By Michael Kearns
Narratology attempts to determine the rules or codes of composition of a narrative and to formulate the "grammar" of narrative, that is, the structures and formulas that recur across stories with very different content. Since its inception some thirty years ago, narratology has adopted a largely formalist and structuralist focus and thus has tended to pass over contextual factors that affect a reader's experience of narratives. In Rhetorical Narratology, Michael Kearns redresses this one-sidedness by combining traditional narratology's tools for analyzing texts with rhetoric's tools for analyzing audiences. Guiding Kearns's approach is speech-act theory, which, in emphasizing the rule-governed context in which any text is produced and received, provides the means for describing how the structures of narrative may affect certain audiences in certain ways. Rhetorical narratology applies fundamental concepts from speech-act theory to draw together the strengths of rhetoric and narratology. Rhetoric contributes the steady focus on the interaction between text and reader as that interaction occurs in specific cultural contexts and through time. Narratology provides the crucial distinction between "story" and "discourse,"-between the "what" and the "how" of a narrative. Concentrating on the "how" has produced sophisticated treatments of such concepts as "fiction," "narrativity," and "point," as well as detailed analyses of temporal structure, point of view, and speech representation. The central question that rhetorical narratology attempts to answer, then, is how do the various narrative elements isolated by narratologists actually work on readers?