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Narrative, vol. 17, no 1 (janvier 2009)

Parution revue

Information publiée le jeudi 12 février 2009 par Gabriel Marcoux-Chabot (source : Project Muse)

Narrative is the official journal of The Society for the Study ofNarrative Literature, the association for scholars interested innarrative. Narrative's broad range of scholarship includes the English,American, and European novel, nonfiction narrative, film, and narrativeas used in performance art.

Vol. 17, no 1 (janvier 2009)

James Phelan

Editor's Column

Brian McHale

Beginning to Think about Narrative in Poetry

My title is frankly presumptuous. To imply that reflection on narrative in poetry begins here and now, with this essay, is to dismiss out of hand a huge body of precedent. Narrative theorists have been thinking deeply about poetic narratives since ancient times. Arguably, there would be no tradition of systematic reflection on narrative at all, at least not in the West, without the Homeric poems, which, from Plato on down to Genette and Sternberg and beyond, have continuously served as touchstones of narrative theory. Many important theoretical developments have hinged on analyses of poetic narratives; for instance, it would be hard to imagine Bakhtin finding his way to a theory of discourse in the novel without the example of Pushkin's Onegin. Nevertheless, presumptuous though it may be, my title does draw attention to a blind spot in contemporary narrative theory. We need to begin thinking about narrative in poetry -- or perhaps to resume thinking about it -- because we have not been doing so very much lately, and because, whenever we have done so, we have rarely thought about what differentiates narrative...  (Extrait)

Seymour Chatman


Life can only be understood backwards; but must be lived forwards. --Soren Kierkegaard What was yet to come would also be a memory. --Carlos Fuentes Memory implies a certain act of redemption. What is remembered has been saved from nothingness. What is forgotten has been abandoned. --John Berger In my next life I want to live my life backwards. You start out dead and get that out of the way. Then you wake up in an old people's home feeling better every day. You get kicked out for being too healthy, go collect your pension, and then when you start work, you get a gold watch and a party on your first day. You work for 40 years until you're young enough to enjoy your retirement. You party, drink alcohol, and are generally promiscuous, then you are ready for high school. You then go to primary school, you become a kid, you play. You have no responsibilities, you become a baby until you are born. And then you spend your last 9 months floating in luxurious spa-like conditions with central heating and room service on tap, larger quarters every day and then Voila! You finish off as an orgasm! I rest my case. --"My Next Life Backwards," by Woody Allen Time and Space, Space and Time. Narratives work, as we all know, in...  (Extrait)

Marie-Laure Ryan

Cheap Plot Tricks, Plot Holes, and Narrative Design

In narrative, plot exists on two levels: the plotting of the author, who creates the storyline; and the plotting of the characters, who set goals, devise plans, schemes and conspiracies, and try to arrange events to their advantage. The plotting of both author and characters is meant to exercise control: for the author, control over the reader, who must undergo a certain experience; for the characters, control over other characters and over the randomness of life. But sometimes the goals of the author are at odds with the goals of characters. The author needs to make the characters take particular actions to produce a certain effect on the reader, such as intense suspense, curiosity, or emotional involvement; but acting toward this situation defies narrative logic, because is not in the best interest of the characters, or not in line with their personality. In this article I propose to investigate two types of aesthetically deficient plot twists that arise from this conflict between author and character goals. One involves an active intervention by the author, an attempt to fix the...  (Extrait)

Kelly A. Marsh

The Mother's Unnarratable Pleasure and the Submerged Plot of Persuasion

What do we know about Anne Elliot's mother? The narrator's extremely brief account seems to leave little room for speculation, as she appears never to have deviated far from the norms associated with the time, place, and circumstances in which she lived. Yet even before Anne is introduced to us as a woman disappointed in love, a woman who, "forced into prudence in her youth . . . learned romance as she grew older" (29), she is introduced to us as a motherless daughter, one in whom Lady Elliot's closest friend "could fancy the mother to revive again" (7). In fact, the marriage plot of Persuasion is constantly influenced by a submerged plot in which Anne seeks her absent mother's story and finds it by repeating her mother's experience. The little we are told about Lady Elliot gives a glimpse into this crucial submerged plot, crucial because it significantly affects our understanding of the family situation Anne must negotiate and of her own reactions to and decisions regarding Mr. Elliot and Captain Wentworth. Tracing the...  (Extrait)

Aviva Briefel

What Some Ghosts Don't Know: Spectral Incognizance and the Horror Film

In many ways, horror films appeal to our desire for life rather than to our death drive. We subject ourselves to the terrors of the genre in order to affirm the stability of our own existence in contrast to the expendable lives on screen. As Morris Dick-stein argues, horror films offer us the opportunity of "neutralizing anxiety by putting an aesthetic bracket around it" (54). The grueling experiences we encounter in the dark world of the theater may deeply influence our relationship to our own world: "What we take with us from these films is a deeper perceptual awareness of life and of our involvement in its complexities" (Telotte 31). The tagline of the 1979 film Phantasm--"If this one doesn't scare you, you're already dead!"--plays on the restorative potential of horror by implying that the more terror we experience in the theater, the more we confirm our position as one of the living. The horror film franchise Saw (2004) recently thematized this function of the genre by featuring a villain who targets his victims according to...  (Extrait)

Luc Herman
Bart Vervaeck

Narrative Interest as Cultural Negotiation

Why are people attracted to stories? What makes narrative texts appealing? These questions continue to divide narrative theorists and lead to fundamental discussions in which all parties keep searching for universals, be it of the text, its reception, or a mixture of both. A recent example of such a controversy can be found in Meir Sternberg's ("Universals I" and "Universals II") rejection of Marie-Laure Ryan's (1991) views on tellability, a term first proposed by William Labov (1972) to describe narrative interest. Ryan locates this interest mainly in (pre)textual elements such as themes and plots, whereas Sternberg emphasizes that universals of narrative interest (suspense, curiosity, surprise) are grounded in the reader's processing of the text. Our goal in this article is to advance the debate by broadening the scope of the discussion. For us, the interest of narrative text can take such a variety of shapes that the only way to theorize it properly is to cast the net as widely as possible. We will do so by locating narrative interest in what can be described metaphorically as the cultural...  (Extrait)

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