Cognitive Narratology, Rhetorical Narratology, and Interpretive Disagreement: A Response to Alan Palmer's Analysis of Enduring Love

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Alan Palmer's essay, "Attributions of Madness in Ian McEwan's Enduring Love," amply demonstrates how productive his cognitive approach to narrative can be. His focus on aspectuality and on intermental and intramental thinking leads to many sharp insights into Joe Rose's relationships with Jed Parry and with Clarissa Mellon, and, thus, into McEwan's novel. In addition, Alan's effort to link the cognitive analysis to rhetorical theory's concerns with ethical and aesthetic judgments is not only theoretically sound but also provocative. I find it salutary that Alan talks candidly about his own affective responses to the novel ("I found myself getting angry at Clarissa" [306]) and that he is willing to find fault with McEwan, since that move breaks with the still common assumption that the task of criticism is to explain the writer's success: "the question to ask can be simply put: Does Joe do enough wrong [to justify Clarissa's mistrust of him]? On balance, I would say: no. A more nuanced question is this one: Does McEwan miscalculate in trying to set up a context within which Clarissa's mistrust of Joe can be understood and even forgiven? I would say: yes" (307).

Even as I admire Alan's essay, I find that I disagree with his concluding judgments about Clarissa and McEwan's treatment of her character. In my view, McEwan handles the difficult task of making Clarissa's responses to Jed and to Joe both plausible and sympathetic, and, thus, I make a positive ethical judgment of her and a positive aesthetic judgment of McEwan's handling of this element of the novel. But my high regard for Alan's analysis leads me to one kind of response rather than another. Rather than simply trying to demonstrate that the novel contains more evidence to support my judgments than it does to support Alan's, I also want to delve beneath our interpretive disagreement by exploring two other questions. (1) What is it about Alan's cognitive and my version of the rhetorical approach that would lead Alan and me to disagree as we do? (2) What are the particular elements in McEwan's design of the novel that contribute to this disagreement?

In posing the first question, I do not mean to imply that our different theoretical commitments inevitably lead us to our different judgments. Neither Alan's cognitive approach nor my rhetorical one wholly determines its practitioners' conclusions. Both approaches still regard interpretation as an art that can be performed more and less skillfully on any given occasion. Nevertheless, I do want to suggest that because our theoretical commitments influence our respective conceptions of McEwan's novel, they also play a significant role in Alan's finding fault with McEwan's representation of Clarissa and my finding that representation to be successful. This suggestion also means that, although I accept Alan's point that "we are all cognitivists" (292) in the sense that the findings of cognitive narratology are highly relevant to rhetorical theory, I do not see that acceptance as entailing the methodological consequence that rhetorical reading must start with cognitive analysis. Indeed, I shall try to show that our interpretive disagreement arises in part because we start in different places.

Before proceeding to demonstrate this point, I need to lay out more clearly the basic principles of my rhetorical approach. The rhetorical definition of narrative emphasizes narrative as a communicative act and highlights the roles of tellers, audiences, and purposes: somebody telling somebody else on some occasion and for some purposes that something happened. I also regard narrative as a multi-layered communication, one that typically engages the audience's intellect, emotions, ethical values, and aesthetic sensibilities. Consequently, I am interested in the experience of reading literary narrative and in the ways that authors use textual (and sometimes intertextual) phenomena to guide their audiences to respond to the communication in one way (or one set of ways) rather than another. My method for analyzing this authorial guidance is to focus on the interrelationship between narrative progression and narrative judgments. (1)

I define narrative progression as the synthesis of a textual dynamics governing the movement of a narrative from beginning through middle to end and a readerly dynamics consisting of the authorial audience's trajectory of responses to that movement. Textual dynamics are generated by the introduction, complication, and resolution (often only partial) of two sets of unstable relations: (1) those between, among, or within characters, which I call instabilities; and (2) those among the implied authors, narrators, and audiences, which I call tensions.

Narrative judgments are the bridge between textual dynamics and readerly dynamics because they are encoded into narrative texts but generate the reader responses that also influence authorial choices about the textual dynamics. Narratives with surprise endings provide a handy example of both the interaction of textual dynamics and readerly dynamics and the role of narrative judgments as the bridge that makes that interaction possible. In such narratives, the author's interest in surprising her audience influences her construction of the textual dynamics even as the readerly surprise is a function of those textual dynamics. Furthermore, the surprise depends on a sequence of guided interpretive judgments about the likely trajectory of the narrative that turn out to be wrong, even as the final judgments in that sequence provide the corrective--and in narratives with effective surprise endings a positive aesthetic judgment of the readerly experience.

I see three types of narrative judgment as central to the rhetorical experience of narrative: interpretive judgments about the nature of events and other elements of the narrative, including its trajectory; ethical judgments about the moral value of characters and actions; and aesthetic judgments about the artistic quality of the narrative and of its parts.

Furthermore, as Alan's discussion illustrates, (1) narratives typically ask their readers to judge characters' judgments and (2) the three kinds of judgments are often interrelated. Alan judges Clarissa as interpretively challenged and ethically deficient--in his words, her failure to accept Joe's narrative about Jed and her insistence on an alternative narrative is "stupid, inadequate, and pathetic," (303) and, as noted above, he becomes angry at her. (From my rhetorical perspective, Alan's admission of his anger is not "shaming," [306] but nicely indicative of how he has entered the novel's narrative audience and engaged with the mimetic component of the narrative. (2)) Alan's negative judgments of Clarissa's interpretive and ethical judgments also lead him to his ultimately negative aesthetic judgment of McEwan's handling of Clarissa.

Finally, my version of the rhetorical approach notes that readerly dynamics involve our developing interests in and responses to three analytically distinct but often mutually influential components of narrative: the mimetic, thematic, and synthetic. Responses to the mimetic component involve an audience's interest in the characters as possible people and in the narrative world as like our own, that is, hypothetically or conceptually possible; responses to the mimetic component are typically associated with our affective responses to the progression--the way in which our interpretive and ethical judgments influence our desires, hopes, expectations, satisfactions, and disappointments. Responses to the thematic component involve an interest in the ideational function of the characters and in the cultural, ideological, philosophical, or ethical issues being addressed by the narrative. In situations where an overarching thematic issue gets treated in different scenarios, the interpretive and ethical judgments we make about one scenario will typically influence the interpretive and ethical judgments we make about the others, and this influence will have consequences for our affective responses. I shall argue below that this principle is especially relevant to Enduring Love.

Responses to the synthetic component involve an audience's interest in and attention to the characters and to the larger narrative as artificial constructs. In realistic fiction such as Enduring Love, the synthetic component typically remains in the background, while the mimetic and thematic components stay in the foreground. More generally, the relationship among an audience's relative interests in these different components will vary from narrative to narrative depending on the nature of its progression. Some narratives are dominated by mimetic interests, some by thematic, and others by synthetic, but developments in the progression can generate new relations among those interests. Furthermore, some progressions make two or even all three interests central to the achievement of their narratives' purposes.

I now return to my first question: why would Alan's and my different theoretical commitments lead us to our different judgments of McEwan's representation of Clarissa? The primary reason, I believe, is that these commitments lead us to different understandings of, to quote Alan, the "context within which Clarissa's mistrust of Joe can be understood and even forgiven" (307). Alan's approach with its accompanying article of faith that "the cognitive approach is the basis of all the other approaches" (212) and his particular interest in fictional minds leads him to view the following set of characters and issues as the center of McEwan's performance in the novel: Joe, Jed, and Clarissa; aspectuality and its link to the importance of narrative; intermental and intramental thinking as they contribute to the unraveling of Joe and Clarissa's relationship. Just as important, Alan's focus leads him to assume that the relevant context for judging Clarissa's behavior is our common-sense understanding of what an intelligent person in a trusting relationship would do:

   But for me, the issue is ... whether or not she should believe in
   Joe more at the time and trust in him more than she does. From her
   aspectual view of the storyworld, what she undeniably does know is
   that they have a loving, trusting relationship and that he is
   intelligent and reliable. So why does she not believe him? ... What
   would justify such a breach of faith by such an intelligent person
   within such a trusting relationship? (303)

Because Alan is unable to find compelling answers to these questions within his conception of the novel, he finds fault with both Clarissa and McEwan.

My rhetorical interest in progression, judgments, and the components of readerly interest leads me, first, to be grateful for Alan's analysis because it teaches me much about these issues. Nevertheless, my interests also lead me to include in my initial conception of the novel's overall workings some characters and issues that Alan gives little or no attention to. In this respect, my interests lead me to think that Alan's analysis is excellent as far as it goes but that it does not go far enough. More specifically, I want to add to Alan's list of key characters and issues the following: John and Jean Logan, James Reid and Bonnie Deedes, Joe's role as retrospective narrator, and especially the thematic issue alluded to by the title, the problem of lasting love. As the progression develops, this thematic issue gets more precisely (though still broadly) defined as one involving the relation between love, with its passionate, often irrational, emotion and the logic of rational thought. Furthermore, the progression indicates that McEwan does not endorse a single and definitive view of this relationship but rather explores multiple perspectives on it so that the only firm conclusion we can make about the relationship is that it is vexed. The value of McEwan's treatment, then, is tied to fictional narrative's ability to move between the concrete (the various situations in which the relation between love and logic is relevant) and the general (the overall exploration of that relation) and the value of fiction's ability to engage its audience in that movement.

More specifically, from the rhetorical perspective, the progression develops along two main and frequently intersecting tracks of instabilities between and among the characters: the track Alan so richly analyzes, the one on which Jed Parry's erotomania threatens and then disrupts the relationship between Joe and Clarissa, and the track tracing the relationship between Jed and Joe. Indeed, because of the disruption of the erotomania, the resolution of the instabilities on the second track does not lead to resolution of the instabilities on the first track. I will come back to this point, but for now I want to add and to emphasize that the progression of instabilities along both tracks develops within the context of McEwan's ongoing exploration of the central thematic issue. Our readerly interest in that exploration is generated and complicated by Joe's narration early in the narrative, by the progression of the main instabilities themselves, and by McEwan's representation of other couples in the novel, especially John and Jean Logan and James Reid and Bonnie Deedes. (3)

The second section of the first chapter is largely given over to exposition about Joe and Clarissa's relationship at the moment just before it gets disrupted by the balloon accident that brings Jed Parry into their lives. The first section puts Joe and Clarissa on the scene in the Chiltern Hills as they begin the picnic Joe has planned to celebrate their reunion after a separation of six weeks, their longest separation in the seven years they have been together. This second section is a flashback to earlier in the day, tracing Joe's activities from buying the food, to meeting Clarissa at Heathrow and finally to taking her to the picnic site. Joe's narration beyond the report of the events covers four especially significant topics: (1) the many reunion scenes he witnesses at Heathrow while waiting for Clarissa; (2) his elation at the way their reunion combines the new and the familiar; (3) Clarissa's report on her thoughts about the John Keats-Fanny Brawne relationship and Joe's reflection on those thoughts; and (4) his own thoughts about loving Clarissa.

The progression of Joe's observations about the reunion scenes deftly introduces the thematic interest in the relation between love and logic even as it remains focused on the mimetic component of Joe's experience. At first, Joe's observations draw on science to underline the commonality of human emotion: "If one ever wanted proof of Darwin's contention that the many expressions of emotion in humans are universal, genetically inscribed, then a few minutes by the arrivals gate at Heathrow should suffice ..." (4). Then those observations lead to a detachment that makes Joe question the authenticity of the emotions he is witnessing: "mostly it was smiles and hugs ... [until alter thirty-five minutes] I began to feel emotionally exhausted and suspected that even the children were being insincere" (5). Then, however, when Clarissa arrives, the detached scientist becomes as emotional as any of the subjects he has been watching: "I was just wondering how convincing I could be in greeting Clarissa when she tapped me on the shoulder.... Immediately my detachment vanished, and I called out her name, in tune with all the rest" (5).

Joe's emotion--and McEwan's emphasis on the mimetic--continue as Joe comments that "what was familiar about her--the size and feel of her hand, the warmth and tranquility in her voice, the Celt's pale skin and green eyes--was also novel, gleaming in an alien light, reminding me of our very first meetings and the months we spent falling in love" (5). But McEwan's title also cues his audience to the thematic import of Joe's commentary. Does a longstanding love fade with familiarity until it gets renewed by absence and reunion? How might the relation between love and logic play out here? In this connection, McEwan's decision to set the action when Joe and Clarissa have been together seven years is apt. Seven years brings the famous Itch, but more than that, it means that their love is no longer new but not so deeply established that it can withstand all possible threats.

Joe reports that Clarissa's research has led her to believe in and search for an unpublished letter from Keats to Brawne, written in his ten-day remission period from tuberculosis just before his death: his love was such, hypothesizes Clarissa, that "it's easy to imagine him writing a letter he never intended to send" (7). Joe's conclusion is different: "I thought it possible that in his hopeless situation, he would not have wanted to write because he loved her so much" (7). Neither McEwan nor Joe shades the narration in favor of either Clarissa's hypothesis or Joe's. (I shall return to Joe's role as active agent of the narrative's design.) McEwan and Joe do, however, implicitly link this contrast to another difference between Clarissa and Joe: she believes that love that did not find its expression in a letter was "not perfect," and she had written "passionately abstract" explorations of the "way in which [their] love was different from and superior to any that had ever existed." Joe, for his part, cannot get beyond the facts, which seemed to him simply "miraculous": "a beautiful woman loved and wanted to be loved by a large, clumsy, balding fellow who could hardly believe his luck" (7). Joe's thoughts end the section, and, to echo Clarissa, "it is easy" to see how tar we've traveled from the scientific observation that all human emotion is the same to Clarissa's view that theirs is unique and Joe's that it is fundamentally mysterious. Again, neither McEwan nor Joe shades the narration to favor one view more than the other. More generally, at this stage, McEwan has juxtaposed multiple views of love and logic in a way that indicates none of them is the whole truth. In this way, he provides an appropriate frame for his exploration of this thematic component in the rest of the novel.

When McEwan introduces Jed's erotomania, he introduces a love that has no rational basis at all. Indeed, it is in the very nature of the disease that it defies logic, and its very absence of logic is a central reason that it can endure. Even after Joe shoots him and Jed is confined to a mental institution, where he is given medication, Jed remains confident that Joe's love "for him was undiminished and that through his suffering he would one day bring [Joe] to God" (255). Jed is like a literary critic--and I daresay we've all met someone like him (I've occasionally seen someone like him in the mirror)--who refuses to acknowledge the existence of evidence recalcitrant to his interpretive hypothesis. Joe's declarations that he wants Jed to go away, Joe's denials of his interest in being saved, even Joe's shooting him: to Jed, these phenomena are not even inconvenient truths. Instead they are merely signs that, when properly read, confirm his view that Joe requites his love. Jed is also like the literary critic who finds confirmation of his hypothesis in what everyone else would regard as irrelevant or, even nonsignifying, data: he reads messages in the movement of the curtains in his flat or in Joe's brushing against the hedges along his walk. Because McEwan juxtaposes Jed's reading of Joe's behavior with Joe's reading of Clarissa's, and, to a lesser extent, Clarissa's reading of Joe's, he invites us to compare and contrast these readings. The contrasts are real, precisely because Clarissa's and Joe's feelings do have some logical relation to their respective behaviors, but the narrative also shows that looking for the logical relation is often the wrong response. It is sometimes the wrong response because there is sometimes the kind of gap between emotion and reason that leads Joe to his conviction about the mystery of the love between him and Clarissa. At other times it is the wrong response because the effort to reason from the evidence to the correct feeling is doomed to fail.

One of the functions of Jean Logan's presence in the story is to illustrate this latter point. In a sense, with her story, McEwan gives us the flip side of erotomania, a woman who thinks she is, however painfully, giving up any delusions in the face of the logical inferences that follow from the evidence she confronts after John's death. Food and drink for a picnic, another woman's scarf, John's being in the Chilterns instead of in London at the conference he said he was attending: these signs, Jean reasons, can only mean that John is having an affair. Furthermore, Jean reads the signs to explain why John was the only one to hang on to the balloon when the others let go: "he was showing off to a girl" (132). But Jean's logic, which leads to "the slow agony of [love's] destruction" (121), turns out to be erroneous. And McEwan brilliantly uses the mechanism of an illogical (though well-known kind of) love to reveal her errors: the relationship between the fifty-something James Reid and the undergraduate student Bonnie Deedes. McEwan calls even more attention to the illogicality of the love--from Reid's position at any rate--by having him note that he will have to resign from his position as the Euler Professor of Logic at Oxford.

McEwan uses Joe's narration--indeed, he uses the language of the relation between love and logic--to call attention to the fact that the resolution of the Joe-Jed track of the progression does not bring about a happy resolution of the Joe-Clarissa track. After Joe shoots Jed in the elbow, simultaneously preventing his suicide and freeing Clarissa from his grasp, Joe comments:

   In a world in which logic was the engine of feeling, this should
   have been the moment when Clarissa stood, when we moved toward each
   other and folded into each other's arms with kisses and tears and
   conciliatory murmurs and words of forgiveness and love....

   But such logic would have been inhuman. There were immediate and
   background reasons why the climax of the afternoon could not have
   been in this particular happiness. (230-31)

The next chapter of Joe's narration gives some of those background reasons from Clarissa's perspective in the form of her letter to Joe, prompted by their "row" after the resolution of the Joe-Jed set of instabilities. This row stems entirely from their different ways of connecting logic and emotion as they dealt with Jed's intrusion into their lives, differences that Clarissa's letter continues to demonstrate. The letter, which serves as the penultimate chapter of the novel, makes a striking contrast with the first section of the first chapter. Where that section focuses on the moment of happy reunion just before Jed's appearance, Clarissa's letter focuses on (a) the row that replaced any happy reunion after Joe returns from his night in jail after shooting Jed and (b) how their different responses to Jed have led her to question her belief that "their love was the kind that was meant to go on and on" (236).

The final chapter, set a few weeks later, focuses primarily on Jean Logan and James Reid, but it also includes some possibility that the now estranged Joe and Clarissa may be reconciled. After James and Jean ask for forgiveness in a way that Joe finds "almost mad, Mad Hatterish" (248), Joe notes that "I caught Clarissa's eye and we exchanged a half-smile, and it was as if we were pitching our own requests for mutual forgiveness, or at least tolerance, in there with Jean and Reid's frantic counterpoint. I shrugged as though to say that, like her in her letter, I just did not know" (248).

Looked at from the rhetorical perspective, then, Alan's question about Clarissa, "What would justify such a breach of faith by such an intelligent person within such a trusting relationship?" would receive the following answer: according to the progression, the vexed nature of the relationship between love and logic. To put the answer in a slightly different way: in the broader context of this narrative, it makes great sense that two intelligent people in a trusting relationship would be thrown into doubt and confusion by their different efforts to make logical sense of the irrational attachment of a third person to one of them.

This conclusion is given greater weight by much of the rest of the novel, especially the way in which aspectuality works in conjunction with Joe's and Clarissa's different experiences of Jed to lead them to their simultaneously plausible and incompatible understandings of him. Clarissa sees much less of Jed than Joe does, and what she sees, until the final episodes, is relatively harmless. In addition, as we learn in Chapters Nine and Twenty-Three, Clarissa sees Joe in a way that Joe does not see himself at the time of the action. As she says in Chapter Twenty-Three, "A stranger invaded our lives and the first thing that happened is that you became a stranger to me" (235). It is a strength of McEwan's novel that he uses Joe's narration to show that Clarissa's interpretations of Joe's behavior are both plausible and too limited. If I had more space, I would work through this evidence at greater length, but since my concern is less with the details of my disagreement with Alan than with the underlying causes of that disagreement, I want to turn to my second overarching question: what are the particular elements of McEwan's design that would contribute to that disagreement?

The main element, I believe, is Joe's retrospective narration, because it requires a difficult balancing act from McEwan as he uses that narration simultaneously to signal Joe's purposes in telling and his own different purposes. Early on McEwan emphasizes Joe's retrospection and his self-consciousness as a writer, a self-consciousness that is well-motivated by Joe's career as a science writer and reflected in the frequent references to narrative that Alan has perceptively noted. Joe's very first sentence. "The beginning was simple to mark" (1) signals both Joe's retrospection and his awareness of the act of storytelling. He continues to mark both dimensions of his narration throughout the chapter. "I'm holding back, delaying the information. I'm lingering in the prior moment because it was a time, when other outcomes were still possible" (2). "[The shout] was a baritone, on a rising note of fear. It marked the beginning, and, of course, an end. At that moment, a chapter--no, a whole stage of my life--closed" (8). Although Joe never explicitly announces his purpose, these early comments and the overall trajectory of his narrative--from the moment of happy reunion right before the balloon accident to the moment of Joe and Clarissa's asking for mutual forgiveness without knowing whether they can grant it--suggests that he wants to record the story of their movement from union to separation. Because Joe is a self-conscious retrospective narrator with this purpose of telling the story of how he and Clarissa lost their love, we can infer that Joe not only writes Chapter Nine with Clarissa as focalizer but that he also is responsible for including Clarissa's letter as Chapter Twenty-Three. (4) He has a double motive for these inclusions: to be fair to Clarissa's perspective and to show the gap between their two perspectives as a way to help his unspecified narratee understand how they came apart.

McEwan's purpose includes Joe's--he, too, wants to trace the story of Joe and Clarissa's unraveling--but it is larger than Joe's. He wants to engage us emotionally in the story of their decline, to engage us ethically in the complex judgments that follow from his exploration of the vexed relation between love and logic, and to use both of those engagements as the basis for our satisfying aesthetic experience of his narrative. McEwan succeeds in using Joe's narration to achieve these purposes because he carefully balances Joe's self-consciousness with dimensions of the narration that elude Joe's self-consciousness such as the establishment of the thematic stakes of the narrative in the second section of chapter one. At that point, Joe is primarily interested in recording what happened and explaining it in his own idiom. (5)

So far so good. But now consider how Joe's situation at the time of the telling plays into his purpose. Because Joe is writing at a time when he and Clarissa are still estranged and because the estrangement is connected to each one's sense that he or she is more right than the other, his narration clearly gives preference to his view. In that respect, even as he wants to tell the story of their loss of love, he also wants to show that he is more sinned against than sinning. More generally, this dimension of Joe's purpose raises the question of his reliability. As Alan notes, Joe turns out to be reliable on the major issues, especially his interpretation of Jed as suffering from de Clerambault's syndrome. The combination of Joe's privileging his interpretations and McEwan's making him ultimately reliable in his interpretation of Jed means that McEwan has an especially difficult job in using Joe's narration to convey his authorial judgment that both Joe and Clarissa make plausible responses to Jed and that both Joe and Clarissa get things wrong. As my previous analysis has attempted to show, I believe that McEwan uses the broader context of the progression to counter the risk of his technique. I add here that the risk is worth running because the technique itself is crucial to the achievement of McEwan's purpose: constructing Joe as self-interested yet striving to be fair to Clarissa and simultaneously reliable about Jed's condition gives the audience a vivid understanding of one relation between love and logic, even as that narration includes so much other exploration of that relation. Nevertheless, the risk inherent in the technique's combination of privilege and reliability means that it is all but inevitable that even sensitive and intelligent readers such as Alan will side with Joe and respond to Clarissa as interpretively challenged and ethically deficient.

As I turn to conclude my response, I want to consider one larger question that it is likely to raise in the minds of some readers. Does my unpacking of this particular disagreement and my own interest in being more right than Alan constitute a more general argument for the superiority of rhetorical theory to cognitive narratology? I answer with a resounding no, and I do so for several reasons. First, as noted above, I agree with Alan that "we are all cognitivists," and I reiterate that I find much of his analysis very helpful to my understanding of the novel. Second, I do not think it is legitimate to go from one case study to the broader conclusion--such a move would be an unwarranted induction. Third, a consequence of these first two reasons: the rhetorical and cognitive approaches are ultimately compatible because they share an interest in how authors use the tools of narrative representation and communication to provide audiences with rewarding reading experiences. Fourth, I am confident that Alan could read this response and use what he found on target in it in a more expansive cognitivist reading of Enduring Love, even as he could explain why, from his perspective, some of my analysis would be unpersuasive. Fifth, I am acutely aware of the fallibility of my analysis, especially because, as I say about Alan's, there is more to McEwan's novel than I account for here. But I will venture that the unpacking does point to one general virtue of the rhetorical approach: its commitment to working in a posteriori fashion, which means its interest in letting individual narratives set the relevant terms by which they should be understood and evaluated. More generally, I would hope that the essay gives some sense of the continuing utility of rhetorical analysis and, even more, of the value of putting the rhetorical and cognitive approaches in dialogue with each other. In that spirit, I end by expressing my gratitude to Alan for his initial effort to put the approaches together in his essay and for his invitation to respond to that effort.

Works Cited

McEwan, Ian. Enduring Love. 1997. New York: Random House, 1999.

Palmer, Alan. "Attributions of Madness in Ian McEwan's Enduring Love." Style. 43.3 (2009): 309-:21.

Phelan, James. Narrative as Rhetoric. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1996. 291-308.

--. Experiencing Fiction: Judgments, Progressions, and the Rhetorical Theory of Narrative. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1997.

Rabinowitz, Peter J. Before Reading: Narrative Conventions and the Politics of Interpretation. 1987. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1998.

--. "Truth in Fiction: A Re-examination of Audiences." Critical Inquiry 4 (1977): 121-41.

James Phelan

Ohio State University


(1) For a much fuller discussion of these principles, see Experiencing Fiction.

(2) By narrative audience, I mean the observer position within the diegetic world that the actual audience takes on. Thus, one difference between the narrative audience on the one hand and the actual and the authorial audiences on the other is that in realistic fiction such as Enduring Love the narrative audience takes the characters to be real people, while the other audiences retain the tacit understanding that they are not. I will say more about the mimetic component of the narrative shortly. For more on the model of audience in my version of rhetorical theory see Rabinowitz ("Truth in Fiction" and Before Reading) and chapter 6 of my Narrative as Rhetoric.

(3) Other couples--or triangles--with less central roles in the progression, also add to the thematic context: Clarissa's brother Luke who was leaving his wife and two children to move in with an actress he had known for only three months; Xan, Steve, and Daisy, the people from whom Joe buys the gun he uses to shoot Jed, and who play out an extreme version of the odd relation between emotion and logic.

(4) Similarly he is responsible for including Jed's letters in Chapters Eleven and Sixteen, as a way of dramatizing the instabilities along that track.

(5) In this connection, McEwan's choice to reveal that Joe and Clarissa are together again in the Appendix is especially revealing. Joe's purpose, and, thus, much of his narration, would likely be very different if he were writing from the temporal vantage point of their ultimate re-union. That vantage point would not work for McEwan because it would undercut at least to some degree his emphasis on the complex role of the relation between love and logic in the effort to achieve an enduring love. At the same time, the fact that he brings them back together after the main action also signals that he is not totally pessimistic about the possibility of enduring love with some rational basis.