- Reviewed by
One could read four of the five books under review as together forming a narrative about fiction and a metanarrative about approaches to fiction. Our hypothetical narrative would range from modernism with incursions into the contemporary (Clews and Komar) to the contemporary with recursions to modernism (Smart and Porush); it would describe, within this range, a morphology of fiction whose typal nodes are the monologic novel (Clews), the multilinear novel (Komar), the nonfictional novel (Smart), and the cybernetic novel (Porush). Our hypothetical metanarrative would range, less neatly, from typologies based on specific technical strategies (Clews and Komar) to those based on broader confluences of technique and subject matter (Smart and Porush); it would trace, through this range, a morphology of formalist criticism whose intersecting arcs curve from an essentially Anglo-American New Criticism (Clews) to French structuralism (Komar), from a debased Russian Formalism (Smart) to a displacement of structuralism by phenomenology (Porush). Happily, even conceits have their limits, and we could not extend this one to a construing of Stanzel's Theory of Narrative as a kind of metametanarrative. Stanzel's earlier work figures in Komar's and Smart's bibliographies, and his Theory of Narrative figures as a cybernaut par excellence; but the range of novels Stanzel covers and the range of aspects his theory comprehends set his book quite apart from the others.
In The Only Teller, Hetty Clews does not survey "first-person narration in all its forms" but typologizes monologic narrative situations in modern literature; she also argues that such situations "invite the reader's participation in the act of creation itself, thereby evincing a shift of authority from writer to reader." Clews first considers several strategies of auctorial "disguising"; next considers what she regards as "incidental monologues" in otherwise third-person narrations; and then addresses the strategy of disguising that forms her subject, namely, that "of substituting a surrogate narrator for the whole of the tale that is told." Her typology is this: the "metaphysically oriented novelist" produces "formalized monologues" in which "rhetoric" supplants "psychology," in which language and ideas command attention; the "empirically oriented novelist," by contrast, [End Page 345] produces "mimetic monologues" that function as "psychologically accurate representations of individual perceptions of the observable world" and that she classifies as "autobiographical monologues" (monologist as hero), "eyewitness monologues" (monologist as observer), and "confessional monologues" (monologist as penitent). Clews devotes a chapter to each of these four types and concludes each chapter with a comment on the type's implications for reading; in parallel fashion, she concludes her book itself with a chapter called "Regarding Readers." Clews's scholarship lacks currency: only 25 of 142 secondary sources cited date from 1970, and only seven of these from 1975. And she errs on some matters slight in themselves but not so in a study of narrative strategies (she construes James's "reflectors" as narrators, for instance, which they rarely are). But she has written a clear and an interesting book.
The Only Teller will find its primary audience among advanced undergraduates and, perhaps, graduate students; it offers little to professional scholars of narrative or of modernism. First, Clews claims to concern herself with "the development, in the twentieth-century novel," of the monologic form, but her book lacks history in two senses: she does not address extraliterary historical causes for the emergence of this form (although she gestures toward some in her conclusion); she does not trace an intraliterary history of the form's subtypes but, rather, distributes across an achronological typology the thirteen texts she studies (which range from 1864 to 1964). Second, Clews compromises the rigor...