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Analyzing World Fiction

Analyzing World Fiction

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    Analyzing World Fiction
    Book Description:

    Why are many readers drawn to stories that texture ethnic experiences and identities other than their own? How do authors such as Salman Rushdie and Maxine Hong Kingston, or filmmakers in Bollywood or Mexico City produce complex fiction that satisfies audiences worldwide? In Analyzing World Fiction, fifteen renowned luminaries use tools of narratology and insights from cognitive science and neurobiology to provide answers to these questions and more.

    With essays ranging from James Phelan's "Voice, Politics, and Judgments in Their Eyes Were Watching God" and Hilary Dannenberg's "Narrating Multiculturalism in British Media: Voice and Cultural Identity in Television" to Ellen McCracken's exploration of paratextual strategies in Chicana literature, this expansive collection turns the tide on approaches to postcolonial and multicultural phenomena that tend to compress author and narrator, text and real life. Striving to celebrate the art of fiction, the voices in this anthology explore the "ingredients" that make for powerful, universally intriguing, deeply human story-weaving.

    Systematically synthesizing the tools of narrative theory along with findings from the brain sciences to analyze multicultural and postcolonial film, literature, and television, the contributors pioneer new techniques for appreciating all facets of the wonder of storytelling.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-73497-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. How to Use This Book
    (pp. vii-xvi)
  4. PART I. Voice

    • CHAPTER 1 U.S. Ethnic and Postcolonial Fiction: Toward a Poetics of Collective Narratives
      (pp. 3-16)

      Books and journal articles on narrative theory have largely neglected postcolonial literature until very recently (e.g., Prince, “Postcolonial Narratology”; Gymnich); nevertheless, some of the most fascinating narrative experiments have been conducted by postcolonial authors. The same is largely true for U.S. ethnic literature, though in this case the situation is not quite so dire. In the first part of this essay, I will look at several areas where narrative theory can help identify distinctive achievements by postcolonial and U.S. ethnic authors. I will ask two related questions: how can narrative theory help us better understand U.S. ethnic and postcolonial fiction,...

    • CHAPTER 2 Language Peculiarities and Challenges to Universal Narrative Poetics
      (pp. 17-32)
      DAN SHEN

      In the early 1960s through 1970s, classical narratologists primarily sought to establish a universal grammar of narrative and a poetics of fiction. Although postclassical narratologists have increasingly engaged in narrative criticism, they have continued seeking to establish various models of narrative poetics, though with more modest claims—“about ‘most narratives’ or ‘narratives of a certain historical period’ rather than about ‘all narratives’” (Phelan and Rabinowitz 2; see also Shen, “Why Contextual”). In either case, little if any attention has been paid to multicultural particulars. But narratives in non-Western cultures may have various features closely associated with language peculiarities that defy...

    • CHAPTER 3 Reading Narratologically: Azouz Begag’s Le Gone du Chaâba
      (pp. 33-40)

      Narratology characterizes and articulates narratively relevant features such as the orders in which narrated situations and events can be arranged, the points of view in terms of which they can be depicted, or the different speeds at which they can be related in order to account for the ways all and only narratives are configured and make sense. It thus offers narratological criticism a number of descriptive tools with which to capture the distinctiveness of sets of particular narratives and to found or support interpretive conclusions about them (Prince, “On Narratology”; Kindt and Müller; Nünning). In what follows, I will...

    • CHAPTER 4 Jasmine Reconsidered: Narrative Structure and Multicultural Subjectivity
      (pp. 41-56)

      Among feminist and postcolonialist readers, practically everybody hates Jasmine. When Bharati Mukherjee published her first American novel in 1989, Jasmine—the story of a young Indian woman’s move from her birthplace to the United States—sold well and drew the attention of many critics interested in multicultural literature. For the moment, the heroine of Jasmine stood out in popular fiction as a one-woman figure for the South Asian diaspora, and the novel’s thematic focus on Jasmine’s shifting sense of herself offered up the text to the preoccupation with identity politics that dominated literary criticism during the 1990s. But critics who...

    • CHAPTER 5 Voice, Politics, and Judgments in Their Eyes Were Watching God: The Initiation, the Launch, and the Debate about the Narration
      (pp. 57-74)

      Voice, understood as both a formal and a political concept—who speaks to whom under what conditions and with how much authority?—has been an important issue in the scholarly conversation about African American literature in general and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God in particular. Indeed, in Hurston’s case, voice stands at the center of an ongoing debate about the nature, power, and limits of the novel’s formal achievement and its politics. While most critics follow Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s lead in finding much to admire about Hurston’s handling of voice, many, including Mary Helen Washington and...

    • CHAPTER 6 Narrating Multiculturalism in British Media: Voice and Cultural Identity in Television Documentary and Comedy
      (pp. 75-90)

      The slow rise to visibility of ethnic minorities in British culture has been well documented, both in secondary texts (Bourne; Daniels and Gerson; Gillespie; Malik; Pines) and in fictional autobiographical narratives such as Meera Syal’s Anita and Me. In one key passage of Syal’s text, Meena, the protagonist, describes the virtual absence of Asian and black faces in British media, as well as their distortion as a result of Orientalist stereotyping, during the 1960s:

      According to the newspapers and television, we simply did not exist. If a brown or black face ever did appear on TV, it stopped us all...

  5. PART II. Emotion

    • CHAPTER 7 Anger, Temporality, and the Politics of Reading The Woman Warrior
      (pp. 93-108)
      SUE J. KIM

      When I teach The Autobiography of Malcolm X and The Woman Warrior in my American literature survey course, students invariably tend to do two things: they evince surprise that Malcolm X is so much less angry than they had expected, and they want to read The Woman Warrior as being about the cultural differences between China and the United States. These tendencies—the readerly expectations that are disrupted by the text of Malcolm X and the expectations that fail to be disrupted in their reading of Woman Warrior—are intimately connected. Both relate to readers’ desires to equate the complex...

    • CHAPTER 8 Agency and Emotion: R. K. Narayan’s The Guide
      (pp. 109-134)

      In her essay “Identity/Alterity,” Monika Fludernik says that “more radical postcolonial texts [. . .] demonstrate their independence from the West by choosing to militate against patterns of colonial literature [by] writing [not] in English but in one of the native languages” as well as by focusing on native protagonists “exclusively” (270). Fludernik first cites the famous example of Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s radical choice to write in Gikuyu, and she goes on to explain that the anticolonial strategy of eliding “contact with Westerners” by focusing only “on native protagonists” is more evident in the Indian novel today. To Fludernik, this...

    • CHAPTER 9 The Narrativization of National Metaphors in Indian Cinema
      (pp. 135-150)

      As writers such as Salman Rushdie and Benedict Anderson have stressed, nations are communities that we can never experience directly. We can only imagine them. It should come as no surprise, then, that we rely on metaphors to understand the nation. Needless to say, nationalists draw on a variety of models to represent the nation. However, there are patterns to the selection of these models depending on the precise nationalist purposes at issue. One fundamental reason for metaphorizing the nation is to work against subnational divisions that threaten national unity. In consequence, threats to national identification are a crucial factor...

    • CHAPTER 10 Fear and Action: A Cognitive Approach to Teaching Children of Men
      (pp. 151-162)

      I teach in a predominantly white and affluent public university in a state that is quite diverse. The Republican domination on tax-revenue limits for higher education spending has caused a disproportionate amount of CU-Boulder’s operating budget to be driven by out-of-state tuition, thus filling the campus with students drawn predominantly from affluent European American, or white, populations. Many of these students come from white-dominated suburbs or gated communities, where people of color are mostly the gardeners or maids who live in neighborhoods that they have learned to fear; when they admire hip-hop culture, they do so only from afar. As...

  6. PART III. Comparisons and Contrasts

    • CHAPTER 11 The Postmodern Continuum of Canon and Kitsch: Narrative and Semiotic Strategies of Chicana High Culture and Chica Lit
      (pp. 165-182)

      Written in an Albuquerque Starbucks cafe in only six days, The Dirty Girls Social Club (2003) garnered Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez a $500,000 advance from St. Martin’s Press after a fierce bidding war. Sandra Cisneros, in contrast, spent nine years writing her long-awaited novel Caramelo, published by Knopf in 2002. While Cisneros’s work occupies a well-deserved place in canonical U.S. literature, Valdes-Rodriguez is unabashed about her commercial goals as a practitioner of “chica lit.” In the era of postmodernity, when the fixed borders between high and mass culture are said to have eroded, how can we still clearly distinguish between high art...

    • CHAPTER 12 Initiating Dialogue: Narrative Beginnings in Multicultural Narratives
      (pp. 183-198)

      According to Edward Said in his seminal study Beginnings: Intention and Method, “we can regard a beginning as the point at which, in a given work, the writer departs from all other works.” Beginnings, he argues, “immediately establish relationships with works already existing, relationships of either continuity or antagonism or some mixture of both” (3). They “represent the first step in the intentional production of meaning” (5). Along with endings, beginnings, as Homi Bhabha states in The Location of Culture, have represented “the sustaining myths” of our culture (1).¹ Implicit in both these studies is an understanding of beginnings as...

    • CHAPTER 13 “It’s Badly Done”: Redefining Craft in America Is in the Heart
      (pp. 199-226)
      SUE-IM LEE

      In my experience of teaching Carlos Bulosan’s America Is in the Heart (1946), a cornerstone of the Asian American literary canon, I have found that students repeatedly raise the following issues and questions. This fictional autobiography of a Filipino immigrant’s experiences in 1930s America inevitably provokes intense feelings about and a deep engagement with the history and politics of colonialism, imperialism, immigration, labor, and racial politics. Some students say they were moved to tears by the ceaseless hatred, violence, and destruction that the protagonist encounters in a deeply racist America. As the class discussion continues, however, a different evaluation gradually...

    • CHAPTER 14 Nobody Knows: Invisible Man and John Okada’s No-No Boy
      (pp. 227-244)

      “I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife. Well, if that’s the idea you can count me out. . . . Nowadays people begin by sneering at family life and institutions, and next they’ll throw everything overboard and have intermarriage between black and white” (Fitzgerald). So says Tom Buchanan upon realizing that Jay Gatsby has infiltrated his family; Tom suggests that to let in this nobody is to open the floodgates to a darker contingent. Fitzgerald’s elegy to the American outsider made a mystery out of a perfectly...

    • CHAPTER 15 Intertextuality, Translation, and Postcolonial Misrecognition in Aimé Césaire
      (pp. 245-268)

      In this essay I attempt to work out the implications—for general propositions about “postcolonial” literature—of the divergent reception histories of two plays by the late Martiniquan man of letters Aimé Césaire. In American and British universities, Une Tempête (A Tempest) is by far the most taught and discussed of Césaire’s four plays (counting the dramatic poem Et les chiens se taisaient [And the Dogs Were Silent]). There have been three English translations of Une Tempête, two of which are in print and readily available. La Tragédie du roi Christophe (The Tragedy of King Christophe) has been translated only...

  7. AFTERWORD. How This Book Reads You: Looking beyond Analyzing World Fiction: New Horizons in Narrative Theory
    (pp. 269-276)

    After glimpsing the “new horizons” through the words of Frederick Aldama and his intrepid crew of fiercely intelligent critics, what is left to be seen or said about what we have seen? The worlds of literature are changing, or (to adapt Salvador Plascencia’s visionary fictional nightmare) the people of paper are evolving, and the tools we use to parse these facsimile/ersatz oddities need to change and are changing as well—a vivid transmogrification is afoot, to say the least.

    Working my way through a manuscript of Frederick Aldama’s curated volume, the book you’ve just finished, I rediscovered how deliciously impossible...

  8. Works Cited and Filmography
    (pp. 277-296)
  9. Contributor Notes
    (pp. 297-300)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 301-311)