Knowledge gaps in popular Hollywood cinema storytelling: The role of information disparity in film narrative

  • David Baboulene

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This research proposes an approach to understanding the systems and modes of story that sets knowledge gaps as a common denominator. It uses a constructivist approach and content analysis to capture a comprehensive range of knowledge gap data from different genres and eras of popular Hollywood film stories. The data is used to demonstrate the significance of knowledge gaps in a narration and to establish a taxonomy. The research thereby reveals both the operation of knowledge gaps in a story and the operation of story through knowledge gaps. The study categorises knowledge gaps firstly by those which privilege the audience and those which withhold knowledge from the audience. It further classifies them according to whether they are simple, compound or complex in their makeup and situates them in the audience context: gaps are either paratextual, diegetic, mimetic or delivered through specified forms of narrated signification. The analysis also defines and identifies knowledge gaps by type, such as gaps through the star or character image, marketing material and foreshadowing media; lights, music and mise-en-scène; ellipsis gaps; questions, subterfuge and plans; action and dialogue, promise, subplot, suggestion, misdirection, suspense and comedy; character growth, vicarious learning, metaphor and allegory, recognition and allusion. The study concludes that information disparity is a fundamental substance of all stories. Knowledge gaps provide a singular foundation that can be used to codify a comprehensive narratology, uniting the story, the writer, the narration, the hermeneutic process and the reception of a story. The thesis demonstrates how this unity of definition can integrate applications of the term ‘narrative’ by other disciplines, including cognitive psychology, education, narrative and identity, and narration in, for example, political, religious, medical or legal discourse. The thesis formalises knowledge gaps not only as a component of narratology, but also as a material, measurable component of all stories, which can be developed as a tool of story analysis and the story development process for the commercial benefit of industries which must invest in stories, such as film production companies and publishers.
Date of AwardJun 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton

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