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The chapters that follow, trace a narrative arc through nine variations on the multiverse theme.

This is a sentence from a book about 9 different types of the parallel universes (multiverse). I'm wondering what is the meaning of the phrase "narrative arc" in here.

  • 1
    Google finds good descriptions of "narrative arc", try it. – CowperKettle Aug 3 '13 at 18:33
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What's happening here is the word narrative, which is normally a noun, is being used as an adjective, allowing the writer to introduce another noun arc which that adjective can modify. It's actually a fairly common term in Lit Crit, and this is as good a definition as any...

narrative arc refers to the chronological construction of plot in a novel or story.

It's probably being used somewhat loosely in OP's context to mean that the author has a consistent overall approach when writing about all nine parallel universes, and/or he's careful to ensure "seamless continuity" (using segues, perhaps) as he moves from writing about one to writing about the next.

To be honest, I don't think it would make much difference here if the word arc were to be simply omitted.

  • +1 In LitCrit and The Profession, the arc piece implies that the narrative has a certain degree of shapeliness - as Aristotle puts it, it is a "complete whole, having a beginning, a middle and an end". – StoneyB Aug 3 '13 at 20:47
  • @StoneyB: I must admit I don't remember it being used much, if at all, back in the 70s when I was doing LitCrit. And sure enough, NGrams suggests the popularity of the term has skyrocketed in the past couple of decades. I think our lecturers used to bang on more about the overarching narrative. – FumbleFingers Aug 3 '13 at 21:02

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