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, April 28, 2009

Class Notes: Introduction To Narrative

Chapter Six: Narration

This chapter discussed some of the basics of narrator and point of view. Here are a few of my notes regarding definitions that I would like to keep in mind as I study:

About narrative style:

Direct Discourse -- Citing a character's own words as, for example, in quoted conversation.
Indirect Discourse -- Speech or thinking of a character rendered in the narrator's words.

About the narrator specifically:

Voice -- Who we "hear" doing the narration.
Focalization (aka Point of View) -- The lens through which we see characters and events in the narrative.
Distance -- The narrator's degree of involvement in the story he or she tells.
Reliability -- To what extent can we rely on the narrator to give us an accurate rendering of the facts?

The discussion of "distance" put me in mind of the Hemingway novels I have read. I'm beginning to think that one of the things I found so odd about his writing was that the narrators were, in fact, so emotionally distant from the events of the stories. Everything, no matter how sad or happy or horrible, was recounted as if the narrator were reporting there was a Tuesday last week. Hmmmm. Something to keep in the back of my mind when I read more of his work.

Chapter Seven: Interpreting Narrative

"As readers, we exercise a power over narrative text that is arguably as great as their power over us." The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative, p. 86.

Finally we begin actual interpretation! This is the part I was really looking forward to! The author walked me through an interpretation of one of Hemingway's short stories, "Now I Lay Me". (Interesting coincidence, considering my thought during the previous chapter.) As he went through the identification of motifs and themes in reaching his conclusion regarding how the main character's war injury fits with his childhood memory of his mother burning his father's collection of Indian artifacts, I began to feel totally inadequate to the task of ever doing this kind of thing for myself. I'm always in awe of how these people can draw parallels between things that look completely random and unrelated to me. (And I must add here that this was not one of those instances where you feel like the analyst was really reaching for meaning. Abbott's connections made a lot of sense once they were pointed out to me.) But that's what I'm doing all this reading for, right? To learn how to think like this, to learn to be more analytical. I have a long way to go, but, to use an already overused cliche, it's not about the destination, it's about the journey.


Lisa said...

Reliability of the narrator is an interesting concept for me. For years, I didn't really think much about this. But, now I'm always questioning the narrator as I read, looking for clues as to the reliability.

Lezlie said...

Lisa ~ It is for me, too! I don't think I had ever considered whether the narrator was reliable or not. At the risk of sounding ignorant, this whole text has been an eyeopener to conscious reading for me.


Ladytink_534 said...

Bet the interpretating thing was very interesting :)

Lezlie said...

Ladytink ~ It was! Very! I so covet that kind of ability. It's such a creative process, even when the connections do seem somewhat far-fetched.


Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

My friend Laura and I were just discussing how distant or removed the narrator of A Farewell to Arms is. I've always loved narratology and the effect it can have on a novel/story.

Lezlie said...

Trish ~ I've only read a couple of his novels and did find that to be true, A Farewell To Arms included. I wonder if they're all that way.

I'm finding all the topics in this book to be fascinating, and they're really adding a lot to my overall reading experiences.