Towards a 'Natural' Narratology

By Monika Fludernik | Go to book overview
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Games with tellers, telling and told

In this chapter I wish to treat some of the most radical features of postmodernist texts in so far as they relate to the reader’s visualizing of a story (plot) situation and/or a storytelling situation. In Chapter 61 concentrated on the apparently formal or grammatical devices of pronominal usage and tense to illustrate how, in the process of interpretation, frames override microtextual oddities and allow a narrativization in terms of a second-person protagonist or in terms of quasi-simultaneous narration. Logical oddity or inconsistency of this sort ceases to be worrisome when the text can be read as a series of events, a story, or when it may be explained as the skewed vision of a ruling consciousness, that of a teller or that of a reflective or ‘registering’ mind. These reading processes which manufacture sense out of apparent nonsense are observed to apply even more radically when experimentation touches the core of narrative: the establishment of a fictional situation and/or the very language of storytelling. Narrativization is sorely tested at such points.

After a survey of postmodernist techniques in 7.1, I will in this chapter discuss four main types of text. In the first, textual inconsistencies are ascribed to the vagaries of the teller figure, the textual speaker-I (7.2). Although there may be little story to the narrative, readers are happy to narrativize this lack as part of the narrator-teller’s narrative incompetence or as part of his or her deliberate strategy of self-reflexive writing. A related type of apparent breakdown occurs if no situation of storytelling can initially be construed, although the text may have very clear clues about such telling. 1 Reading texts as a speaker’s utterance becomes quite impossible, however, in some radical experimental writing where the text consists of a number of competing discourses (7.3) which seem to be entirely unrelated to one another, so that their juxtaposition resists easy narrativization in terms of an arranger or a hierarchical ordering of discourses (for instance by means of embedding or even a circular structure). A third type of narrative in a very diverse number of manifestations is the typical postmodernist text which disrupts consistent story parameters. Consistency can sometimes be artificially (re-)established by the invocation of a consciousness which supposedly registers things in an


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