differences point to the inherent difficulties in defining the genre.

  • Corona, Ignacio, and Beth E. Jorgensen. The Contemporary Mexican Chronicle: Theoretical Perspectives on the Liminal Genre. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002.

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    Although this edition focuses specifically on the contemporary chronicle in Mexico, it includes a wide range of important reflections by scholars and chroniclers that are pertinent to the chronicle as practiced throughout Latin America. An excellent first read for anyone looking to get a grasp on current debates surrounding the genre.

  • Egan, Linda. “Play on Words: Chronicling the Essay.” In The Contemporary Mexican Chronicle: Theoretical Perspectives on the Liminal Genre. Edited by Ignacio Corona and Beth E. Jörgensen, 95–121. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002.

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    An in-depth analysis of the rhetorical differences between the essay and the chronicle, two genres often described as hybrid and with almost interchangeable characteristics. Egan bases her argument on a contrast between a chronicle by Carlos Monsiváis and an essay by Héctor Aguilar Camín.

  • González, Aníbal. Journalism and the Development of Spanish American Narrative. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511551314E-mail Citation »

    An essential reference to contextualize the role of the chronicle in the complex relationship between journalism and literature in Latin American letters. Of special relevance are chapter 5 on the chronicle during modernismo and chapter 6 on the ethics of writing. The book is written in a remarkably clear and approachable manner, very useful for advanced undergraduate courses or graduate seminars.

  • Jorgensen, Beth E. Documents in Crisis: Nonfiction Literatures in Twentieth-Century Mexico. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2011.

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    This book does not focus exclusively on the chronicle, but its excellent theoretical grasp of nonfiction writing (chapter 1) makes it important reading for scholars interested in the political and ethical dimensions of the chronicle. Especially worth reading are chapter 5 (chronicles on crisis and catastrophe) and chapter 6 (on the Subcomandante Marcos’s chronicles from Chiapas).

  • Monsiváis, Carlos. “De la santa doctrina al espiritu público (sobre las funciones de la crónica en México).” Nueva Revista de Filología Hispánica 35 (1987): 753–771.

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    Focusing on the works of Mexican chroniclers from colonial to modern times (Bernal Díaz del Castillo, Ignacio Altamirano, José Tomás de Cuellar, Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera, Martín Luis Guzmán, Salvador Novo, Elena Poniatowska), Monsiváis argues for the value of the genre and critiques its invisibility in literary history.

  • Sefchovich, Sara. “Para definir la crónica.” Chasqui 38.1 (May 2009): 125–151.

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    A productive meditation on how difficult it is to define the chronicle, the questions that should be asked to grasp its implications, and the different mechanisms of representation that are made manifest in the genre. More than attempting an absolute definition, this essay offers guidelines to evaluate and analyze the diverse corpus of texts that are categorized under the rubric of “chronicle.”

  • Story vs. Narrative

    It’s the way you tell it

    Narrative is the choice of which events to relate and in what order to relate them – so it is a representation or specific manifestation of the story, rather than the story itself. The easy way to remember the difference between story and narrative is to reshuffle the order of events. A new event order means you have a new narrative of the same story.

    Narrative turns story into information, or better, into knowledge for the recipient (the audience or reader). Narrative is therefore responsible for how the recipient perceives the story. The difficulty is that story, like truth, is an illusion created by narrative.

    What does that mean?

    First, let’s state some basics as we understand them here at Beemgee: a story consists of narrated events; events consist of actions carried out by characters; there is conflict involved; one and the same story may be told in different ways, that is, have varying narratives.

    Note that we are talking here about narrative in the dramaturgical sense – not in the social sense. Like the term “storytelling”, the word “narrative” has become a bit of a buzzword. We are not referring here to open “social narratives” such as “the American narrative”. We are pinpointing the use of the term for storytellers creating novels, films, plays, and the like. These tend in their archetypal form to be closed narratives with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

    A narrative may present the events of the story in linear, that is to say chronological order or not. But the story remains the story – even if it is told backwards. And that’s the easy way to remember the difference between story and narrative: if you reshuffle the order of events, you are changing the narrative – the way you tell the story –, and perhaps its premise too, but you are not changing the story itself.

    The Components of Story

    Let’s take “Story” as the hyper-ordinate term. Every story features characters that do something, and the total of these actions constitutes the plot. Plot consists of things that happen, i.e. events. These may be sorted into two different orders, the chronological sequence in time, and the order in which the author chooses to relate them, which is the narrative. A story may furthermore consist of two or several plots – let’s call these storylines – which tend to meet and intertwine.

    Click to outline your story in our free web-tool:

    Text Types That Describe Story

    One and the same story can be represented by different text types:

    All of these may be ascribed to the same work. They are different expressions of the same material.

    The logline and the exposé describe the story without telling it, in a sentence or a page respectively.

    The treatment is a synopsis of the story – a summary of the plot, including some of the most important events, but not all of them. Such a brief version of the story describes the same story as the full or finished version, but since this short version does not include the same (amount of) events, it is not the (same) narrative.

    Both exposé and treatment (and in extreme cases perhaps even the logline) may point out how the narrative works, especially if it is not chronological, but neither actually contains the narrative of the story because neither includes a description of each event.

    The step outline describes all the events of the story in narrative order, as a sort of shortened meta-version of the story itself. While a logline, an exposé, a treatment, a step outline, and the finished work may all refer to the same story, only the step outline and the finished work can contain the same narrative of that story because they contain the same events without leaving any out. And as liars know, leaving out bits of information can change the narrative.

    The Author Shapes the Material into a Narrative

    An author has choices. Many, many choices. An author has to choose the narrative to relate the story she has chosen to tell. For instance, the choice of genre influences the narrative. The same events can be turned into, say, a comedy or a thriller. Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove and Sidney Lumet’s Fail-Safe use dissimilar narratives to tell similar stories that make comparable but different points about the threat of nuclear war and how it may come about.

    Perhaps the greatest influence on the effect a story has on the audience or reader is the author’s choice of Point of View (PoV). Point of view describes from which character’s perspective the story is told. Hardly any other factor has as significant an effect on narrative. Telling the same story from the various points of view of the participating characters creates differing narratives.

    It may thus be argued that story is tantamount to truth in that it ultimately remains equivocal, arguably an illusion created by narrative.


    Article Name

    Story vs. Narrative


    The easy way to remember the difference between story and narrative is to reshuffle the order of events. And as liars know, leaving out bits of information can change the narrative.



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