Narratology: An Introduction

By Susana Onega ; Jose Angel Garcia Landa | Go to book overview

6 Focalization*

MIEKE BAL

The fragment reprinted below is part of the subsection on 'Focalization' in chapter 7 of Narratology, devoted to the analysis of the story level ( Genette's 'narrative'). Genette, in his Narrative Discourse, corrected preceding theories of narrative point of view, like those of Norman Friedman and Wayne Booth, separating the functions of focalizer -- who sees -- and narrator -- who tells. Bal refines Genette's theory of focalization, developing, for example, the difference between the subject and the object of focalization and assigning an autonomous role to the focalizer. This is perhaps the most controversial aspect of her theory. Her insistence that focalization is the most subtle means of manipulating the information presented to the reader and the most difficult to spot gives preeminence to a function that had consistently been overlooked by the critics until Genette ( 1972), thus opening up a whole range of possibilities for microscopic analysis of all kinds of narrative, including film, where focalization is carried out by the camera and the actors' gaze.

Narratology became the most accessible introduction to narratology in English soon after its publication in 1985. It is an attempt at formulating an overall theory of narrative, integrating previous work by structuralist critics in the areas of action sequences, the trait analysis of characters and setting, temporal structures, point of view, narrative voice, the addressee, and so on. There are other books in the same line, such as Mieke Bal own Narratologie, published in French in 1977, Prince Gerald Narratology and Steven Cohan and Linda Shires Telling Stories.


Difficulties

Whenever events are presented, they are always presented from within a certain 'vision.' A point of view is chosen, a certain way of

____________________
*
MIEKE BAL, Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative. Trans. Christine van Boheemen ( Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985), pp. 100-14. First publ. as De Theorie van vertelien en verhalen ( 1980).

-115-

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