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L ’E sp r it C r é a t e u r M ieke Bal. N a r r a t o l o g y : In t r o d u c t i o n t o t h e T h e o r y o f N a r r a t i v e . T oronto: Univ. o f T oronto Press, 1985. P p. xii + 164. $17.50 cloth; $8.95 paper. Intended prim arily for students, Mieke Bal’s book provides a concise, integrated theory o f narrative based on the structuralist tradition. She distinguishes three com ponents o f written narratives, devoting a chapter to each: the fabula (“ elem ents” ), consisting of events, actors, tim e, and location; the story (“ aspects” ), the ways in which the elem ents are presented; and the text (“ w ords” ), which com ponent includes the narrator and types of narration as well as the verbal actualization o f fabula and story. This tripartite scheme cor­ responds roughly to G enette’s (his term s are histoire, récit, and narration) and Rim m onK enan’s (story, text, and narration); Bal used it earlier in her Narratologie (1977). T he fabula, as she presents it, is not simply a collection o f elements; we identify events and actors through reference to their im portance in the tale as a whole. N arrative sequences, as discussed by Brem ond and G reim as, are the encom passing structures that determ ine how acts and actors will be construed. O ne interesting feature of Bal’s approach is that elements present at the level o f fabula take on increasing specificity when they recur at the levels o f story and text. Thus the “ actor” and “ chronology” o f the fabula becom e the “ character” and tem poral m anipulation o f the story, and the “ place” becomes “ space” and then “ description” as we move from one level to the next. These recurrences are not system atic; som e elements appear only in the fabula, and others, such as “ focalization ” in the story and “ narrator” in the text, have no counterparts at other levels. A nother innovation worthy o f note is Bal’s integration, in the “ text,” of the narrator and discourse. P rior theorists have tended to connect the verbal features with the story level, and to see the narrator as a subject or voice separable from the w ords. Bal points out that the text com bines different kinds o f discourse— narration, description, and argum en­ tation (dram atization, in the form o f dialogue, should be added to the list). A lternation between these discursive modes is one o f the n arrato r’s most m anifest functions, and deserving of analysis as such. Best known for her analysis of focalization, Bal’s treatm ent of the subject here is exem plary. By identifying the focalizer as an aspect o f story, and the narrator as a feature o f text, she and others have reinforced the distinction between “ who sees” and “ who speaks,” which English and A m erican critics (other than Brooks and W arren, who first proposed it) have sometimes failed to observe. The price extracted by this analytic lucidity is that it com plicates, in unhelpful ways, the discussion o f free indirect discourse; som e may prefer D orrit C ohn’s treatm ent o f the subject. T hose considering classroom use of this book will w ant to com pare it to Shlom ith Rim m on-K enan’s Narrative Fiction. Quite apart from its pedagogical usefulness, Bal’s book clarifies m any o f the issues involved in the creation o f an integrated structuralist theory o f narrative. W a l l a c e M a r t in University o f Toledo 112 S p r in g 1988 ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
p. 112
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
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