University of Nebraska Press

Frontiers of Narrative

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Affective Narratology

The Emotional Structure of Stories

Patrick Colm Hogan

Stories engage our emotions. We’ve known this at least since the days of Plato and Aristotle. What this book helps us to understand now is how our own emotions fundamentally organize and orient stories. In light of recent cognitive research and wide reading in different narrative traditions, Patrick Colm Hogan argues that the structure of stories is a systematic product of human emotion systems. Examining the ways in which incidents, events, episodes, plots, and genres are a function of emotional processes, he demonstrates that emotion systems are absolutely crucial for understanding stories. Hogan also makes a case for the potentially integral role that stories play in the development of our emotional lives. He provides an in-depth account of the function of emotion within story—in widespread genres with romantic, heroic, and sacrificial structures, and more limited genres treating parent/child separation, sexual pursuit, criminality, and revenge—as these appear in a variety of cross-cultural traditions. In the course of the book Hogan develops interpretations of works ranging from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina to African oral epics, from Sanskrit comedy to Shakespearean tragedy. Integrating the latest research in affective science with narratology, this book provides a powerful explanatory account of narrative organization.

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Coincidence and Counterfactuality

Plotting Time and Space in Narrative Fiction

Hilary P. Dannenberg

In Coincidence and Counterfactuality, a groundbreaking analysis of plot, Hilary P. Dannenberg sets out to answer the perennial question of how to tell a good story. While plot is among the most integral aspects of storytelling, it is perhaps the least studied aspect of narrative. Using plot theory to chart the development of narrative fiction from the Renaissance to the present, Dannenberg demonstrates how the novel has evolved over time and how writers have developed increasingly complex narrative strategies that tap into key cognitive parameters familiar to the reader from real-life experience.
 
Dannenberg proposes a new, multidimensional theory for analyzing time and space in narrative fiction, then uses this theory to trace the historical evolution of narrative fiction by focusing on coincidence and counterfactuality. These two key plot strategies are constructed around pivotal moments when characters’ life trajectories, or sometimes the paths of history, converge or diverge. The study’s rich historical and textual scope reveals how narrative traditions and genres such as romance and realism or science fiction and historiographic metafiction, rather than being separated by clear boundaries are in fact in a continual process of interaction and cross-fertilization. In highlighting critical stages in the historical development of narrative fiction, the study produces new readings of works by pinpointing the innovative role played by particular authors in this evolutionary process. Dannenberg’s original investigation of plot patterns is interdisciplinary, incorporating research from narrative theory, cognitive approaches to literature, social psychology, possible worlds theory, and feminist approaches to narrative.

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Contemporary Comics Storytelling

Karin Kukkonen

What if fairy-tale characters lived in New York City? What if a superhero knew he was a fictional character? What if you could dispense your own justice with one hundred untraceable bullets? These are the questions asked and answered in the course of the challenging storytelling in Fables, Tom Strong, and 100 Bullets, the three twenty-first-century comics series that Karin Kukkonen considers in depth in her exploration of how and why the storytelling in comics is more than merely entertaining.

Applying a cognitive approach to reading comics in all their narrative richness and intricacy, Contemporary Comics Storytelling opens an intriguing perspective on how these works engage the legacy of postmodernism—its subversion, self-reflexivity, and moral contingency. Its three case studies trace how contemporary comics tie into deep traditions of visual and verbal storytelling, how they reevaluate their own status as fiction, and how the fictional minds of their characters generate complex ethical thought experiments. At a time when the medium is taken more and more seriously as intricate and compelling literary art, this book lays the groundwork for an analysis of the ways in which comics challenge and engage readers’ minds. It brings together comics studies with narratology and literary criticism and, in so doing, provides a new set of tools for evaluating the graphic novel as an emergent literary form.

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The Cruft of Fiction

Mega-Novels and the Science of Paying Attention

David Letzler

What is the strange appeal of big books? The mega-novel, a genre of erudite tomes with encyclopedic scope, has attracted wildly varied responses, from fanatical devotion to trenchant criticism. Looking at intimidating mega-novel masterpieces from The Making of Americans to 2666, David Letzler explores reader responses to all the seemingly random, irrelevant, pointless, and derailing elements that comprise these mega-novels, elements that he labels “cruft” after the computer science term for junk code. In The Cruft of Fiction, Letzler suggests that these books are useful tools to help us understand the relationship between reading and attention.

While mega-novel text is often intricately meaningful or experimental, sometimes it is just excessive and pointless. On the other hand, mega-novels also contain text that, though appearing to be cruft, turns out to be quite important. Letzler posits that this cruft requires readers to develop a sophisticated method of attentional modulation, allowing one to subtly distinguish between text requiring focused attention and text that must be skimmed or even skipped to avoid processing failures. The Cruft of Fiction shows how the attentional maturation prompted by reading mega-novels can help manage the information overload that increasingly characterizes contemporary life.

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The Emergence of Mind

Representations of Consciousness in Narrative Discourse in English

Edited by David Herman

From Chaucer’s Pardoner to Eliot’s Edward Casaubon, from Behn’s Oroonoko to Woolf’s Clarissa Dalloway—the multifarious perceptions, inferences, memories, attitudes, and emotions of such characters are in some cases as vividly familiar to us readers as those of the living, breathing individuals we know from our own day-to-day experiences in the world at large. Equally diverse are the investigative frameworks that have been developed to study such fictional minds, their operations and qualities, and the narrative means used to portray them. The Emergence of Mind provides new perspectives on the strategies used to represent minds in stories and suggests the variety of analytic approaches that illuminate those strategies. In this interdisciplinary and groundbreaking collection of essays, distinguished scholars such as Monika Fludernik, Alan Palmer, and Lisa Zunshine examine trends in the representation of consciousness in English-language narrative discourse from 700 to the present. Tracing commonalities and differences in the portrayal of fictional minds over virtually the entire time span during which narrative discourse in English has been written and read, The Emergence of Mind will have a lasting impact on literary studies, narratology, and other fields.

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Ethos and Narrative Interpretation

The Negotiation of Values in Fiction

Liesbeth Korthals Altes

Ethos and Narrative Interpretation examines the fruitfulness of the concept of ethos for the theory and analysis of literary narrative. The notion of ethos refers to the broadly persuasive effects of the image one may have of a speaker’s psychology, world view, and emotional or ethical stance. How and why do readers attribute an ethos (of, for example, sincerity, reliability, authority, or irony) to literary characters, narrators, and even to authors? Are there particular conditions under which it is more appropriate for interpreters to attribute an ethos to authors, rather than to narrators? In the answer Liesbeth Korthals Altes proposes to such questions, ethos attributions are deeply implicated in the process of interpreting and evaluating narrative texts.

Demonstrating the extent to which ethos attributions, and hence, interpretive acts, play a tacit role in many methods of narratological analysis, Korthals Altes also questions the agenda and epistemological status of various narratologies, both classical and post-classical. Her approach, rooted in a broad understanding of the role and circulation of narrative art in culture, rehabilitates interpretation, both as a tool and as an object of investigation in narrative studies.

 

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Fictional Dialogue

Speech and Conversation in the Modern and Postmodern Novel

Bronwen Thomas

Experimentation with the speech of characters has been hailed by Gérard Genette as “one of the main paths of emancipation in the modern novel.” Dialogue as a stylistic and narrative device is a key feature in the development of the novel as a genre, yet it is also a phenomenon little acknowledged or explored in the critical literature. Fictional Dialogue demonstrates the richness and versatility of dialogue as a narrative technique in twentieth- and twenty-first-century novels by focusing on extended extracts and sequences of utterances. It also examines how different versions of dialogue may help to normalize or idealize certain patterns and practices, thereby excluding alternative possibilities or eliding “unevenness” and differences.

Bronwen Thomas, by bringing together theories and models of fictional dialogue from a wide range of disciplines and intellectual traditions, shows how the subject raises profound questions concerning our understanding of narrative and human communication. The first study of its kind to combine literary and narratological analysis with reference to linguistic terms and models, Bakhtinian theory, cultural history, media theory, and cognitive approaches, this book is also the first to focus in depth on the dialogue novel in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and to bring together examples of dialogue from literature, popular fiction, and nonlinear narratives. Beyond critiquing existing methods of analysis, it outlines a promising new method for analyzing fictional dialogue.

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Fictional Minds

Alan Palmer

Fictional Minds suggests that readers understand novels primarily by following the functioning of the minds of characters in the novel storyworlds. Despite the importance of this aspect of the reading process, traditional narrative theory does not include a complete and coherent theory of fictional minds.

Readers create a continuing consciousness out of scattered references to a particular character and read this consciousness as an “embedded narrative” within the whole narrative of the novel. The combination of these embedded narratives forms the plot. This perspective on narrative enables us to explore hitherto neglected aspects of fictional minds such as dispositions, emotions, and action. It also highlights the social, public, and dialogic mind and the “mind beyond the skin.” For example, much of our thought is “intermental,” or joint, group, or shared; even our identity is, to an extent, socially distributed.

Written in a clear and accessible style, Fictional Minds analyzes constructions of characters’ minds in the fictional texts of a wide range of authors, from Aphra Behn and Henry Fielding to Evelyn Waugh and Thomas Pynchon. In its innovative and groundbreaking explorations, this interdisciplinary project also makes substantial use of “real-mind” disciplines such as philosophy, psychology, psycholinguistics, and cognitive science.

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The Imagined Moment

Time, Narrative, and Computation

Inderjeet Mani

Time is a key aspect of narrative. It can advance a story, illuminate its role in our daily lives, and help us understand how events unfold. In this groundbreaking interdisciplinary work, Inderjeet Mani uses recent developments in linguistics and computer science to analyze the use of time in narrative form. The Imagined Moment outlines directions for an emerging discipline of “corpus narratology,” an approach involving the computer analysis and interpretation of multimillion-word collections of narrative text. This approach, Mani explains, could alter the very foundations of narrative theory. Accordingly, he develops a computer representation for timelines and applies it to a variety of literary works. Among these are such classics as One Hundred Years of Solitude, “A Hunger Artist,” Swann’s Way, Jealousy, Candide, and “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.” Along the way, Mani considers stories embedded in temporal cycles; the cognitive processes involved in the construal of events in time; the modeling of narrative progression in terms of changes in readers’ evaluation of characters; the study of variations of tempo in fiction; and time in computer-mediated forms of storytelling.

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Imagining Kashmir

Emplotment and Colonialism

Patrick Colm Hogan

During the 1947 partition of the Indian subcontinent, Kashmir—a Muslim-majority area ruled by a Hindu maharaja—became a hotly disputed territory. Divided between India and Pakistan, the region has been the focus of international wars and the theater of political and military struggles for self-determination. The result has been great human suffering within the state, with political implications extending globally.

Imagining Kashmir examines cinematic and literary imaginings of the Kashmir region’s conflicts and diverse citizenship, analyzing a wide range of narratives from writers and directors such as Salman Rushdie, Bharat Wakhlu, Mani Ratnam, and Mirza Waheed in conjunction with research in psychology, cognitive science, and social neuroscience. In this innovative study, Patrick Colm Hogan’s historical and cultural analysis of Kashmir advances theories of narrative, colonialism, and their corresponding ideologies in relation to the cognitive and affective operations of identity.

Hogan considers how narrative organizes people’s understanding of, and emotions about, real political situations and the ways in which such situations in turn influence cultural narratives, not only in Kashmir but around the world.

 
 


 

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