Ambiguous Discourse: Feminist Narratology & British Women Writers

By Kathy Mezei | Go to book overview

experienced and willing to worry later about sifting the theoretical from the praxeological, the textual from the contextual, the narratological from the interpretive. Or, to close with the final words of Jeanette Winterson's narrator, whose sex is forever a mystery: "Hurry now, it's getting late. I don't know if this is a happy ending but here we are let loose in open fields" (190).


NOTES
1.
See, for example, Diengott, "Narratology and Feminism," and Prince, "On Narratology: Criteria, Corpus, Context."
2.
In "On Narratology: Criteria, Corpus, Context," Prince endorses in theory the inclusion of "gender" as an element of narrative poetics but stops short of embracing feminist narratology. For my response to this essay, see "Sexing the Narrative: Propriety, Desire, and the Engendering of Narratology."
3.
Prince, Dictionary of Narratology, 65.
4.
As Prince has recognized in his own more recent work, one element of the classical definition has been observed consistently in the breach (and, I would add, evoked only to keep certain issues fenced out of narratology): the dictate that narratology explore "what all and only narratives have in common" (emphasis added). To follow such a dictum would long ago have reduced narratology to a far more restrictive science than its most classical practitioners have constructed; as Prince notes, key narratological elements such as focalization, character, and description are hardly restricted to narrative. Nor, indeed, is voice: a lyric poem, for example, is said to manifest "voice," although the "speaker" is conventionally called a "persona" rather than a "narrator." Prince seems to propose a criterion of significance in place of distinctiveness: elements called into play in the relationship between story and discourse, or elements such as focalization and voice that are relevant to the "nature, form, and functioning of narrative," are worth the attention of narratologists. Likewise, narratology has always paid attention to many features that do not necessarily appear in all narratives. Such transgressive elements as metalepsis and paralepsis, which Gérard Genette has identified and discussed at some length, occur in relatively few narratives--far fewer, I hope to demonstrate, than are implicated by questions of sex.
5.
Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, 6-9, 36-38, and passim.
6.
Winterson, Written on the Body, 89. Further references to this novel will appear in the text.

WORKS CITED

Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge, 1990.

Diengott, Nilli. "Narratology and Feminism." Style 22. 1 ( 1986): 42-50.

Lanser, Susan S. The Narrative Act: Point of View in Prose in Fiction. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981.

-260-

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