The rhythms of narrative tension and its cultural satisfaction
Frank Miller’s 300
Critics reading narratives as progressions, that’s to say, from beginning to end, prefer to see meaning emerge as a result of the interaction between different elements in the narrative, rather than of the imposition of a priori cultural schemata. This article, however, argues for the possibility of using a priori cultural schemata, as long as these pass through the filters established by theories of narrative progression. To show how this is done, I will interpret Frank Miller’s comic 300 by letting a tool of cultural-semantic analysis interact with narrative tension in the form of suspense, curiosity, and surprise. I argue that the back and forth between narrative tension and the tool accounts not only for the content of the comic but also for its basic narrative rhythm.