Academic journal article Style

Toward a Second Phase of Postclassical Narratology

Academic journal article Style

Toward a Second Phase of Postclassical Narratology

Article excerpt

David Herman, James Phelan, Peter J. Rabinowitz, Brian Richardson, and Robyn Warhol. Narrative Theory: Core Concepts and Critical Debates. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 2012, xiv+280 pp.

When David Herman coined the term postclassical narratology, (1) he did it with the aim of describing the "contrast between structuralist narratology, as practiced by Barthes, Greimas, Genette, Todorov, and others, and approaches to the study of narrative that draw on frameworks for inquiry that were either inaccessible to or ignored by the structuralist theorists" (Herman and Shang 98). The term was further identified and recognized in Herman's edited collection Narratologies: New Perspectives on Narrative Analysis (1999). As the title of this groundbreaking volume suggests, owing to the rise of its postclassical counterpart, narratology is no longer used in the singular sense, but instead it takes on the plural form narratologies, which is aptly evidenced in Ansgar Running's classification (249-51). Like Nunning, I am also interested in the plurality of postclassical narratology, which in my view exists at the level of both media and approaches. In terms of media, postclassical narratology goes beyond literary narrative, which leads to the flourishing of studies on digital narrative, narrative in music, narrative in paintings, narrative in law, etc.; while in terms of approaches, postclassical narratology goes beyond Saussurean linguistics, leading to the boom of cognitive narratology, rhetorical narratology, feminist narratology, postcolonial narratology, etc. To put it another way, what we are encountering now is not one postclassical narratology but multiple postclassical narratologies. In Herman's view, this proves to be one of the achievements that postclassical narratology has reaped in its first phase of developments by "integrating new concepts and methods into the field of narrative inquiry" (Herman and Shang 99).

I agree with Gerald Prince, who keenly observes that "the distinction proposed by Herman was compelling enough to acquire mainstream ('historical') status in less than ten years" (115). What is more, this distinction has already led quite a few scholars (Fludernik, Nunning, Shen, Prince) to compare classical narratology with its postclassical counterpart and discuss the relations between them. What seems to have been inadequately done in current narrative studies is to investigate the relations among various postclassical approaches. Until quite recently, some narrative theorists devoted their attention to this issue. For instance, Herman attempts to classify postclassical narratology into two phases, arguing that

if postclassical narratology in a first phase involves incorporating ideas that fall outside the domain of structuralist theory, in order to reassess the possibilities as well as the limitations of classical models, new challenges emerge in a second phase. What is now required is to bring into closer dialogue the full variety of postclassical approaches--feminist, transmedial, cognitive, and other. In this connection, my suggestion is that by juxtaposing the descriptions of narrative phenomena (narration, perspective, character, etc.) made possible by these approaches, testing for overlap among the descriptions, and then exploring the degree to which the descriptions' non-overlapping aspects might complement one another, theorists can begin to map out the interrelations among postclassical approaches. (Herman and Shang 99)

Herman's initiation of two phases of postclassical narratology finds its echo in Jan Alber and Monika Fludernik's edited collection Postclassical Narratology: Approaches and Analyses (2010), which claims to be the sister volume of Narratologies. For Alber and Fludernik, Shklovsky and the Russian Formalists' models of narrative analysis represent the infancy of narratology, and the structuralist models of the 1960s and 1970s its adolescence. Herman's volume Narratologies represents the first adult phase in a. …

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