Academic journal article Journal of Narrative Theory

From Zero to Hero: An Ourouborean Typology of Narratees Identifiable in Modern Fiction in English

Academic journal article Journal of Narrative Theory

From Zero to Hero: An Ourouborean Typology of Narratees Identifiable in Modern Fiction in English

Article excerpt

Ever since its appearance in the 1970s, the category of the narratee has been a standard, if somewhat neglected, element of narrative poetics, few studies going beyond mere acknowledgment of its presence in the com- municative structure of narrative. Thus, Gerald Prince's "Introduction to the Study of the Narratee" and Mary Ann Piwowarczyk's "The Narratee and the Situation of Enunciation: A Reconsideration of Prince's Theory" remain basic expositions of its properties and functions. Seminal as these studies were at the time of their pubUcation, they have basically an intro- ductory character and the ideas presented in them need to be augmented and developed, not least because they do not take into account the speci- ficity of more experimental narrative forms, second-person narratives in particular, which have gained in significance since the 1970s. The aim of the present study is to fill in this lacuna in narrative poetics and to propose a typology which would allow a systematic presentation of different types of narratees identifiable in various narrative forms.

Incorporating Prince's introductory remarks into a global model of nar- rative communication, Seymour Chatman's classic diagram (151) identi- fying the narratee, the impüed reader and the real reader on the reception side has come to constitute a reference point for further research on the narratee. In his diagram Chatman situates the real reader outside textual communication and assumes the immanence of the implied reader and the consequent optionaUty of the narratee, whose presence is dependent on textual signals. Most subsequent discussions of the narratee focus almost exclusively, if not excessively, on the issue of his/her1 intrinsic position in the text structure and, as might be expected, advocate all logically possible modifications of Chatman 's original diagram.

Whether the narratee is considered an intrinsic textual element seems to depend on two factors: the assumption of a particular overaU model of narrative communication and the adoption of a deductive approach to narrative as such. Thus, Gerard Genette (138) and Shlomith Rimmon- Kenan (89) exclude the implied reader from narrative communication and argue for the narratee' s immanence on the strength of an a priori assumption that a narrative must be directed to some textuaüsed addressee other than the real reader. Patrick O'Neill (71) and WiUiam Nelles (9), in turn, maintain that the communicative structure of each and every narrative comprises both the narratee and the impüed reader on its reception side, their working assumption being that both the implied author and the narrator, whose immanence they assume, need communicative partners, i.e. the implied reader and the narratee. Neatly ordered as these models of narrative communication are, they seem too rigid to do justice to the complexities of narrative fiction. As Brian Richardson (114-133) has demonstrated recently, such symmetrical theoretical distinctions frequently coUapse when they are appüed to particular - not necessarily extremely experimental - instances of narratives.

Furthermore, a pecuUar regularity can be observed in studies arguing for the immanence of the narratee. Once his/her presence has been proved deductively, examples of texts in which the narratee can be identified are adduced: they usually include such novels as Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy, Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness or Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. NaturaUy, what these texts have in common is that they expUcitly introduce the figure of an addressee to whom the narrator is directing his/her narrative. One would be hard put to find a general discussion of the narratee which relies on texts in which he/she is not explicitly evoked. As might be expected, the few existing studies of the narratee in particular novels also analyse texts in which the narratee is expUcitly evoked.

An exception to this focusing on clearly visible figures of a textualised addressee is constituted by Prince's discussion of what he considers indirect signals of the narratee's presence in the text. …

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