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Form and Context: An Essay in the History of Narratology
Abstract

This essay compares two distinct traditions of narrative theory: on the one hand, that of structuralist narratology as it emerged in the 1960s and in its various subsequent manifestations; on the other, that of German-language Erzähltheorie as codified in the 1950s, with a prehistory dating back to German classicism. Having mapped the connections between these traditions, this essay then concentrates on exploring how narratology, unlike German narrative theory, has come to broaden its project exponentially since its first critical incarnation as a strictly formalist poetics. While the German tradition has concentrated on rhetoric and voice (with reception theory constituting a largely separate area of inquiry), narratology, which frames the text within a symmetry of real, implied, and fictional intelligences, has always had the potential to pose questions about how narrative functions in relation to a surrounding world of ideas. Of the two only narratology can therefore theorize both authorship and reading. In specific terms, this essay argues that the controversial narratological abstraction of implied authorship represents the only point at which a negotiation between textual and contextual worlds can logically take place. Evidence of how crucial such theorization has been in the development of contextualist narratology is sought in the examination of a test case, namely the much-disputed project of feminist narratology.



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