Contextualizing Feminist Narratology
Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in books. Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has in their hands. I will not allow books to prove any thing.
-- Austen, Persuasion
Anne Elliot's retort to Captain Harville as they debated the differences between men's and women's "nature" pinpoints the essence of feminist narratology--the context of how stories are told, by whom, and for whom.
This collection is the first to gather together essays that combine feminist and narratological readings of women's texts. In their selection of British women writers from Jane Austen to Jeanette Winterson, the contributors focus on writers who are conspicuously self-conscious and iconoclastic in their deployment of narrative techniques. While seeking to decode subversive, evasive, or perplexing narrative strategies in Austen or Woolf or Mina Loy, the contributors recognized the value of a feminist narratology in interpreting these strategies, in proving, as Anne Elliot might say, some thing. In 1986 Susan Lanser described the contingent relation between feminism and narratology, which she named "feminist narratology": "My . . . task [is] to ask whether feminist criticism, and particularly the study of narratives by women, might benefit from the methods . . . of narratology and whether narratology, in turn, might be altered by the understandings of feminist criticism and the experience of women's texts" (342). Taking up the "task" in turn, these essays explore and expose "gender's effect on the level of discourse" ( Warhol, Gendered Interventions, 6). At the same time, the diversity of the contributors' responses reflects both the edgy alliance of feminism and narratology and the evolving, contested histories of feminist literary theory and narratology.