Strange Narrators in Contemporary Fiction: Explorations in Readers' Engagement with Characters

Strange Narrators in Contemporary Fiction: Explorations in Readers' Engagement with Characters

Strange Narrators in Contemporary Fiction: Explorations in Readers' Engagement with Characters

Strange Narrators in Contemporary Fiction: Explorations in Readers' Engagement with Characters

Synopsis

A storyteller's craft can often be judged by how convincingly the narrative captures the identity and personality of its characters. In this book, the characters who take center stage are "strange" first-person narrators: they are fascinating because of how they are at odds with what the reader would wish or expect to hear--while remaining reassuringly familiar in voice, interactions, and conversations. Combining literary analysis with research in cognitive and social psychology, Marco Caracciolo focuses on readers' encounters with the "strange" narrators of ten contemporary novels, including Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho, Haruki Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, and Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Caracciolo explores readers' responses to narrators who suffer from neurocognitive or developmental disorders, who are mentally disturbed due to multiple personality disorder or psychopathy, whose consciousness is split between two parallel dimensions or is disembodied, who are animals, or who lose their sanity.
A foray into current work on reception, reader-response, cognitive literary study, and narratology, Strange Narrators in Contemporary Fiction illustrates why any encounter with a fictional text is a complex negotiation of interlaced feelings, thoughts, experiences, and interpretations.

Excerpt

The strangest and most wonderful constructions in the whole animal
world are the amazing, intricate constructions made by the primate
,
Homo sapiens. Each normal individual of this species makes a self.
Out of its brain it spins a web of words and deeds, and, like the
other creatures, it doesn’t have to know what it’s doing; it just does
it. This web protects it, just like the snail’s shell, and provides it a
livelihood, just like the spider’s web, and advances its prospects for
sex, just like the bowerbird’s bower. Unlike a spider, an individual
human doesn’t just exude its web; more like a beaver, it works hard
to gather the materials out of which it builds its protective fortress.
Like a bowerbird, it appropriates many found objects which happen
to delight it—or its mate—including many that have been designed by
others for other purposes
.

Daniel dennett, Consciousness Explained (1991)

In 1995 three nasa researchers published a scientific report illustrating the effects of psychoactive drugs on the webs spun by Araneus diadematus, commonly known as the European garden spider (Noever, Cronise, and Relwani 1995). Building on pharmacologist P. N. Witt’s research from the 1940s, the authors demonstrate that spiderwebs can be used to test the toxicity of chemicals such as mescaline, amphetamine, or even caffeine. Indeed, the webs woven by spiders exposed to these substances display distinctive alterations when compared to spiders in the control condition, as evidenced by the drawings included in the report: the healthy compactness of drug-free webs gives way to the loose, asymmetrical edges of Benzedrine webs, the twisted geometry of caffeine, and the skeletal structure of chloral hydrate (see figure 1). in the eyes of a fascinated ob-

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