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Narrative Perspective in Fiction

Narrative Perspective in Fiction: A Phenomenological Meditation of Reader, Text, and World

Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Narrative Perspective in Fiction
    Book Description:

    Daniel Chamberlain examines the nature of narrative perspective in a manner that does not presuppose a passive definition of perception. Rather, he considers perspective as a medium through which the potential meanings of texts are disclosed and through which to share the vital experience of narrative from today's familiar and culturally distant worlds.

    The book is divided into two parts. The first part address narrative perspective within a theoretical framework. Chamberlain uses this in order to consider narrative perspective as an integral part of the more general process of perception that mediates language and the experience of texts. Perception is here understood as an active recreation of the world at every moment; as an opening through which one's self-awareness and awareness of the world are correlated. By considering narrative perspective in terms of perception, equal importance is given to its temporal and spatial aspects. The dialectic of time and space inevitably comes to bear on narrative perspective through the techniques, strategies, and medium of a text's transmission. Part one concludes with an examination of contemporary definitions of narrative perspective and with the presentation of an alternative approach to its study.

    The second part offers a reading of two texts, each of which clearly presents the major issues facing this inquiry. The narrative perspective of each is considered as occupying a degree of similarity and difference within the dialectic of time and space. Each perspective is, in turn, correlated to the prevalent medium of discourse within its cultural milieu.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7753-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-5)

    Narrative perspective has been described as the essence of the narrative art (Scholes and Kellogg 240). It plays an essential role in the writing and reading of texts and has become a major issue in the theory that narrative gives rise to. Different theoretical approaches have sought to define it with terms such as ‘person,’ ‘point of view,’ ‘reflector,’ ‘voice,’ ‘central consciousness,’ and ‘focalization.’ Despite the variety of approaches and the ongoing debate concerning the essence of narrative perspective, most theories agree that perspective is in one way or another involved in the more general process of perception. Perception, however,...

  5. Part One The Meaning of Narrative Perspective

    • 1 Language of Experience: Hans-Georg Gadamer and Consciousness Exposed to the Effects of History
      (pp. 7-16)

      The starting point for a consideration of narrative perspective in terms of the reader’s encounter with a text lies in the structure and character of consciousness itself. Hans-Georg Gadamer’s concept of ‘consciousness exposed to the effects of history,’ is well suited for an examination of the relationship between narrative perspective and reader because it is constituted by a hierarchy of four levels common to both: language, perception, experience figured by history, and concept.¹ Gadamer’s philosophy starts ‘from the basic ontological view, according to which being is language, ie [sic] self-presentation, as revealed to us by the hermeneutical experience of being’...

    • 2 Perception of Language: Maurice Merleau-Ponty and the Phenomenology of Perception
      (pp. 17-45)

      It is clear from the outset that sense, attitude, and direction play a fundamental role in human consciousness. This role can be seen at all three levels of Gadamer’s investigation: structure, character, and situation. He is not concerned with a dichotomy but with a dialectic involving three moments and three interrelated notions. First, at the level of structure, the sense of a question points to an answer. Second, an answer’s sense reveals its question. Third, if the relation between a question and answer is to be valid, it must achieve a sense of reciprocity between the two terms. Together, they...

    • 3 The Experience of Perception: Paul Ricoeur and Phenomenological Hermeneutics
      (pp. 46-76)

      In Hans-Georg Gadamer’s fourfold process of consciousness, Being that can be understood is language in the living act of speech. For Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Being is perception as a grasping the world through the body in action. The two notions are not only compatible but complementary.¹ As two levels of a single process there is a moment when the sense of a word is an attitude of the body and an attitude of the body already the sense of a word spoken. Both levels share similar structures and characteristics. A question is directed through its sense to an answer as one...

    • 4 The Concept of Narrative Perspective
      (pp. 77-129)

      Paul Ricoeur’s phenomenological hermeneutics brings together the ontological premise of phenomenology and the historical premise of hermeneutics in a new and productive relationship (Iser 1979, 5). From the standpoint of hermeneutics, his theory of language as discourse and narrative as the experience of time intimately relates the first and the third moments of consciousness exposed to the effects of history. This process of language, perception, and experience gives rise to a fourth moment when the ‘universality of experience’ unites the ‘various individual perceptions’ under the ‘true universality of the concept’ and achieves the ‘universality of science’ (Gadamer 1975, 314). From...

    • 5 Figuring out Narrative Perspective: Facets of Structure
      (pp. 130-158)

      In keeping with the abstract and analytical nature of concepts, the preceding theoretical explanations of narrative perspective have been divided into varying degrees of difference and distance. These different positions can be different only to the degree that they belong to a community founded on a shared tradition and bound together by a common purpose.¹ In keeping with the circular nature of phenomenological hermeneutics, it is now necessary to propose an understanding of narrative perspective that hearkens to the voice of this tradition and its collective enterprise. My inquiry has concentrated on presenting an understanding and an explanation of the...

  6. Part Two Playing Narrative Perspective

    • 6 Narrative Perspective in the Reading Experience
      (pp. 161-164)

      To this point my inquiry has centred on explaining an understanding of narrative perspective through the fourfold process of language, perception, experience, and concept. This understanding stems from the principles of similarity and difference as well as the sense of direction mediating the two. Hans-Georg Gadamer’s concept of consciousness provided a point of departure. Language, asenergeia,was characterized as a dialogue and structured as a dialectic of question and answer. Gadamer’s sense of hermeneutics emphasizes the importance of listening to the voice of tradition, for it is this voice that directs the attitudes of speakers in a dialogue and...

    • 7 The Fabulous Metaphor of Cien años de soledad
      (pp. 165-197)

      If there is any particular facet of a text that is first perceived by a reader, it must be the cover page. The text’s experience begins with its title, the author’s name, and more often than not some point of departure for the action.Cien años de soledad,Gabriel García Márquez, and Riohacha on the remote Guajira peninsula all speak of a part of today’s world where everyday events are worked into stories and pass by ‘word of mouth’ from village to village and generation to generation. The title brings together the notion of a temporal unity on the one...

    • 8 The Ironic Parable of Jacob’s Room
      (pp. 198-225)

      Jacob’s Roomand the name ‘Virginia Woolf’ move narrative perspective from an ‘hombre timido’ and a ‘pueblecillo’ in Colombia to Cornwall, Cambridge, London, and one who had been ‘patted on the head as a child by many an eminent Victorian’ (Herrera 349, 346, and Daiches 3). The title introduces an architectural structure not the figure of a person. The reader may be tempted to invert the order and see the room as an attribute of Jacob. The proper name, however, remains an attribute of the noun ‘room.’ In the title and in the text, objectivity and space are given priority...

  7. Concluding Considerations
    (pp. 226-228)

    A few decades ago, Scholes and Kellogg wrote concerning point of view in narrative: ‘In the relationship between the teller and the tale, and that other relationship between the teller and the audience, lies the essence of narrative art’ (240). Recently a third relationship has been added: that between the audience and the sign system of the tale. These relationships are neither static nor without direction. Audience, teller, and tale provide different points of departure for the interplay of facets that reveals narrative perspective. A change in one relationship will have repercussions on the other two as well. Taken in...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 229-244)
  9. References
    (pp. 245-252)
  10. Index
    (pp. 253-266)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 267-270)