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You're Reading a Free Preview Page is not shown in this preview. Whatever you may think of 'political correctness' in general, interpretive discourse must decide on how to gender a narrator grammatically, mainly because it would be stylistically awkward never to use a pronoun at all.
A generic 'he' is clearly out of the question, and the option suggested by Bal -- "I shall refer to the narrator as it , however odd this may seem" -- is, as Ryan n17 rightly points out, "incompatible with consciousness and linguistic ability". By way of compromise, most scholars now follow what has become known as 'Lanser's rule':. Hence the narrator of Dickens's Hard Times would be assumed to be male and referred to by "he", while the narrator of Austen's Sense and Sensibility would be assumed to be female and referred to as "she".
See Culler for a critique of Lanser's rule and for pointing out some interesting ramifications. Problematic in Lanser's gendered pronouns are 1 that they may attribute a narrative voice quality which is better left indeterminate, in certain cases saying "narrative agency" and "it" poses just the opposite problem, however ; 2 that they establish a questionable author-narrator link cp. The problem of sexually indeterminate narrators usually arises with authorial narrators heterodiegetic narrators only. Depending on how the presence of a narrator is signaled in the text, one distinguishes between 'overt' and 'covert' narrators:.
See N1. Needless to mention, overtness and covertness are relative terms, that is, narrators can be more or less overt, and more or less covert. Usually, however, overtness and covertness vary in inverse proportion such that the presence of one is an indication of the absence of the other. In analysis, it is always a good idea to look out for typical signals or absences of narratorial overtness or functionality.
Following Genette, we will make a categorical distinction between two principal types, homodiegetic and heterodiegetic narrators and narratives. The distinction is based on the narrator's "relationship to the story" : -- i. Usually, the two types correlate with a text's use of first-person and third-person pronouns.
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To repeat the rule of thumb mentioned in N1. In order to determine the 'relation' type of a narrative or a narrator, one must check for the presence or absence of an 'experiencing I' in the story's plain action sentences, i. Note well that narrative texts make use of many types of sentences which are not plain action sentences -- descriptions, quotations, comments, etc.
The bare fact that homodiegetic narrators refer to themselves in the first person is not an absolutely reliable criterion for two reasons: 1 overt heterodiegetic narrators refer to themselves in the first person, too, and 2 , more rarely though, there are some homodiegetic narrators who refer to themselves in the third person famous classical example is Caesar's De Bello Gallico.
See Tamir ; Genette : ; Stanzel , , , Edmiston At this point, let us briefly return to the concept of voice. Of course, a voice can only enter into a text through a reader's imaginary perception; hence, unless the text is an oral narrative in the first place, or is performed in the context of a public reading, voice is strictly a readerly construct.
In the classical narratological model, 'voice' is primarily associated with the narrator's voice this is also how we treated the topic in N1.
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In N1. Under the growing impact of Mikhail Bakhtin's theory of narrative it is now standard practice to assign all addresser agencies 'senders' in the model of narrative communication N2.
On this basis, then,. Vocal characteristics can be profitably investigated by analyzing somebody's dialect regional features, esp. According to Bakhtin a  , there are two basic voice effects that can characterize a narrative text:. Not surprisingly, most theorists and interpreters including Bakhtin himself consider the dialogic text the more sophisticated, interesting and challenging form.
There are two additional Bakhtinian terms that are frequently mentioned in the context of dialogism and polyphony:. Genette : ch. Adopting the term focalization , Genette sets out to explore the "different points of view from which [ Further definitional questions include "Who sees? Although these prompts address different features -- a text's alignment to a character's perception on the one hand and the overall scope and restriction of 'narrative information' on the other -- they are easily combined using the following general definition.
Surveying Western narrative fiction, Genette distinguishes three major types of focalization -- zero unrestricted , internal restricted to 'inside views', that is, views into or from within a character's mind , and external restricted to 'outside views'. See the following paragraphs for examples. Finally, Genette also distinguishes three arrangement patterns -- fixed, variable, and multiple focalization N3. In non-focalization or zero focalization: the story's events are narrated from a wholly unrestricted or omniscient point of view.
Here is an excerpt from a 20C novel, James A. Michener's Hawaii I am numbering the examples in this section for further reference. Ceaseless life and death, endless expenditure of beauty and capacity, tireless ebb and flow and rising and subsidence of the ocean.
Night comes and the burning day, and the island waits, and no man arrives. The days perish and the nights, and the aching beauty of lush valleys and waterfalls vanishes, and no man will ever see them. The passage exhibits a panoramic point of view encompassing huge vistas of space and time.
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The narrator appears to have access to limitless information which transcends what is accessible to ordinary humans. He lightly refers to a time span of "more than ten million years" and asserts that "no man will ever see" the scenery's "aching beauty of lush valleys and waterfalls". To Genette's question "Who sees" the expected, if slightly surprising, answer is nobody because no perceiving character is present. To the question concerning the scope of narrative information the answer is no restriction , the narrator is omniscient. Hence, according to Genette, the passage is nonfocalized.
In internal focalization the story's events are focalized through a story-internal character. Narrative information is basically restricted to data available to this character's perception. The term reflector was introduced by Henry James, who also used center and mirror. Alternate terms include focal character Genette , figural medium Stanzel , filter Chatman , and internal focalizer Bal. The proliferation of terms is an indication of the importance of the concept and the immense influence of the style.
Using a reflector character produces a subjective and 'impressionistic' view of the storyworld. It makes the reader co-experience what it is like to be in the head of somebody participating in the story's events. Third-person internal focalization is basically identical to the figural narrative situation N3. For a typical example reconsider the beginning of Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls already qtd in the Getting Started section under the heading of figural narrative situation :. There was a stream alongside the road and far down he saw a mill beside the stream and the falling water of the dam, white in the summer sunlight.
Note that all narrative information is restricted and aligned to the reflector's current spatial and temporal co-ordinates. The notable effect of this technique is that the reader is sucked into the story, invited to see the world just as the character sees it, and co-experience what it is like to be a participant in the events.
It is a hugely successful stylistic device, and we squarely owe it and its many variations to Henry James, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf. Many modernist novels of 'literary impressionism' built stories around carefully chosen reflector characters.
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These included seemingly everyday people such as Woolf's Clarissa Dalloway, an upper middle-class mother and wife, and Joyce's Leopold Bloom, an advertisement canvasser. Other popular reflector figures were intellectuals, artists, and children, or characters placed in exceptional circumstances. External focalization is a form of presentation that restricts itself to mere "outside views", neutrally reporting what would be visible and audible to a virtual camera plus sound recorder , without any "inside views" into the minds of the characters.
In contrast, zero focalization freely allows and internal focalization strictly depends on inside views. Externally focalized narratives typically consist of dialogue and "stage directions" only, as in the following often quoted beginning of Hemingway's short story "The Killers" Outside it was getting dark. The street-light came on outside the window. The two men at the counter read the menu. Nick Adams watched them. He had been talking to George when they came in. See N3.
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Genette additionally distinguishes three arrangement patterns. Dalloway , events are variously seen through the eyes of six major characters. Genette also points out that focalization patterns can be static or dynamic along longer stretches of text. Fixed internal focalization is a static pattern by definition, other patterns dynamically shift from one type to another. For instance, Genette notes that many 19C novelists tend to introduce characters via externally focalized block description before picking one of them as a reflector and presenting the events from his or her point of view Two special cases of focalization have attracted some attention in the literature, so I will briefly mention them here:.
Focalization concepts have also been put to use in analyses of films Jost , Deleyto , Branigan ch. Controversial issues are discussed in Genette : ch. If, along with Genette, you believe the subject has caused "enough ink to flow" 65 feel free to skip forward to N3. Why another account of focalization?
Is anything wrong with the original model? Let us briefly review some critical comments. As will be shown in the following, it is not too difficult to act on the objections and suggestions listed here -- we'll get rid of nonfocalization, accept seeing narrators, use a model that equally applies to first-person and third-person texts, and treat perception as psychologically conditioned. In doing so, we may not get all issues sorted, even introduce some problems of our own, but such is theory.
In the words of Walt Kelly, the author of the classic Pogo cartoons, it will be our aim here to sprinkle some blossoms around and then run through the field barefooted in order to find out where the thorns are.