About Time

About Time: Narrative, Fiction and the Philosophy of Time

Mark Currie
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    About Time
    Book Description:

    About Time brings together ideas about time from narrative theory and philosophy.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-3040-0
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Series Editor’s Preface
    (pp. vi-vii)
    Martin McQuillan
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-x)
  5. Chapter 1 Introduction: About About Time
    (pp. 1-7)

    My title both chastises me for the tardiness and congratulates me for the timeliness of my book. In 1989, David Wood predicted that ‘our century-long “linguistic turn” will be followed by a spiralling return to time as the focus and horizon of all our thought and experience’ (David Wood 2001: xxxv), and it is about time that this prediction about time came true. The need as I see it is partly as Wood described it: the need for a ‘programme for the analysis of temporal structures and representations of time’ (xxxvi). Alongside such a programme, there is also a need...

  6. Chapter 2 The Present
    (pp. 8-28)

    The present, as philosophy knows well, doesn’t exist, and yet it is the only thing which exists. The past has been, and so is not, and the future is to be, and so is not yet. That only leaves the present. But as long as the present has duration, any duration at all, it can be divided into the bits of it that have been, and so are not, and the bits of it that are to be, and so are not yet, so that the very duration of its existence consigns it to non-existence. The problem here is obvious:...

  7. Chapter 3 Prolepsis
    (pp. 29-50)

    This chapter is about the anticipation of retrospection and the extended significance that this temporal loop has acquired in our world. I am going to approach the subject through three different meanings of the word prolepsis, or, since the primary significance of prolepsis is anticipation, three different types of the anticipation of retrospection. The first of these I will refer to as the narratological meaning of prolepsis: a term used by Genette and others to describe flashforward. Prolepsis, for Genette, is a moment in a narrative in which the chronological order of story events is disturbed and the narrator narrates...

  8. Chapter 4 Temporality and Self-Distance
    (pp. 51-72)

    One of the things that narrative theory can learn from philosophy is a proper sense of the importance of the future. I have suggested several times already that narrative theory shows a preoccupation with memory, retrospect and the archiving of past events, and has an undeveloped potential to address questions about the present and future. The significance of the notions of ‘anticipation’ and ‘prolepsis’ is that, in different ways, they refer to this relation between the present and actual or possible futures. With philosophy as its teacher, narrative theory can turn its attention to narrative not only in its function...

  9. Chapter 5 Inner and Outer Time
    (pp. 73-86)

    The previous chapters open a set of questions about the relationship between time and self-consciousness, an axis which has received too little attention within literary studies.¹ This neglect is all the more surprising since the idea of self-consciousness itself has played such a central role in the characterisation not only of contemporary fiction but of the more general social and discursive condition of the contemporary world. In prolepsis, we find on one hand a kind of temporal self-distance – a form of reflection which involves looking back on the present, from one’s own point of view or that of another – and...

  10. Chapter 6 Backwards Time
    (pp. 87-106)

    In ‘The Typology of Detective Fiction’, Todorov distinguishes between the whodunit and the thriller on the grounds that the former is a double story and the latter a single one (2000: 139). The whodunit is double in the sense that it is the story of ‘the days of the investigation which begin with the crime, and the days of the drama which lead up to it’.¹ The simplicity of this observation is matched only by its importance, because it means that the whodunit goes backwards as it goes forwards, or more precisely that it reconstructs the time line of the...

  11. Chapter 7 Fictional Knowledge
    (pp. 107-136)

    When it comes to the internal consciousness of time, the novel picks up where philosophy leaves off. But does the novel therefore know something about time which is beyond the reach of philosophy? Perhaps knowledge of time is in some way the domain of philosophy, so that wherever it is that the novel goes with time, by being beyond the limits of philosophy, it cannot be an adventure in knowledge as such. There are two intimately related questions about knowledge involved in this. The first is the oldest question of all, the question of the relationship between philosophy and literature,...

  12. Chapter 8 Tense Times
    (pp. 137-151)

    The argument about the relationship between time and narrative is now coming into focus. It begins in the Kantian notion that we have no access to things in themselves, but only, as phenomenology holds, to things as they are experienced, apprehended in consciousness, thought about, or understood. But the concept of consciousness cannot be taken for granted. Philosophy in general, both in the phenomenological and in the Anglo-American analytical traditions, has turned to language in order to investigate the realms of experience, perception, thought and understanding. If consciousness is fundamentally linguistic, it follows that we ought to be able to...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 152-156)
  14. Index
    (pp. 157-160)