In this chapter I will deal with two issues that have recently acquired some prominence in narratological discussions: person and tense. Person, classically the distinction between first- and third-person texts, has of course always been a hotly debated subject. Booth’s pronouncement on this being ‘the most overworked distinction’ in narrative theory (Booth 1961/1983:150) was later retracted by him (1983:412), and Dorrit Cohn’s recent work (especially her studies of the history vs. fiction problematics, and of first-person present tense narrative 1) are perhaps the most insistent endorsement of the centrality of the concept person. The classical distinction between the first- and third-person realm, or between homo- and heterodiegesis (Genette 1980:243-9), however, can no longer satisfy theoretical requirements of comprehensiveness and stringency. Experimental writing has meanwhile produced a broad spectrum of narrative texts employing different and frequently ‘odd’ personal pronouns, and this experimental work requires nothing short of an extensive and radical revision of the standard narratological treatment of person or voice.
In the first half of this chapter (6.1 and 6.2) I will discuss some of these recent fictional developments. Second-person fiction, due to its now fairly widespread occurrence, deserves pride of place on this list. 2 Besides the second person I will note the use of indefinite one (French on, German man) and even it in reference to a fictional protagonist, and I will discuss the invention by feminist writers of gender-nonspecific pronouns. These new options restructure the classic first- vs. third-person dichotomy in crucial ways, and they call our attention to an additional range of ‘natural’ pronouns such as we and they whose use in narratives has so far remained beyond the pale of narratological analysis.
The second (also deictic) issue dealt with in this chapter is that of the category of tense. Since the work of Hamburger (1957/1968) and her theory about the epic preterite, tense has been a favourite topic among narratologists, with work by Weinrich (1964/1985), Stanzel (1984b) and, more recently, Fleischman (1990) and Cohn (1993) significantly extending the scope and sophistication of the analysis of narrative tense. Again, this