NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)

Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Class Notes: Introduction To Narrative

Chapter Four: The Rhetoric of Narrative

"[I]nterpreting texts is a complex transaction that invariably has to do with more than what the author consciously intended. . . . [T]he impact of a narrative, including its meaning, is not something that is securely under the author's control." The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative, p. 40.

That kind of make me feel better about the concept of "getting it" when I read classics or more difficult literature. Or any literature for that matter. Just because the author didn't necessarily mean something the way I took it, doesn't completely invalidate what I learned from the reading. :-)

This chapter in my text dealt mostly with three things: That we look for cause and effect in narrative, we look for details (or invent them in our minds) that convey a sense of reality or truth in a narrative, and the concept of "masterplots", "masterplots" being stories that are told over and over in myriad forms and that connect vitally with our deepest values, wishes and fears.

I liked the way the author wove these ideas together by discussing jury trials in general, and the O.J. Simpson trial in particular. Overly simplified, the fate of Simpson depended on which narrative version of the facts was the most believable. One side adopted the masterplot of "abused spouse" with Nicole in the pivotal role, one side adopted the story of the black man who is unjustly punished for "stepping out of his place". That there were such strong public reactions in favor of and against both sides showed clearly the potential power of narrative, even amid a real-life situation.

One feature of this text that I look forward to at the end of each chapter is the list of additional primary texts that further exemplify the concepts discussed. Various books and stories are talked about during the "lesson", but if it is a topic you find yourself particularly interested in, he lists more readings with which you can further your study, and talks a little bit about why they're useful examples. This list includes Wright's Native Son (which I read a few weeks ago), Kafka's "Metamorphosis" (which is on my current Teaching Company course list), The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Ellison's Invisible Man (which are on my shelf), and short story by Eudora Welty called "Why I Live at the P.O."

Is it just me, or is there just plain not enough time in the day?? :-)


Serena said...

this is a great post about narrative...I studied the OJ simpson trial and I can tell you that the simplification of that trial is very accurate given the situation and the ways in which the media and trial lawyers framed the story.

Serena said...

o, I forgot to tell you that the Metamorphosis is one of my favorite books.

Lezlie said...

Serena ~ Thank you! I'm glad that summed up the trial fairly well. It's hard to cram it into just a couple of sentences. :-)

I can't wait to read Metamorphosis! I think it's on the schedule for summer.