GERARD GENETTE NARRATIVE DISCOURSE AN ESSAY IN METHOD PDF

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This banner text can have markup. Search the history of over billion web pages on the Internet. The publisher gratefully acknowledges the financial assistance of the French Ministry of Culture in defraying part of the cost of translation. Except for brief quotations in a review, this book, or parts thereof, must not be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher. First published by Cornell University Press.

First printing, Cornell Paperbacks, Scott Moncrieff, copyright , , , , , and renewed , , , , , by Random House, Inc. Cornell University Press strives to utilize environmentally responsible suppliers and materials to the fullest extent possible in the publishing of its books.

Such materials include vegetable-based, low-VOC inks and acid-free papers that are also either recycled, totally chlorine-free, or partly composed of nonwood fibers. Translation of Discours du recit, a portion of the 3d vol. Bibliography: p. Includes index. Proust, Marcel, A la recherche du temps perdu. Narration Rhetoric 1.

R63A Paperback printing 10 9 8 7 Contents Foreword by Jonathan Culler 7 Translator's Preface 15 Preface 21 Introduction 25 1 Order 33 2 Duration 86 3 Frequency 4 Mood 5 Voice Afterword Bibliography Index Foreword Anyone who has begun the study of fiction has encountered terms like point of view, flashback, omniscient narrator, third-person narrative.

One can't describe the techniques of a novel without such terms, any more than one can describe the workings of a car without the appropriate technical vocabulary.

But while someone who wanted to learn about cars would have no trouble finding a manual, there is no comparable work for the student of literature. These basic concepts have been developed in an ad hoc, piecemeal fashion and, paradoxically, though they are supposed to identify all the various elements and possible tech- niques of the novel, they have not been put together in a sys- tematic way.

Even Wayne Booth's The Rhetoric of Fiction, from which students of the novel have learned a great deal, is primar- ily limited to problems of narrative perspective and point of view.

There has been no comprehensive survey. Gerard Genette's Narrative Discourse is invaluable because it fills this need for a systematic theory of narrative. As the most thorough attempt we have to identify, name, and illustrate the basic constituents and techniques of narrative, it will prove in- dispensable to students of fiction, who not only will find in it terms to describe what they have perceived in novels but will also be alerted to the existence of fictional devices which they had previously failed to notice and whose implications they had never been able to consider.

Every reader of Genette will find that he becomes a more acute and perceptive analyst of fiction than before. The project, as defined in Barthes's Critique et verite and To- dorov's "Poetique" in Qu'est-ce que le structuralisme? The structures and codes which Barthes and Todorov studied must be taken up and organized by a narrative; this activity is Genette' s subject.

But if Narrative Discourse is the culmination of structuralist work on narrative and shows, in its terminological exuberance, a Gallic delight in the adventures of thought, it is also wholly conversant with Anglo-American discussions of narrative, which it cites, uses, and occasionally refutes. This is no provin- cial exercise but a broadly based theoretical study.

It is also, however — and this is doubtless more surprising — a 1 For discussion and bibliography see Jonathan Culler, Structuralist Poetics: Structuralism, Linguistics, and the Study of Literature Ithaca, N. Foreword 9 remarkable study of Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu. It is as though Genette had determined to give the lie to the skeptics who maintained that the structural analysis of narrative was suited only to the simplest narratives, like folk tales, and, in an act of bravado, had chosen as his object one of the most com- plex, subtle, and involuted of narratives.

But in fact, this is not an act of bravura. Genette has long been concerned with Proust, and the three volumes of his Figures, 3 from which Narrative Discourse is taken, contain three other essays on Proust's work. Given the focus on Proust, our ordinary notions of criticism ask us to choose between two ways of viewing Genette's pro- ject: either his real goal is the development of a theory of narra- tive and Proust's great novel is simply being used as a source of illustrations, or else the theoretical matter is simply a methodo- logical discussion which is justified insofar as it leads to a better understanding of A la recherche du temps perdu.

In his preface Genette quite rightly refuses to choose between these alterna- tives, but this does not mean that his work should be viewed as something of a compromise, neither one nor the other. On the contrary, it is an extreme and unusual example of each genre. On the one hand, the fact that it uses Proust so voraciously gives it great theoretical power, for it is forced to take account of all the complexities of Proustian narrative.

Not only is this a severe test of categories, which doubtless leads to the discovery of new distinctions, but the theory is constantly confronted with anomalies and must show how they are anomalous. On the other hand, the fact that Genette is trying to elaborate a theory of narrative while studying Proust gives him a signal advantage over other interpreters of the Recherche. He need not hasten to offer a thematic interpretation of every incident, decide what is Proust's vision of life, his conception of art.

In addition to the three other discussions of Proust one in each volume these collections contain essays dealing with Stendhal, Flaubert, Robbe-Grillet, Barthes, baroque poets, and various issues in literary and.

More recently, Genette has published his immense Mimologiques Seuil, , a study of writ- ings through the ages that have denied the arbitrary nature of the linguistic sign. Compelled by his special perspective to ask questions about what is usually taken for granted, he continually tells us things we did not know about the book and achieves something that most interpreters do not: he leads us to experience the strangeness of the text.

Since Genette's presentation and Jane Lewin's translation are admirably clear, there is no need to outline the book's argument, and one can introduce it simply by indicating several major areas of interest. Point of View. One important and original proposal bears on the traditional notion of point of view. Most theorists, Genette argues, have failed to distinguish properly between "mood and voice, that is to say, between the question who is the character whose point of view orients the narrative perspective?

And conversely, in what is traditionally called a first-person narrative the point of view can vary, depending on whether events are focalized through the consciousness of the narrator at the moment of narration or through his consciousness at a time in the past when the events took place. Insistence on the difference be- tween narration and focalization is a major revision of the theory of point of view. The notion of focalization leads to some interest- ing problems in its own right.

One commentator, Mieke Bal, has argued persuasively that Genette uses focalization to cover two cases which are so different that to treat them as variants of the same phenomenon is to weaken his important new concept. Foreword 11 zation is something altogether different: the narrative is focused on a character, not through him.

For example, in Hemingway's "The Killers" or in the novels of Dashiell Hammett we are told what the characters do but not what they think or see. To treat this absence of focalization as another sort of focalization re- duces the precision of the concept. Bal has proposed emenda- tions to solve the problems which Genette's theory brings to light, and Genette seems quite happy to accept modifications.

As he says in his Afterword, the very nature of poetics as a progressive, cumulative enterprise ensures that his formulations will one day be relegated to the rubbish heap. If this happens, it will doubtless be because they have inspired improvements. The Iterative. Genette's attempt to be comprehensive where others have proceeded in more piecemeal fashion occasionally leads to the discovery of topics which have not been much dis- cussed but which prove, on investigation, to be extremely im- portant.

Studying the possible relationships between the time of story or plot and the time of the narrative, he determines that they may be classified in terms of order events occur in one order but are narrated in another , pace or duration the narra- tive devotes considerable space to a momentary experience and then leaps over or swiftly summarizes a number of years , and frequency the narrative may repeatedly recount an event that happened only once or may recount once what happened fre- quently.

Now order and pace are well known to students of narrative: the former involves notions like flashback, foreshadow- ing, and beginning in medias res, and the latter notions like scene and summary. But frequency, as it happens, has seldom been discussed, though it turns out to be a major topic. Repetition, a common form of frequency, has emerged as the central tech- nique in certain avant-garde novels, and what Genette calls the iterative, in which the narrative tells once that something hap- pened frequently, turns out to have a variety of important functions.

Proust, of course, is much given to the iterative mode, but he also employs a fascinating figure which Genette calls the pseudo-iterative: when the story narrates as something that happened repeatedly an event whose very particularity makes it seem undeniably singular. Thus, in the long account of 22 Foreword what happened every Sunday at Combray are inserted extended conversations, unlikely to have been repeated every week.

This mode produces strange narrative effects which have not been discussed; we owe our growing understanding of them to Genette's pioneering investigation of the iterative.

Norm and Anomaly. Genette's definition of the figures of fre- quency has the result of making anomalous hence the label "pseudo-iterative" a distinctively Proustian mode. Now one might expect an account of narrative based on Proustian exam- ples to work just the other way, making Proust's bizarre tech- niques the norm; but under each of the major categories — tense, voice, and mood — something typically Proustian is rendered anomalous by the system of distinctions.

Discussing voice, Genette concludes that the movement from one level of narra- tive to another in Proust is often confused and is ruled by trans- gressions. In the case of mood, not only does Proust prove "in- assimilable" to the basic distinction between mimesis and diegesis, but his "polymodality" is "a scandal" for the system of point of view.

At moments when we are looking with Marcel through a window or keyhole and seeing only those actions he can see, we will be told the thoughts of the characters we are supposedly observing.

In various ways, as Genette says, "Proust upsets the whole logic of narrative representation. Doubtless, if Proust can always be caught in flagrant violation of the system, this is because the categories for the description of narrative discourse are in fact based on what we may for conve- nience call a model of the real world.

According to this model, events necessarily take place both in a particular order and a definable number of times. A speaker has certain kinds of in- formation about events and lacks other kinds. He either experi- enced them or he did not, and generally he stands in a definable relationship to the events he recounts. However true this model may be, there is nothing to prevent narratives from violating it and producing texts which involve impossible combinations.

A sentence such as "I watched George reach into his briefcase Foreword 13 for something while he thought about whether he might have lamb for dinner that evening" asserts a combination of knowl- edge and ignorance that in the world would be most unlikely, but novels frequently produce such combinations, though sel- dom within the space of a single sentence.

It may well be that narratives will usually prove anomalous because our models of narrative procedures are always based on models of reality. But it might also be the case that Genette's work is testimony to the power of the marginal, the supplementary, the exception.

It is as though his categories were specifically designed to iden- tify as anomalous the most salient of Proust's techniques, so that in a sense these marginal phenomena, these exceptions, in fact determine the norms; these cases which the system seems to set aside are in fact crucial to it. In its exemplification of this paradoxical logic, Genette's work communicates with the most interesting speculative strain of what is now called "post- structuralism": Jacques Derrida's investigation of the logic of marginality or supplementarity that is always at work in our interpretive schemes.

Scott Moncrieff [vols. Blossom [whose translation of vol- ume 7 was replaced in by Andreas Mayor's]; 2 vols. For quotations from French works other than the Recherche, all translations are mine unless the notes indicate otherwise.

Exist- ing translations of other works by Proust and of French critical studies, listed in the Bibliography, have always been used, and in such cases the notes usually cite only the English edition. For quotations from works originally written in English, the original has been quoted and cited, although Genette sometimes used French translations, as listed in the Bibliography. And for quota- tions from works originally written in a language other than French or English, I have used and cited published English translations.

I have silently modified the French edition of this book by correcting obvious errors, occasionally supplementing the documentation, and giving both French and English versions of quotations from Proust when the French version seemed essen- tial mainly in Chapter 3.

The publication history of Proust's novel enters into Genette's discussion and explains, as well, the occasional discrepancies between English and French versions of the Recherche. Proust's original first part would have run about pages in print, but the publisher, Grasset, refused to produce a volume of that size; his refusal forced Proust to play around with his ma- terial, shifting it to meet the page limit that Grasset im- posed for publication in Then came the war, delaying pub- lication of the remaining two sections — and giving Proust time to alter and expand his manuscripts, which he did assiduously.

As a result, when publication was resumed five years later, by Gallimard, it was with a volume entitled A V ombre desjeunes filles en fleurs, formerly planned as the opening chapter of the third volume; and Sodome et Gomorrhe was announced.

In November Proust died. La Prisonniere came out in , Albertine disparue changed in to Proust's origi- nal title, La Fugitive in , Le Temps retrouve in Scott Moncrieff and Blossom's translation is based on these volumes. Proust's method of working was such that the published edi- tions of his novel were rather unreliable — in some cases thoroughly so, as was learned when his manuscripts became available in the 's.

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Gérard Genette

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Narrative discourse : an essay in method

He received his professorship in French literature at the Sorbonne in Genette is largely responsible for the reintroduction of a rhetorical vocabulary into literary criticism, for example such terms as trope and metonymy. Additionally his work on narrative, best known in English through the selection Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method , has been of importance. Thresholds of Interpretation Terms and techniques originating in his vocabulary and systems have, however, become widespread, such as the term paratext for prefaces, introductions, illustrations or other material accompanying the text, or hypotext for the sources of the text.

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