Katherine Mansfield's Fiction

By Patrick D. Morrow | Go to book overview

Chapter Two

Three Critical Perspectives on Mansfield's Fiction

In her 1980 book Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative, Dutch literary critic Mieke Bal sets out to present a "systematic account of a theory of narrative for use in the study of literary and other narrative texts" (ix). Bal has three aims in proposing the theory: to integrate various types of theories, to show the need for rational critical discourse, and to follow the study of narrative as a genre. More specifically she targets her book at readers who view the narrative as she does, as "a mode of cultural self-expression" (ix). The critic defines narratology as the theory of narrative texts, a set of general statements about a corpus, although Bal is quick to admit the difficulty in establishing the boundaries of the corpus or, to put it another way, the difficulty of answering the question, what should be considered a narrative text? The answer may seem obvious—newspaper articles, short stories and novels are narrative texts. Bal points out, though, that in setting up parameters for the corpus one increases the chance of disagreement among researchers, some of whom might argue that a comic strip—say Matt Groening's "Life in Hell"—should be regarded as narrative text.

The inclusion of cartoons stretches the idea of text in Bal's view, for she defines text as "a finite, structured whole composed of language signs" (5). From this definition three others, equally significant, spring.

A narrative text is a text in which an agent relates a narrative. A story is a fabula that is presented in a certain manner. A fabula is a series of logically and chronologically related events that are caused or experienced by actors. (5)

Fabula, story and text. Bal takes the three-layered distinction as the basis for her narrative theory, and in order to understand better narratology, we must examine each layer in more depth. Thus, the

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