Postmodern Narrative Theory. Mark Currie

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<p> transItIons General Editor: Julian Wolfreys Published Titles NEW HISTORICISM AND CULTURAL Iv1ATERIALISMJohn Brannigan POSTMODERN NARRATIVE THEORYMark Currie DECONSTRUCTION-DERRIDAJulian Wolfreys Forthcoming Titles MARXIST LITERARY AND CULTURAL THEORYMoyra Haslett POSTCOLONIAL THEORYClaire Jones LITERARY FEMINISMSRuth Robbins PSYCHOANALYSIS AND LITERATUREAndrew Roberts Transitions Series Series Standing Order ISBN 0-333-736846 (outside North America only) You can receive future titles in this series as they are published by placing astanding order. Please contact your bookseller or1 in case of difficulty, write to us at the address below with your name and address, the title of the series and the ISBN quoted above. Customer Services Department, Macmillan Distribution Ltd Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG216XS, England -1 , .1 , .' I 0 j. . i .'! o.:...' transItIons ost0ern arrative eor Mark Currie K .1J'ITf".!:IrQa 4'.','; 1n-4!--- rf.....!,.'- ,.:.,t,- j . .\.:.'.,...."l't#.' -',''.' -'... Ii .... --'" ...... ",.':* .... ... . r_,.tIf.... ... Ill'- UV- .J!A.tjt' t JfifA, Y' ;..... '. ';'.:;.'.,..-utw j.,. ,'.J.'"j - ....r ...... fI',. A.30,-Nr F 7 .................._ Mark Currie 1998 All rights reserved. No reproduction, copy or transmission of this publication may be made without written permission. . No paragraph of this publication may be reproduced, copied or transmitted save with written permission or in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, or under the terms of any licence permitting limited copying issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency, 90 Tottenham Court R o a d ~London WIP 9HE. An.y person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages. The author has asserted his rights to be identified as the author of this work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs an.d Patents Act 1988. First published 1998 by MACMILlAN PRESS LTD Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG216XS and London Companies and representatives tllroughout the world ISBN 0-333-68778-7 hardcover ISBN 0-333-68779-5 paperback A catalogue record for this book is available fTomthe British Libraty. This book is printed on paper suitable for recycling and made from fully managed and sustained forest sources 10 07 98 0605 7654 04030201 Prillted in Hong Kong 321 009998 Published in the United States of America 1998 by ST. MARTIN'S PRESS,INC., Scholarly and Reference Division 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y.10010 ISBN 0-312-21390-5 cloth ISBN 0-312-21391-3 paperback Contents General Editor's Preface Acknowledgements List of Abbreviations , Introduction: Narratology, Death and Afterlife Diversification, deconstruction, politicisation Models for narratological change Part ILost Objects 1.The Manufacture of Identities Voice, distance, jlldgement Formalism and ideology From point of view to positionality 2. Terminologisation 3. Theoretical Fiction Criticism as fiction Fiction as criticism Part IINarrative Time and Space 4.Narrative, Politics and History Narrative and time Narrative and exclusion Textuality and history Nations and narrations VII IX X 1 1 6 15 17 19 23 27 33 51 54 62 71 73 76 79 87 91 VIContents 5.Culture and Schizophrenia96 96 101 106 113 Accelerated recontextualisation Till1e-space compression Narratives grand and little Narratological unity and diversity Part IIINarrative Subjects115 6. True Lies: Unreliable Identities in Dr Je/cylZ and Mr Hyde117 Inner distance118 Narrative shipwreck121 Writing and seeing126 Self-conscious self-consciousness131 7.The Dark Clouds of Enlightenment: Socio-narratology and Heart ofDarkness135 Annotated BibliograpllY152 Bibliography160 Index168 GeneralEditor'sPreface Transitions:transition-em,n ..of action.1 .. Apassing or passage fronl onecondition,actionor(rarely)place,toanother.2.Passagein thought,speech,or writing,fromonesubjecttoanother.3.a.The passingfromonenotetoanotherb.Thepassingfromonekeyto another, modulation. 4. The passage from an earlier to a later stage of development or formation ...change from an earlier style to alater; a styleof intermediateormixedcharacter ...thehistoricalpassageof language from one well-defined stage to another. The aim of Transitions is to explore passages and movements in criti-cal thought,and in the developmel!t of literary and cultural interpre-tation ..Thisseries alsoseekstoexanline the possibilities forreading, analysis and other critical engagements which the very idea of trarlsi-tion makes possible. The writers in this series unfold tIlemovements and modulations of critical thinking over the last generation, from the firstemergencesof whatisnowrecognisedasliterarytheory.They examine as well how the transitional nature of theoretical and critical thinking isstillvery much in operation,guaranteed by the hybridity and heterogeneity of thefieldof literarystudies.Theauthorsinthe seriessharethecommonunderstanding that,now morethane v e r ~ critical thought is both in astate of transition and can best be defined by developing for the student reader an understanding of this protean quality. Thisseries desires,then,toenable the reader totransforlll her/his own reading and writing transactions by comprehending past devel-opments.Eachbook intheseriesoffersaguidetothepoeticsand politicsof interpretativeparadigms,schoolsandbodiesof thought, while tra11sforming these, if not into tools or methodologies, then into conduits for directing and channelling thought. As well as transform-ingthecriticalpastbyinterpretingitfromtheperspectiveofthe presentday,each study enactstransitionalreadingsof anumberof well-knoWJ.lliterary texts,allof whicharethemselves conceivableas VII VIII GeneralEditor'sPreface havingbeentransitionaltextsatthemomentsof their firstappear-ance. The readings offered in these books seek,through close critical reading and theoretical engagement, to demonstrate certain possibili-ties in critical thinking to the student reader. It ishoped that thestudent willfindthisseries liberating because rigid methodologies are not being put into place. Asall the dictionary definitionsof the idea of transition above suggest,what isimportant is the action, the passage: of thought, of analysis,of critical response. Ratherthanseekingtohelpyoulocateyourselfinrelationtoany particular school or discipline,this series aims to put you into action, as readers and writers,travellers between positions, where the move-ment between poles comes to be seen as of more importance than the locations themselves. Julian Wolfreys Acknowledgements IwouldliketothankJulianWolfreysfc)rhisencouragementand detailed comment during the writing of this book. I am also grateful to themembersoftheEnglishDepartmentinDundeeUniversityfor theirsupport,tothedepartment'ss t u d e n t s ~presentandpast,who have helpedtoshape the ideas presented here,and toGwen Hunter and AnnBain fortheirunfailingkindnessandhelp ..Iwouldliketo thank everyoneat Macmillan who has been involved with thisbook, particularlyMargaretBartley,thecommissioningeditor.AndIam deeply indebted to several others in Illy real life who put up with me when I was under pressure, for their love and friendship. Me Abbreviations HDJoseph Conrad, Heart ofDarkness (1902) London: Penguin, 1983. JHRobert Louis Stevenson, Dr Jelcyll and Mr Hyde and Other Stories (1886)London: Penguin, 1979. Introduction: Narratology,Death Afterlife Diversification, deconstruction,. politicisation and Narratologyisthetheoryandsystematicstudy. of narrative.Ith.as beenwithusinoneformoranoti1erthroughoutthetwentieth century,andithasevolvedintooneof themosttangible,coherent and precise areas of expertise in literary and cultural studies. It began asascienceof narrativeformandstructure,acquiredaformidable dominance as an approach to literary narrative, overshadowed histor-icalperspectiveforseveraldecadesandtllen,somewhereinthe middle of the 19808, ran into problelTIs. After years of protest from the historicistcampsandaftertwodecadesofassaultfranlpoststruc-turalistson itsscientificorientation andauthority,peoplestartedto declare the death of narratology. Somethingmayhavedied.Somethinginside.Acertainyouthful spiritperhaps.Butnarratologyatlargeunderwentnothingmore dramaticthan atransition,andavery positivetran.sitionaway from someofthelimitsandexcessesofitsyouth.Thisbookaimsto ~describe the transition from the formalistand structuralist narratolo-gies of the recent past, to set out the principles and procedures of the new narratologies,and toillustrate theextended scope and continu-ing vitality of anarratologyin the process of transforming into some-thingmuch bigger thanit was:anarratology capableof bringing its expertise to bear on narratives wherever they can be found,which is everywhere. IfthereisacontemporalYnarratologicalclicheitisexactlythis claim that narratives are everywhere. So many recent studies begin by pointing out tl1atnarrative isnot confined toliterature.But however often.ithasbeenrepeated,itisakeycharacteristicoftherecent I 2 Introduction changeinnarratology:amassiveexpansioninthenarratological relllit,in the scopeof objectsfornarratological analysis.Commonly citedexamplesof narrativeineveryday lifearefilms,musicvideos, advertisements,televisionandnewspaper journalism,myths,paint-ings, songs, comic strips, anecdotes, jokes, stories of our holi"days,and accountsof ourday.InmoreacadeIniccontexts,therehasbeena recognition that narrative iscentral tothe representation of identity, inpersonal memory andself-representationorincollectiveidentity of groupssuch asregions,nations,race and gender.There has been widespread interest in narrative in history,in theoperationsof legal systems, in psychoanalysis, in scientific analysis,in economics and in philosophy.Narrativeisas inescapable aslanguage in general,or as causeandeffect,asamodeofthinkingandbeing.AfterselTlinal studies such as Paul Ricoeur'sTime and Narrative it does n.ot seem at allexaggerated to view humansasnarrativeanimals,ashomo fabu-lans - thetellersandinterpretersof narrative.Inthelightof these recognitionsitishardtoseehownarratologycoulddieout.There may be acrisis of self-importance, requiring that narratology adapt its methodstothesenewdemands,or an identity crisiscaused by this diversification ..But this is diversification, not death. Diversificationisthefirstof threeprinciplesthatcanbeusedto summarisethetransitioninconteIllporarynarratology.Thesecond principle,if itcanbecalledthat,isdeconstruction.Deconstruction canbeusedasanumbrellatermunderwhichmanyofthemost important changes in narratology can bedescribed,especially those which depart from the very scientific emphasis of structuralist narra-tology. As an -ology,narratology declares the values of systelnatic and scientificanalysisbywhich.itoperatedbeforepoststructuralist critiquesimpactedonliterarystudies.Muchofthisbookwillbe devoted to the importance of these critiques and their narratological legacy. At thisstage it might be useful toconvey some of the general cl1aracteristics of this legacy. Fromdiscoverytoinvention,fromcoherencetocomplexity,and frompoeticstopolitics:thisistheshortsummary of thetransition that took place in narratological theory in the 1980s. The first change-fromdiscoverytoinvention- reflectsabroadshiftawayfromthe scientificassumption that narratology could bean objectivescience which discovers inherent formal and structural properties in its object narratives.Poststructuralistnarratologymovedawayfromthe assumed transparency of the narrato!ogical analysis towards arecog-Introduction3 nition that the reading, however objective and scientific,constructed itsobject.Structurebecamesomething that wasprojectedontothe work by areading rather than aproperty of anarrative discovered by the reading. Structure came to be seen as ametaphor used by readers of astructuralist bent to give the inlpression of stability in the object -narrativemeaning.Termslikeconstruction,construal,structuration andstructuringwerepreferredbypoststructuralistsbecausethey. point tothe activeroleof the reader in the construction of meaning. Otherterms,likeprocess,becolTIing,play,differance,slippageand dissemination, challenge the idea that ana.rrative is astable structure b'y borrowing their metaphors fromthe semantic fieldof moveIllent. In short,poststructuralists moved away from the treatment of narra-tives(andthelanguagesystemingeneral)asbuildings,assolid objects in the world, towards the view that narratives were narratolog-ical inventions construable in an almost infinite number of ways. Theshiftfromcoherencetocomplexitywaspartofthisbroad departure from the view of narratives as stable structures. Most of the formalsciencesofnarrativewereeffectivelysciencesofunityand coherence.Likethephysicist,thechemist or themicrobiologist,the roleof the narratologist was tradItionally touncover ahidden design which wouldrender theobject intelligible.Forthetraditionalcritic, themostprofoundhiddendesigninanarrativewasitsunity,the exposureof whichwouldalsobearevelationof thework'sformal, thematicorevenpolemiccoherence.Inother words,inthecritical quest for unity there was adesire to present anarrative as acoherent and stable project.In the view of the poststructuralist critic,this was just away of reducing the complexity or heterogeneity of anarrative: by suppressing textual details that contradicted the schemeJthe tradi-tionalnarratologistcould present apartial reading of the text which saw it asastableand coherent project.It wasakey characteristic of poststructuralistl1.arrato!ogythatitsoughttosustaincontradictory aspects- ofnarrative,preservingtheircomplexityaridrefusingthe impulsetoreducethenarrativetoastablemeaningorcoherent project. This will be illustrated later. The deconstruction of narratology then, involved the destruction of its scientific authority and pointed to aless reductive kind of reading whichwasnotunderpinnedbynotionslikethecoherenceofthe authorialprojectorthestabilityof thelanguagesystemingeneral. Thedeconstructionof narratology wasalsoclosely linked towhat I called,amoment ago, the diversification of narratology, since decon-4 Introduction structionwasnorespecterof boundaries,leastof alltheboundary betweenliteratureandtherealworld.Butdeconstructionbecame notoriousin the early 1980s forwhat politically engaged criticssuch asM,arxistssawasitsfundamentallyconservativecharacter,fora political quietism.Intent asit wason the discovery of doubt and the celebrationof irreduciblecomplexity,deconstructionwasperceived as another formalism,asakind of anti-historicism,lacking any basis inhistoricalandpoliticalrealityandwithoutanyprogralllmefor social change. How then is it possible to argue that part of the legacy of deconstruction was the transition from poetics to politics? There are several ways of approaching this issue. The first argument begins fromthe factthat formalism and historicism had been at war withinliterarystudiesthroughmostof th...</p>