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The Difference Approach to Narrative Fiction: A Recurring Critique of Narratology and Its Implications for the Study of Novels and Short Stories
Örebro University, School of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-1267-0031
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this thesis is to advance the critical examination of narratology, or the study of storytelling. I analyze four versions of a critique of the dominant theory of narrative fiction in narratology and discuss this critique’s methodological implications. The critics, Sylvie Patron, Lars-Åke Skalin, Richard Walsh, and the proponents of unnatural narratology have, I suggest, similar understandings of narratology’s handling of works like novels and short stories as well as similar alternative approaches. I situate the critique among relevant theories of fiction and salient aspects of narratology, and conclude that the most radical critics have a difference approach to narrative fiction. This means treating this literary practice as following another rule system for creating meaning than other kinds of storytelling. These critics seem to base their reasoning on their readerly intuitions about how novels and short stories function; yet their approach also lends itself to, for instance, discussions on how such works afford life visions or worldviews. In contrast to this approach, I describe narratology, in the critics’ view, as having a sameness approach that treats narrative fiction as a subtype of “narrative” in the sense of the communication of events by a narrator.

The three opening articles of the thesis comprise a metadiscussion of the critique. I here describe, in part with Greger Andersson, the critics’ ideas, characterize the critique as a whole, and speculate about why it has had no apparent effect on narratology. The two latter articles utilize the difference approach in analyses of Angela Carter’s “The Loves of Lady Purple” and Sara Stridsberg’s Drömfakulteten (The Faculty of Dreams) while discussing narratological concepts and issues. Future studies might continue this discussion or inquire further about, for example, the relations between different narrative practices or what role different intuitions about narrative fiction play in descriptions and analyses.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Örebro: Örebro University , 2019. , p. 129
Series
Örebro Studies in Literary History and Criticism, ISSN 1650-5840 ; 13
Keywords [en]
Angela Carter, narrative fiction, narrative theory, narratology, Sylvie Patron, Lars-Åke Skalin, Sara Stridsberg, unnatural narratology, Richard Walsh
National Category
General Literature Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-75851ISBN: 978-91-7529-297-7 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:oru-75851DiVA, id: diva2:1345147
Public defence
2019-10-18, Örebro universitet, Forumhuset, Hörsal F, Fakultetsgatan 1, Örebro, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2019-08-23 Created: 2019-08-23 Last updated: 2019-10-10Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. The critique of the common theory of narrative fiction in narratology: Pursuing difference
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The critique of the common theory of narrative fiction in narratology: Pursuing difference
2019 (English)In: Frontiers of Narrative Studies, ISSN 2509-4882, Vol. 5, no 1, p. 17-34Article in journal (Other academic) Published
Abstract [en]

This article aims to characterize a commonly misunderstood and neglected critique of narratology and insists that the critique could advance the narratological discussions if taken more seriously. I describe the notions of three individual critics and one group of critics and their suggested alternatives to what they hold to be the dominating description of narrative fiction in narratology. In turn, I take up Sylvie Patron’s linguistic approach, Lars-Åke Skalin’s aesthetic approach, and Richard Walsh’s pragmatic approach, as well as unnatural narratology (which is less radical), and suggest that they have a Difference approach to narrative fiction. The critique is contrasted with what I refer to as a Sameness approach, guiding the dominating description of narrative fiction in narratology. The Sameness approach relates novels and short stories to a notion of a default mode of “narrative” which is based on situated speech about something that has happened. This is, according to the critics, a mistake. The main thrust of the critics, although with some exceptions, is instead that narrative fiction needs to be approached as sui generis in order to be described effectively. Yet how this should be done is still open for debate.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2019
Keywords
Difference approach, Sylvie Patron, Lars-Åke Skalin, unnatural narratology, Richard Walsh
National Category
General Literature Studies
Research subject
Literature
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-75975 (URN)10.1515/fns-2019-0003 (DOI)
Available from: 2019-08-29 Created: 2019-08-29 Last updated: 2019-10-10Bibliographically approved
2. Sameness versus Difference in Narratology: Two Approaches to Narrative Fiction
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Sameness versus Difference in Narratology: Two Approaches to Narrative Fiction
2018 (English)In: Narrative (Columbus, Ohio), ISSN 1063-3685, E-ISSN 1538-974X, Vol. 26, no 3, p. 241-261Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this article we examine the critical proposition that common versions of narratology do not provide an accurate description of narrative fiction and analyze why this critique has mostly been disregarded by narratology. The theoreticians we refer to-Sylvie Patron, Richard Walsh, and Lars-Ake Skalin-do not accept the notion that narrative fiction should be understood in terms of non-fictional narratives. We label their position a "difference approach" in contrast to a putative "sameness approach." We find their "difference" arguments convincing and therefore ask why they have had no apparent effect on narratology. As we discuss misreadings that the criticized approach to narrative fiction could be expected to generate and arguments that refute the existence of such misreadings, as well as suggested readings of narrative fiction by Liesbeth Korthals Altes, James Phelan, David Herman, and Gerard Genette, we make the claim, referring to Phelan's rhetorical narratology, that sameness narratology is often presented as a theory but in fact used and defended as a method or toolbox. Our suggestion is that it would be better to rework the theory of narrative fiction commonly adopted by narratologists so that the theoretical assertions become congruent with the analytical practice and with the intuitions about narrative fiction that the analytical practice implies. We thus support the difference approach.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Ohio State University Press, 2018
Keywords
Narratology, sameness, difference, narrative fiction, theory, method
National Category
Specific Literatures
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-69086 (URN)10.1353/nar.2018.0012 (DOI)000444570400001 ()
Available from: 2018-10-01 Created: 2018-10-01 Last updated: 2019-10-10Bibliographically approved
3. A Reply to Mari Hatavara and Matti Hyvärinen
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A Reply to Mari Hatavara and Matti Hyvärinen
2019 (English)In: Narrative (Columbus, Ohio), ISSN 1063-3685, E-ISSN 1538-974X, Vol. 27, no 3, p. 378-381Article in journal, Editorial material (Refereed) In press
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Ohio State University Press, 2019
National Category
Specific Literatures
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-76670 (URN)
Available from: 2019-09-24 Created: 2019-09-24 Last updated: 2019-10-10Bibliographically approved
4. An Evaluation of the Voice Concept(s) in Theories of Literary Fiction: Suggestions by Patron, Walsh, and Genette
Open this publication in new window or tab >>An Evaluation of the Voice Concept(s) in Theories of Literary Fiction: Suggestions by Patron, Walsh, and Genette
2018 (English)In: From Narrative to Narrativity: Half a Century of Narratology / [ed] Milosavljević Milić, Snežana; Jovanović, Jelena; Bojanić Ćirković, Mirjana, Niš, Serbia: Faculty of Philosophy, University of Niš , 2018, p. 163-172Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

If we are to use narratology as a "toolbox", as some scholars propose, we must test the value of the tools. In this paper I present an understanding of voice based on literary functions in Angela Carter’s "The Loves of Lady Purple", and then I evaluate three notions of voice in narratology. First out are the critical approaches of Sylvie Patron, who wants to abandon the term "voice" completely because of its many incongruent meanings, and Richard Walsh, who pragmatically reformulates the popular Genettean definitions according to his theory of the rhetoric of fictionality. Lastly I discuss how Genette himself would tamper with Carter’s short story. While Patron may be too harsh in her conclusion, Walsh and Genette seem to be able to accommodate voice in "Lady Purple" when they talk about ideology, at least partly. On the negative side, they both miss adequate notions of style.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Niš, Serbia: Faculty of Philosophy, University of Niš, 2018
Keywords
Angela Carter, discourse narratology, ideology, rhetoric of fictionality, style, voice
National Category
General Literature Studies
Research subject
Literature
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-65798 (URN)978-86-7379-470-9 (ISBN)
Available from: 2018-03-14 Created: 2018-03-14 Last updated: 2019-09-24Bibliographically approved
5. A “fucked up” novel, narratology, and the Difference approach to literary fiction
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A “fucked up” novel, narratology, and the Difference approach to literary fiction
2017 (English)In: Frontiers of Narrative Studies, E-ISSN 2509-4890, Vol. 3, no 2, p. 256-272Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Drömfakulteten (2006) is an experimental novel by the Swedish writer Sara Stridsberg portraying the life of political activist and writer Valerie Solanas. I read Drömfakulteten as a “literary fantasy” where the forms, the themes, and the atmosphere are foregrounded rather than the biography of Solanas, and suggest that it can be viewed as a deliberate work of art filled with affordances for the reader. Central to my analysis is the recurring idea of “fucking up” as a way of disobeying social, political, and literary (narrative) norms. In relation to narratology, I take on the novel with a Difference approach to fiction, guided by notions from Sylvie Patron, Lars-Åke Skalin, and Richard Walsh. In this approach, fiction is seen as functioning differently in a qualitative sense compared to natural narrative. The Difference approach leads to a reading that lies close to the intuitions of reviewers and highlights the strong literary potential of the novel.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Mouton de Gruyter, 2017
Keywords
Affordances, Difference approach, Drömfakulteten, literary fiction, narrativity
National Category
General Literature Studies
Research subject
Literature
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-63380 (URN)10.1515/fns-2017-0017 (DOI)
Available from: 2017-12-14 Created: 2017-12-14 Last updated: 2019-10-10Bibliographically approved

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