Towards a 'Natural' Narratology

By Monika Fludernik | Go to book overview

5

Reflectorization and figuralization

The malleability of language

This chapter will trace a complex of phenomena that have recently come to the attention of narratologists and which constitute a refinement of the realist technique while at the same time demolishing its realist bases. These phenomena centre on a number of crucial issues—crucial, that is, in narratology—and therefore radicalize tensions endemic to the realist narrative text: the operations of voice and perspective; the linguistic establishment of the deictic centre and its evocation of consciousness and/or speaker personae; and, finally, the entire complex relating to the issues of mimesis and invented (fictive) orality.

In the following I will introduce a distinction between reflectorization on the one hand and figuralization on the other and I will discuss how these two strategies—if that is what they are—converge in (post-) Modern(ist) writing techniques, particularly those that closely resemble the notorious Russian ‘device’ called skaz.1 My argument is that fiction which displays a prominent speaker persona whose discourse is reflectorized in accordance with Stanzel’s proposals (1984b:168-84) yields a similar type of text to that of a narrative modelled on an empty deictic centre (Banfield 1987) which then allows that centre to develop a speaker function. 2 The skaz technique—a pseudo-oral type of narrative discourse—has recently started to be used pervasively not only in Afro-American writing (see Toni Morrison’s Sula [1973] and The Bluest Eye [1970] as well as the third-person sections in Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day [1988]) but also in a number of non-ethnic novels such as Adam Thorpe’s Ulverton (1992), George Garrett’s The Succession (1983) or Lawrence Norfolk’s Lemprière’s Dictionary (1991), with important anticipations in Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (1973) or Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children (1981) and Shame (1983). Reflectorization and figuralization can therefore be argued to have anticipated the inception of a specific postmodernist style of writing which can even now claim a status of prominence equal to that of the better-known experiments in self-reflexive language play (as in the more familiar postmodernist écriture that goes under the name of surfiction). This massive deployment of pseudo-orality or fingierte Mündlichkeit (‘simulated orality’) 3 can be regarded as the ultimate endpoint

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Towards a 'Natural' Narratology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgements xv
  • Prologue in the Wilderness 1
  • 1 - Towards a ‘natural’ Narratology 12
  • 2 - Natural Narrative and Other Oral Modes 53
  • 3 - From the Oral to the Written 92
  • 4 - The Realist Paradigm 129
  • 5 - Reflectorization and Figuralization 178
  • 6 - Virgin Territories 222
  • 7 - Games with Tellers, Telling and Told 269
  • 8 - Natural Narratology 311
  • In Lieu of an Epilogue 376
  • Notes 379
  • References 407
  • Author Index 443
  • Subject Index 448
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