Saturday, 24 February 2007

Pre-structuralist and structuralist narratology

The study of the narrative is a field which seems particularly appropriate for structuralist or semiotic approaches, as notions such as sequentiality, gradation, resolution, rhythm, suspense and so forth render it liable to a kind oflogical, “scientific” analysis. The twentieth century has been exceptionally productive in such classifications and distinctions, though we have to mention that the first references to the epic structure date back from Aristotle’s Poetics. It is he that pointed out for the first time that there is a difference between diegesis (a history retold by a narrator), and mimesis (one which is shown in a dramatic form).

From the beginning of the century the narrator and its role or degree of visibility have been prominent subjects of debate. Narratorial effacement was seen by Henry James and Percy Lubbock as a superior mode of story-telling, in which the characters’ features were revealed through their own behavior. The pre-structuralist phase of narratology also includes the contributions of the Russian formalists and Vladimir Propp, of Edgar Morgan Forster, Norman Friedman, Wayne Booth, and others.

In Aspects of the Novel (1927), the English novelist and theoretician E. M. Forster propounded a new distinction within what the Russian formalists were calling sjuzet: the narration of events with an emphasis on chronology is named by him THE STORY, whereas the narration with an emphasis on causality is THE PLOT. “The king died and then the queen died” is a kernel example of a story, and “the king died and then the queen died of grief” represents a kernel plot. The core of the plot is suspense, which is for instance the weapon used by Scheherazade to ensure her survival.

As concerns PLOT TYPOLOGY, the one devised by Norman Friedman, in Forms of the Plot [1] is the most comprehensive. He started from a previous classification, put forward by R. S. Crane: plots of action, of character and of thought. Friedman took into consideration also the issues of success, responsibility, attractiveness and the impact on the receiver:

1. Plots of fortune

(which involve a change in the protagonist’s situation)

1.1 `The action plot, developing around a problem and its resolution (e.g. Stevenson’s Treasure Island).

1.2 The pathetic plot, in which an attractive, weak protagonist fails; there is an unhappy ending, arousing pity (e.g. Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles).

1.3 The tragic plot, where an attractive protagonist falls, which brings about catharsis (e.g. Sophocles’s Oedipus King, Shakespeare’s King Lear).

1.4 The punitive plot, in which a repulsive, yet partially admirable hero falls (e.g. Shakespeare’s Richard III).

1.5 The sentimental plot, in which an attractive, but frail or passive hero succeeds eventually (e.g. O’Neill’s Anna Christie).

1.6 The admiration plot, where an attractive, responsible hero succeeds, which wins the reader’s respect and admiration (e.g. Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer).

2. Plots of character

(involving a change in the protagonist’s moral character)

2.1 The maturing plot, in which an attractive, naive protagonist achieves maturity (e.g. Dickens’s Great Expectations, James’s The Portrait of a Lady, Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man).

2.2 The reform plot, in which an attractive protagonist is responsible for his/her disaster, but later improves (e.g. Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter).

2.3 The testing plot, in which an attractive protagonist fails several times and then gives up his/her ideals (e.g. Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya).

2.4 The degeneration plot, in which an attractive protagonist changes for the worse, after a major crisis (e.g. Gide’s The Immoralist).

3. Plots of thought

(which bring about a change in the protagonist’s thoughtsand feelings)

3.1 The education plot, in which an attractive protagonist’s thought gets better, but the possible change in his/her behavior is not shown (e.g. Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn).

3.2 The revelation plot, in which the protagonist comes to understand his/her condition (e.g. Roald Dahl’s “Beware of the Dog”).

3.3 The affective plot, in which the protagonist’s attitude and feelings change, but his/her thought does not (e.g. Austen’s Pride and Prejudice).

3.4 The disillusionment plot, in which the protagonist is deprived of his/her ideals, possibly loses the receiver’s sympathy and ends up in dejection or annihilation (e.g. Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby).

As concerns the other important element of the story, namely the character, earlier studies of the narrative distinguished dynamic or static characters, major or minor, consistent or inconsistent ones. An important feature was revealed by E. M. Forster. He divided the “people” inhabiting the world of novels into two large groups, starting from an analysis of the way in which the five essential acts in man’s life are reflected in a character’s career: birth, food, sleep, love, death. (Referring to the first and the last events, Forster insisted that, unlike the historian, the novelist means to express the intimate, pure passions of man’s life, including those two experiences, the initial and the final ones, which cannot be shared: the newborn’s and the corpse’s communication systems are not compatible with our reception code.) Characters can be round or flat.

FLAT CHARACTERS are, according to Forster, what was previously described as “humors” (the 17th century term), “types”, or “caricatures”, and they are built around a single idea or quality. Such a person can be represented by a unique sentence, a label (for instance Mrs. Micawber is the utterance “I’ll never leave Mr. Micawber”). There is no development with them, they are two-dimensional and highly predictable, and never changed by circumstances. In real life we do not meet such people, but in novels their function is highly conspicuous, especially for the sake of contrast. They appear as particularly successful in comic plots (in serious or tragical narratives, such characters become boring).

The term stock-character is also used by some narratologists to define a special kind of flat character, i.e. a conventional one, a common type, usually connected with a certain genre (e.g. the cruel stepmother in folk tales, the miser or the braggart in comedies).

On the contrary, ROUND CHARACTERS are complex, multidimensional, unpredictable. Only this kind of people can really be tragic and can move us, arousing various feelings, not only humor and the satisfaction of recognition. The test for a round character is his or her capacity of surprising the reader convincingly.

Pre-structuralist narratology established firm connections between the concept of character and those of narrator and point of view, which furnished new distinctions and more refined tools of investigation for the study of narrative models. After Henry James’s creative experimentations with THE POINT OF VIEW in his novels, Forster investigated the great use of this fictional tool in making the reader accept the author’s communication: he studied the way in which it was handled by Dickens, Tolstoy, and others, among whom André Gide. Praising the latter’s art of alternating his techniques in Les Faux Monnayeurs (The Counterfeiters), for instance, Forster looks down though on the fact that the author used them in broad daylight and commented openly on his ploys:

The novelist who shows an excessive concern with his own method cannot be anything more than interesting; he has given up creating personages, and instead calls us to help him in the analysis of hisown wit, which results in a severe fall in the emotional temperature. [2]

The English theoretician of fiction did not appear to have the necessary foresight to envisage the postmodern development of the novel, in which metatextuality would play a major role.

The point of view is defined as the perceptual or conceptual position in terms of which the situation or the events are presented, and Percy Lubbock maintained that actually it controls the whole art of fiction.

From among the many classifications proposed by various pre-structuralist theoreticians, we shall herein present Norman Friedman’s categorization, as the most comprehensive and tightly-knit model. [3] The criterion he had in view for his classification was the narrator’s prominence, beginning with the most conspicuous and ending with the least visible one:

1. Editorial omniscience: the story is told by an omniscient, intrusive narrator, who is, yet, situated outside the narrated events (e.g. Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Tolstoy’s War and Peace).

2. Neutral omniscience: the narrator is omniscient, situated outside the events, nonintrusive, impersonal (e.g. Huxley’s Point Counterpoint, Golding’s Lord of the Flies).

3. “I” as witness: the narrator belongs in the narrative world, is a secondary character, and has a peripheral perspective of the narrated events (e.g. Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby).

4. “I” as protagonist: the narrator identifies himself with the protagonist; he has a central perspective of the events (e.g. Dickens’s Great Expectations, Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye).

5. Multiple selective omniscience: the narrator, located outside the events, affords variable internal points of view (e.g. V. Woolf’s To the Lighthouse).

6. Selective omniscience: the narrator, placed outside the events, affords a fixed, internal point of view (e.g. Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man).

7. The dramatic mode: the narrator, situated outside the events, has an external point of view. No information on feelings and thoughts is supplied: there appear only words, actions and settings (e.g. Hemingway stories such as Hills like White Elephants).

8. The camera: events just take place before a recorder: there is no sign of selection or organization. This point of view is the ultimate one in narratorial exclusion (e.g. Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin, the second paragraph of which runs like this: “I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking. Recording the man shaving at the window opposite and the woman in the kimono washing her hair. Some day, all this will have to be developed, carefully printed, fixed”).[4]

Friedman’s classification demonstrates that narrators are sometimes completely different from characters, and may be located outside the fictional world; this world can be seen from peripheral or central vantage points.

At a certain moment, however, theorists of the narrative realized that this kind of analysis was of limited use: the point of view had become a kind of fetish category, fiction was discussed almost exclusively in terms of omniscience or narratorial prominence, and novels were merely placed in various slots, the meaning being almost lost on the way. Consequently, a reaction soon followed.

Wayne Booth, a member of the Chicago school of criticism, was a pre-structuralist theoretician of the novel who, in The Rhetoric of Fiction, [5] took into account also some non-formal elements, in their interdependence with the formal ones. With the help of such original notions as the implied author, the unreliable narrator and fictional distance, Booth examined the way in which the argumentative structures of the text were made meaningful for the reader. As for the current insistence on the point of view, he opined that it was a methodological fault, a fallacy of formalist absolutism.

The various functions and roles of THE NARRATOR are with Booth of special import, as it is his/her consciousness which molds the perspective and the meaning. First of all, according to the American scholar, the critic should provide the definition of the narrator’s identity: he should not confine himself to state who the narrator is or in what person the story is told. As soon as the narrator presents himself as an “I”, he becomes dramatized. Sometimes he is effaced, as in Flaubert’s Madame Bovary; he may be provided with physical or moral attributes, as in Fielding’s Tom Jones; he may be a witness, a major or minor participant, or still the protagonist. An extreme case is that of Benjy, the idiot in Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, from whose perspective one chapter of the story is narrated. Narrators can also be classified as 1. self-conscious, when they know that they are narrating or writing and possibly comment on their labor (Tom Jones, Tristram Shandy, Holden Caulfield); 2. half-conscious (Huckleberry Finn); 3. non-conscious, that is not aware that they speak as characters in a literary work (the narrator in Camus’s L’etranger or in Bellow’s The Victim).

Yet, the most important thing to define is the degree of the narrator’s reliability, his perspicacity, trustworthiness, sincerity. This characteristic of the narrator is far more significant than the fact that the latter is an “I” or a “he”, is privileged or not. In this way we go beyond the empty formalist classifications, toward the meaning of the narrative, claims Booth.

Narrators are reliable when they behave in accord with the implied author’s norms, and unreliable when they break them. Booth analyses the reliable narrators in Fielding’s novels, Joseph Andrews and Tom Jones, where they appear as dramatized spokesmen for the implied author, and in Jane Austen’s novel Emma. On the contrary, when the narrator is wrong, believes himself to possess qualities which the author denies, or pretends he is inwardly wicked, while the author covertly commends his virtues, he can be defined as unreliable. Huckleberry Finn is an example of the last type. Other instances of unreliable narrators are the barber in Ring Lardner’s story “Haircut”, or Jason in Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury: their judgment is always suspect. At the boundary between reliability and its opposite is Fleda Vetch, the “reflector”[6] in Henry James’s novel The Spoils of Poynton, who is close to the implied author in the matter of taste, judgment and moral sense, yet not quite at one with him. Unreliable narrators require the reader’s greater efforts of comprehension as compared with the other ones.

Booth also introduced the concept of IMPLIED AUTHOR, distinguishing it from both the real author and the narrator:

As he writes, /the author/ creates not simply an ideal, impersonal “man in general”, but an implied version of “himself” that is different from the implied authors we meet in other men’s works.(70-71)

Other commentators have called this entity “the official scribe”, or the author’s “second self”. It exists in any fiction, even when there is no dramatized narrator: the reader always makes up the image of a creator who stands offstage, as a director, puppet-master, or an indifferent God, “silently paring his fingernails”. (151) The reader’s idea of the implied author includes the inferable meanings of the events, their moral and emotional content, briefly “the intuitive apprehension of a completed artistic whole”. (73) This second self, reconstructed by the reader from the text, appears to him as responsible for the structure of the work and for the moral and cultural norms it relies on.

The ideal author will always be different from the real one, who can be seen by studying comparatively his or her different images in the same author’s various works: the tone will be distinct in each of them, depending on the necessities of each particular work, the same way in which someone’s personal letters involve different features of his personality.

Of course, the difference between the real and the implied author is not the only feature relevant for a comparative understanding of fictional works: Booth also analyzes THE DISTANCE between various other elements of the narrative, such as the narrator, other characters, the reader. However, the most significant type of distance is the one between the unreliable narrator and the implied author, be it on a moral level, or on an intellectual, physical or temporal one. This distance may be sometimes highly problematic (in the case of an “absent” narrator, as in Hemingway’s The Killers), or, on the contrary, quite obvious (when the narrator belongs in the narrative world and is unreliable, for instance).

Booth’s analyses of distance, types of narrators and authors confirm his assumption concerning the importance of the interaction between the component parts of the fictional work toward achieving that wholeness which ensures its rhetorical impact upon the reader. His narratological concepts are now part of the common stock of critical instruments employed by students of fiction.

In the 1960s and 1970s, STRUCTURALIST NARRATOLOGY made significant steps toward refining the concepts already introduced by its predecessors, establishing new formulae and distinctions. The narratologists of this age analyzed the insides of both “story” (corresponding to fabula: the narrated, what is recounted, independently of the medium which is used) and “discourse” [7] (corresponding to sjuzet: the narrating, or the way in which the semantic structure of the story is presented).

Claude Lévi-Strauss achieved pioneering results as concerns the examination of “STORY” (actually he focused on mythical narratives), and his path was followed by the researches of Roland Barthes, Tzvetan Todorov, Algirdas Julien Greimas, Claude Bremond, and others.

Thus, in “An Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narrative” (1966), Barthes attempted to reveal the common syntax of all narratives, by establishing distinctions between functions, actions and narration, between “kernel” and “satellite” structures within the narrative.

In S/Z or in “Textual Analysis of Poe’s ‘Valdemar’”, his aim was not that of finding the meanings of the text (which would be impossible since it is “open to infinity”), [8] but the forms and codes which make meaning possible. For instance, in the latter essay he cut up Poe’s story, Valdemar in 150 short segments, called by him lexias, or “units of meaning”, and then observed the meaning (the connotations) to which each lexia gives rise. Barthes’s investigation is progressive: the length of the text is covered step by step, as in a reading “filmed in slow-motion” (an anticipation of Stanley Fish’s reader-response procedures). [9] On the other hand Barthes does not worry if in his account he has “forgotten” some meanings, because such an omission is in a sense part of reading: “the important thing is to show departures of meaning, not arrivals (and is meaning basically anything other than a departure?)”. (137) The text means intertextuality: we must get used, Barthes claims, to the conjunction of two concepts for a long time regarded as incompatible: the idea of structure and the idea of combinational infinity (here Barthes departs from the structuralist perspective toward a post-structuralist position).

Attempting to grasp the narrative “as it was in the process of self- construction” (which implies system and infinity, or structure and movement), Barthes finds it easier to return to the main CODES he has found out in Poe’s text: cultural, scientific, rhetorical, chronological, socio-historical, symbolic, the code of destination (i. e. of communication - of address and exchange), the code of actions (which supports the anecdotal framework), the code of the enigma. Various codes “traverse” each text, that is why in Balzac’s “Sarrasine” Barthes identified another group of codes: hermeneutic (pertaining to the disclosure of truth), semic (describing significant features), symbolic (referring to the architecture of language), “proairetic” (referring to action and behavior) and cultural.

Structuralist narratologists were not content anymore with the traditional notions of character, setting, events, and attempted to view them from a more exact and unifying perspective.

For instance, Seymour Chatman, author of a 1978 study, examined the interplay of these elements in both texts and visual media. In his patterning, the fundamental constituents of “story” are the events (actions or acts caused by agents, as well as happenings caused by impersonal forces), and the existents. The latter may be items of setting (a table, a mirror) or actors. In their turn, actors may be either anthropomorphic beings, or things - e.g. a flying carpet; as anthropomorphic beings they may be individual, collective (a mob), figurative or non-figurative (Fate).

The French narratologist A. J. Greimas pursued the classification of the elements which make a story move on by proposing a well-known actantial schema, whose source is in Propp’s typology. From the perspective of the Russian folklorist Vladimir Propp, the author of Morphology of the Folktale (1928), a classification of fairy tales should set out from the functions, i.e. the actions performed by characters, and from the functional roles. There are 31 functions, defined by their significance for the plot development, which remain practically the same in the whole corpus of Russian tales (e.g. test, mission, reward, and so on). Although not all of them appear in every story, their sequence appears identical if viewed comparatively. The roles describe the characters’ participation in the events, irrespective of their individual traits: Propp identified such roles as Hero, Sought-for Person, Dispatcher, Helper, Donor (Provider), Villain, False Hero.

The results of his trailblazing contribution were expanded by Greimas about 40 years later into THE ACTANTIAL MODEL, that is the structure of relationships among actants (the basic roles at the level of the story’s deep structure). In its six-term variant, the schema includes three pairs of actants: first, the Subject and the Object (Propp’s Hero); secondly, the Sender (Sought-for Person) and the Receiver (-); thirdly, the Helper (Helper + Donor), and the Opponent (Villain + False Hero).[11]Their relations are usually described with the help of this diagram:

Sender Receiver

Subject Object

Helper Opponent

Animals, things and concepts can also be actants. For instance, in the Grail legend, the Subject is the hero, the Object is the Holy Grail, the Sender is God, and the Receiver, mankind. Generally speaking, the Sender can also be an ideological principle, or history itself, or God; the Object can appear as the classless society (for Marxist theorists), whereas for a philosopher the Object is the world, the Opponent - matter, and the Helper - man’s mind.

At surface structure there are frequent cases of a syncretic manifestation of actants - the plurality of two actants present as a single actor. In this diagram Greimas supplies the example of a common love story which ends in marriage:

He = Subject + Receiver (of love)

--- ----------------------------------

She = Object + Sender (of love) [12]

The opposite situation is also frequent, that is when the same actant is personified by two or more actors: in an adventure story, the Subject may encounter several enemies, and they together represent the Opponent.

So, as actors function on the level of the particular story, actants are constituted on the level of the genre. The actantial model has given a new dimension to the analysis of the narrative, as it does not take into account the moral or psychological features in the characterization of the participants in the narrated events. Besides, it has equally proven its usefulness when applied in the structuralist study of other types of discourse, such as sociological or philosophical ones.

Tzvetan Todorov (the Bulgarian-born scholar who coined in French the term narratologie) believes in the existence of a universal grammar, valid also for narrative structures. [13] They can therefore be examined as if they were syntactic units: characters are like nouns, actions like verbs, characters’ attributes like adjectives. Events, represented by operators, appear not only objectively accomplished (as in the indicative mood), but also in states described as optative, conditional, and so on, just like other verbal moods. Also, Todorov’s narrative syntax establishes three levels of text organization, from the smallest unit, the proposition, through the sequence, to the text as such. His system shares with Propp’s theory the possibility of a scientific analysis of “story”, but enriches the model by introducing some original nuances, such as the category of virtual events.

Another narratologist, Claude Bremond, sets out from the same model created by Propp, but his narratological system departs considerably from that starting point, as it becomes a “generative-transformational model” which is “able to generate an infinite number of infinite sequences”. [14] Bremond worked out a semantic pattern that was able to code the narrative action: he devised the notion of narrative role, which replaced Propp’s function, and which is based on the relationship between the subject (participant) and the predicate (the process taking place). Such basic roles are: patient, beneficiary, victim, (voluntary or involuntary) agent, inciter, and so forth. The processes that occur among the participants range from punishment or trap to protection or revelation. As Ioan Pânzaru, a Romanian commentator of Bremond’s enterprise, has remarked, the French narratologist’s system incorporates a paradox: in this extremely formalized analysis, one can envisage the “holographic human image” of the same being who made up the narrative (20).

As concerns the second field of structuralist research - “NARRATIVE DISCOURSE”, or the way of narrating, its proponents insist on the difference between the narrative as a verbal form of presenting a story, and its enacting on the stage as drama, choreography, or in cinematic art, and so on. The same happenings can be recounted in several ways, depending on the medium, they argued. Besides, previous contributions concerning the point of view, distance, and others, could be turned to account if the verbal medium and its characteristic features were taken into consideration.

Prominent among the scholars representing this trend is especially Gérard Genette, the author of Figures III (1972, translated as Narrative Discourse) and Nouveau discours du récit (1983). He examined the interaction between mimesis and diegesis, the narrating instance (i.e. the producing narrative act and the spatial-temporal context, including the narrator and the narratee), the handling of time in the narrative. As concerns the last issue, Genette insisted in Narrative Discourse on three fundamental domains of classification: order (the difference between the assumed sequence of events in the “story” and the time sequence in the plot, with such relevant techniques as prolepsis and analepsis, i.e. flash-forward and flashback); duration (or the pace of narration, referring to the comparative extent in time of the events in the “story” and the amount of text allotted to them, the extreme forms being ellipsis and the descriptive pause), and frequency (how often a single event is repeated in the narrative, or vice-versa, if a repeated event is referred to only once for instance).

In the following paragraphs we will refer to Genette’s and Gerald Prince’s contributions concerning the concepts of narrator and narratee. In reference to THE NARRATOR, Genette dwelt on the rapport between this entity and the diegesis (by which he meant the narrated, fictional world), speaking about extradiegetic narrators (situated outside the diegesis, such as impersonal third person narrators) and (intra)diegetic ones (who are part of the narrative world); homodiegetic narrators (who are characters in the events narrated by them), and heterodiegetic ones (who do not have such a role, and do not witness those events in person); autodiegetic narrators (a special type of homodiegetic ones: they are the main characters in the situations they are narrating). Metadiegetic narrators appear in narratives embedded within the diegetic narrative, and reduced metadiegetic ones appear in second-degree narratives that function as though they were primary narratives.

Sometimes the same person can play multiple roles: Scheherazade, for instance, is both intradiegetic at the level of the frame story, and extradiegetic, when discussed in connection with the individual tales recounted by her.

Genette and Gerald Prince have also introduced another narratological entity, which is complementary to that of “narrator”: THE NARRATEE (le narrataire), that is the partner to whom the narrating is addressed, the receiver of the message. Narratees accomplish functions similar to those of narrators: they may be extra- or intradiegetic, may be covert or overt, collective or individual, as they are inscribed in the text; they may be addressed by the same narrator, or by successive ones, and so forth. Their responsibilities can be equal with or even greater than those of the narrator - as in The Arabian Nights, where the continuation of the story, and of the narrator’s life, for that matter, is to a great extent dependent upon the humor of the narratee (the caliph). Like the ancient mariner in Coleridge’s poem, the narrator in Camus’s La chute desperately needs a listener to help him atone for his guilt. Gerald Prince insists that there is an amazing variety of narratees in fiction:

/d/ocile or rebellious, admirable or ridiculous, ignorant of the events related to them or having prior knowledge of them, slightly naive as in Tom Jones, vaguely callous as in The Brothers Karamazov... [15]

Although the typical example of a narratee is found in the phrase “You, my reader ...” with which a novel may begin, a distinction should be made between the narratee and the (implied) reader of the text, as the former is the receiver of the narrator’s message, whereas the reader is the partner of the author. Sometimes the difference is inscribed in the text, when the narratee is a person defined as such (for instance the receiver of the narrator’s letters).

In order to build his theory of this entity, Prince sets as a starting point the concept of a “zero-degree narratee”, which possesses some fundamental, common characteristics, such as the knowledge of the narrator’s langue and langage(s), of basic narrative grammar; this prototype is devoid of any personal and social features, and does not know anything about the events and their implications. After establishing this neutral standpoint, Prince puts forward his classification of narratees, from the most impersonal ones, to those who become narrators in their turn, as in Gide’s L’Immoraliste; in diary-type stories, the narrator is simultaneously the (only) narratee: the writer presupposes nobody else will read his/her own production.

The relationship between the narrator and the narratee (as well as the nature of characters in general) can also be revealed by what Prince calls the disnarrated, that is the events and realities which do not take place or do not exist in terms of the retold story. The disnarrated appears as an imaginary world belonging to the realm of desire, dream, lie or supposition, and its role is not only characterological, but also rhetorical (for instance in Keith Waterhouse’s novel Billy Liar, and so on). It should be distinguished from what could not be narrated (the unnarratable) and from what is left aside (the unnarrated).[16]

In general Prince is confident the typology of narratives can be much more precise and refined if it is based not only on the study of narrators but also on analyses of narratees: the latter lead to a better understanding of the evolution of the narrative genre, to a more accurate definition of a story’s technical success, and to a more correct description of acts of communication in general.[17]

In its poststructuralist phase, narratology has expanded its scope to include non-literary texts, too, and has been amply influenced by such recent trends of thought as psychoanalytical, feminist and deconstructive theories. Bakhtin’s concepts are also basic factors in contemporary analyses of the narrative. Another significant direction is represented by Gerald Prince’s later studies, in which, setting out from Chomsky’s model, he created a generative-transformational grammar of narration, based on algebraic formulas, to put forward a series of rewrite rules which should govern the creation of new narrative texts.[18]

A set of rules for the production of narratives has also been devised by the American historiographer Hayden White, but his interest is focused specifically on HISTORICAL TEXTS. Within a fourfold model, White maintained in Metahistory (1973) that historical accounts were shaped as either romances, or tragedies, comedies, satires, with possible hybrid forms. These types of emplotment correspond to four ideological models (anarchist, radical, conservative and liberal). While the historian prefigures his research field as an object of thought, within a linguistic operation, his enterprise can be characterized in terms of the tropological mode which he favors. There are, accordingly, four master tropes that govern his discourse, respectively metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche and irony. In his effort to define the cognitive component of text creation White also referred to four corresponding forms of argument or modes of deduction, which are, in his terms, the formist, mechanistic, organicist and contextualist ones. His inspiring model, a belated echo of Northrop Frye’s attempt to systematize literature, throws light on the cognitive and rhetorical grounds which underlie the common patterns of narration, whose deep structure allows for little variation.

The question whether there is a real difference between historical and fictional narratives, or, in other words, whether narrative truthfulness can be assessed, remains still open, and so does another problem, related to the primacy of event over meaning or the primacy of meaning over event, a dilemma which is extrapolated into the preeminence of either “story” or “discourse” within narratives. However, the influence of narratology beyond its structuralist heyday can hardly be overestimated at present, when some of its concepts can be found among the common working instruments of cultural studies, of feminist and postcolonial theories.

[1] Published in Journal of General Education, 8 (1955), 241-53. Cf. also Gerald Prince, Dictionary of Narratology (Lincoln & London: University of Nebraska Press, 1989), 72-73.

[2] E. M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1970), 87.

[3] Cf. N. Friedman, “Point of View in Fiction: The Development of a Critical Concept”, in PMLA, 70; 1160-84. Also G. Prince (1989), 74-75.

[4] Christopher Isherwood, “Goodbye to Berlin”, in The Berlin Stories (New York: A New Directions Paperbook, 1954), 1.

[5] First published by University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1961; an expanded edition appeared in 1983. Quotations from Seventh Impression (1967) cited parenthetically in the text.

[6] Setting out from a term introduced by Henry James, Booth uses the word “reflector” to describe an unacknowledged third-person narrator, who is a real “center of consciousness” through which the author filters his/her narration.

[7] In this abstract sense (as uncountable nouns), the terms “story” and “discourse” will appear between inverted commas in this text.

[8] R. Barthes, “Textual Analysis ...”, 135. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text.

[9] Cf. Stanley Fish, “Literature in the Reader: Affective Stylistics”, in Is There a Text in This Class? The Authority of Interpretive Communities (Cambridge, London: Harvard University Press, 1980), 28.

[10] S. Chatman, Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1978).

[11] In a reworking of the initial schema, Greimas later considered the Helper and the Opponent to be “auxiliants”, instead of actants.

[12] In A. J. Greimas, Structural Semantics (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983), 205-6.

[13] An argument which he developed especially in Grammaire du Décameron (The Hague: Mouton, 1969).

[14] Cf. Ioan Panzaru, “Prefata`” (“Foreword”), in Claude Bremond, Logica povestirii (The Logic of Narrative), Bucuresti: Univers, 1981, 17-18. Hereafter cited parenthetically in the text.

[15] Gerald Prince, “Introduction to the Study of the Narratee”, in Jane P. Tompkins (ed.), Reader-Response Criticism: From Formalism to Post-Structuralism (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), 8.

[16] Cf. G. Prince, “The Disnarrated”, in Style 22.1 (Spring 1988), 1-8.

[17] Cf. Prince, in J. Tompkins (ed.), Reader-Response Criticism ..., 24.

[18] In Narratology: The Form and Functioning of Narrative (Berlin: Mouton, 1982).