By discussing The Human Stain by Philip Roth, this article aims to question the standard view of fictional narratives as being told by a narrator and as being formal imitations of natural narrative discourse. In my discussion on Roth's novel, I demonstrate how the concept of the narrator can start to produce interpretations of a literary work. Although critics discussing this particular novel are not always narratologists, the concept is theory-laden and therefore presents a preconceived notion of who the narrator is as well how to approach so-called first-person fiction. In The Human Stain, the character of Nathan Zuckerman appears as a narrating-I, yet attains different functions throughout the literary work, besides that of "telling." By using this example, I argue for a rhetorical and aesthetic approach to narrating characters. Narrating characters are viewed as products of the authorial discourse rather than producers of narrative discourse or sources of narrative information. The topic discussed in this article is thus an example of the conflict between certain narratological core concepts, defined within a given theoretical paradigm, and the practice of reading narrative fiction. The rules and conventions governing that practice should be the focus for any rhetorical approach to fiction, yet narratological distinctions might contradict our readerly responses and appear counterintuitive to how literary works communicate with us as readers of literary fiction, as the reception of Roth's novel demonstrates.


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pp. 17-38
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