Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Epigraph

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pp. iii-vii

Contents

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p. ix

List of Figures

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p. x

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Preface

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pp. xi-xii

This book has a long history, the essentials of which can be narrated in terms of fortunate convergences and counterfactuals. The story begins at the University of Mainz in 1992 in a conversation about possible topics for a postdoctoral thesis (the German Habilitation) with Wolfgang G. Müller. If, in this conversation, Professor Müller had not animated my thoughts with the suggestion that coincidence...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-16

Geoffrey Braithwaite, the self-opinionated narrator of Flaubert’s Parrot, clearly has a serious problem appreciating plot in narrative fiction. Braithwaite’s meta-narrative comments are nevertheless notable because they refer to examples of the two major plot patterns investigated in this study. Contrary, however, to Braithwaite’s opinion, these two plots are not the vagaries of particular genres...

Part 1: Theorizing Time and Space in Narrative Fiction

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1. Cognitive Plotting: Crossing Narrative Boundaries and Connecting Worlds

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pp. 19-43

Each individual reader with her or his own personal cultural background interacts with a text to create a unique virtual dimension (Iser 1972). The reader’s historical-temporal location, identity within global and regional culture, and of course gender are key factors influencing the individual shape of the virtual world the reader creates. Nevertheless, despite this potential for individual readings of narrative texts, this study works on the assumption that “audiences share...

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2. Ontological Plotting: Narrative as a Multiplicity of Temporal Dimensions

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pp. 45-64

Ontological plotting refers to the analysis of narrative fiction’s coordination of the alternate possible worlds that give it depth and interest. In Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations (1861) Pip eventually discovers the identity of his secret benefactor. However, the completely different alternate set of relationships that are implied to exist before this discovery actually give the novel its narrative force....

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3. Spatial Plotting: Paths, Links, and Portals

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pp. 65-85

The bodily experience of negotiating and perceiving space underlies many sense-making operations, including the comprehension of time. The negotiation of space is one of the first orientational steps in life any human being must undertake; this knowledge is used to make sense of or metaphorically “map” other experiences. Johnson (1987) and Turner (1991, 68–98) show how human language is...

Part 2: Theorizing Coincidence and Counterfactuality

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4. The Coincidence Plot

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pp. 89-108

The use of coincidence is a widespread phenomenon in narrative fiction. However, despite a sizable body of contributions on the topic, what has hitherto been missing is a systematic analysis and definition of the plots of coincidence as they occur in fictional narratives—a poetics of coincidence. By contrast, the scientific study of real-world coincidence offers incisive observations on the structure and...

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5. Counterfactuals and Other Alternate Narrative Worlds

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pp. 109-132

The statement above comes from an essay in the most comprehensive psychological study of human counterfactualizing to date—Neal J. Roese and James M. Olson‘s What Might Have Been: The Social Psychology of Counterfactual Thinking (1995). The authors cite texts such as Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (1843) and Frank Capra’s movie It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) as evidence of their claim...

Part 3: Coincidence and Counterfactuality in the History of Narrative Fiction

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6. The Metamorphoses of the Coincidence Plot

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pp. 141-180

Seen through the investigative lens of the coincidence plot, the history of the novel reveals a continuity rather than a dichotomy between romance and realism. The analysis of the coincidence plot in the development from romance to novel thus produces the “destabilization of generic categories” formulated by Michael McKeon (1987); it challenges Watt’s (1987) dichotomous genre model...

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7. The Narrative Evolution of Counterfactuals

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pp. 181-224

Counterfactuals in narrative fiction grow from modest beginnings. Whereas the traditional coincidence plot is an established strategy that the novel appropriates from the romance, counterfactuals only become fully fledged plots when the novel “rises” to become a dominant literary genre. To trace counterfactuals from these early beginnings is to watch the gradual evolution of a rhetorical...

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Conclusion

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pp. 225-231

The following sections highlight the results of part 3 in terms of three of the key aspects that were traced through the developmental stages of the plots of coincidence and counterfactuality: the evolution of plot and narrative fiction; key developments in the representation of plots of love, marriage, and gender within patterns of convergence and divergence; the historical development of...

Source Acknowledgments

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p. 233

Notes

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pp. 235-248

Glossary of Key Terms

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pp. 249-253

Works Cited

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pp. 255-282

Index

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pp. 283-289