Coincidence and Counterfactuality: Plotting Time and Space in Narrative Fiction

Coincidence and Counterfactuality: Plotting Time and Space in Narrative Fiction

Coincidence and Counterfactuality: Plotting Time and Space in Narrative Fiction

Coincidence and Counterfactuality: Plotting Time and Space in Narrative Fiction

Synopsis

InCoincidence and Counterfactuality, a groundbreaking analysis of plot, Hilary P. Dannenberg sets out to answer the perennial question of how to tell a good story. While plot is among the most integral aspects of storytelling, it is perhaps the least studied aspect of narrative. Using plot theory to chart the development of narrative fiction from the Renaissance to the present, Dannenberg demonstrates how the novel has evolved over time and how writers have developed increasingly complex narrative strategies that tap into key cognitive parameters familiar to the reader from real-life experience. Dannenberg proposes a new, multidimensional theory for analyzing time and space in narrative fiction, then uses this theory to trace the historical evolution of narrative fiction by focusing on coincidence and counterfactuality. These two key plot strategies are constructed around pivotal moments when characters' life trajectories, or sometimes the paths of history, converge or diverge. The study's rich historical and textual scope reveals how narrative traditions and genres such as romance and realism or science fiction and historiographic metafiction, rather than being separated by clear boundaries are in fact in a continual process of interaction and cross-fertilization. In highlighting critical stages in the historical development of narrative fiction, the study produces new readings of works by pinpointing the innovative role played by particular authors in this evolutionary process. Dannenberg's original investigation of plot patterns is interdisciplinary, incorporating research from narrative theory, cognitive approaches to literature, social psychology, possible worlds theory, and feminist approaches to narrative.

Excerpt

This book has a long history, the essentials of which can be narrated in terms of fortunate convergences and counterfactuals. The story begins at the University of Mainz in 1992 in a conversation about possible topics for a postdoctoral thesis (the German Habilitation) with Wolfgang G. Müller. If, in this conversation, Professor Müller had not animated my thoughts with the suggestion that coincidence in literature would be an interesting subject to work on, then a substantial part of this book would certainly never have come into existence. I am deeply grateful to Wolfgang G. Müller for steering my thoughts in the direction of coincidence and for his subsequent encouragement of my project.

Following these beginnings, if Professor Helmut Bonheim had not given me the opportunity to join the English Department at the University of Cologne, thereby providing me with a firm basis from which to pursue an academic career in the field of English literature, then I would certainly never have had the opportunity to interact with a lively community of narrative theorists in Cologne, in particular Richard Aczel, Andrea Gutenberg, Barbara Korte, Ansgar Nünning, Manfred Jahn, Claudia Sternberg, and Natascha Würzbach. Without Helmut's kind and constructive support, I would have missed a key chance to become involved in the field of narrative studies.

I am also deeply indebted to Monika Fludernik, who subsequently gave me the opportunity to work at the Department of English at the University of Freiburg and in doing so provided the framework for me to complete my Habilitation and also, in parallel, to begin work in the field of postcolonial anglophone studies. In Freiburg I also began working on a separate project exploring counterfactuals and alternate worlds in narrative fiction, and it was then that I decided to merge the two projects into a single diachronic study of parallel plot developments. I am deeply grateful to Professor Fludernik for encouraging me to extend the . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.