In her response to the essays, Monika Fludernik concentrates on tackling two major points of critique: the question of the natural and the term experientiality. She also engages with Shen Dan's complex remarks about narrativity and its relationship to experientiality and with Maria Mäkelä's remarks on diachrony in the context of models of reader response. As for experientiality, she welcomes both Jonas Grethlein's and Marco Caracciolo's extensions of the term, though signaling some caution about a conflation of experience and experientiality.

First of all, I would like to thank John Pier and Eva von Contzen for having put together the two panels at the ISSN conference in Amsterdam in 2016, contributions to which are now published in this forum of Partial Answers. I am immensely grateful to all contributors for having engaged with Towards a ‘Natural’ Narratology (TNN) and with the notion of experientiality (in the second panel), which is one of the key aspects of the theory developed in TNN.

The essays in this forum can be divided into two groups displaying different tendencies in their reactions to TNN and experientiality. On the one hand, the articles lay out a variety of extensions and innovative appropriations of my work. On the other hand, they focus on what they see as weaknesses in the model of TNN. This critical mode can be combined with the proposal for a new turn within narratology, inevitably branching off into different applications of the tools of TNN or developing new theoretical concepts or methods. These rely on gaps or perceived deficits in my model, which have therefore inspired ways of extending or modifying the framework of TNN.

The extensions outlined in the essays printed above take a variety of forms and concentrate on diverse concepts in, or aspects of, my work. They also engage with different layers or contexts that have been crucial to my own research. For instance, one can classify TNN and my narratological work as being representative of a language-and-literature orientation (an aspect that has not been taken up in these pages but crucially affects my studies on tense, especially on the historical present tense, second-person fiction, metaphor, and irony). TNN frequently figures as a key text in cognitive narratology, and this aspect centrally affects the discussions of experience and experientiality in this forum. Third, TNN is widely perceived to be an example of diachronic narratology (or, as Maria Mäkelä suggests, of narratological diachrony).

An important component of TNN, but also of other publications that build on my linguistic expertise, has been my work on conversational narrative (1991, 1992, 2014a), which in fact led to my theory about the [End Page 329] historical present tense and the diachronic analysis of narratives. Many narratologists also see my work as transgeneric on account of my plea for including drama and to some extent poetry within the category of narrative (2008). In addition, because of my research in postcolonial studies (e.g. 2012b) and in Law-and-Literature (2014b), I sometimes figure as a proponent of postcolonial narratology and of narratives of the law. Though these last three aspects do not play a role in the papers of this forum, they nevertheless indicate that narratology as I have been practicing it since my PhD thesis (completed in 1982) covers a wide range of issues, genres, and historical periods, and therefore cannot be reduced to TNN and the concept of experientiality. I emphasize this point simply because the controversial nature of TNN (especially on account of its introduction of the concept of experientiality) has tended to obscure other aspects of my research which, to some extent, modify these theses and complement the issues usually associated with myself and TNN. This is particularly true of my recent work on factual narrative (e.g. 2013), as will be illustrated below.

Among the critical appreciations of TNN in this forum, four aspects are foregrounded: the notions of experientiality and experience; the concept of naturalness (especially in Brian McHale’s contribution); the status of the deconstructive method in my book (see Culler and McHale); and the role of the reader (especially in Shen and Mäkelä). The extensions concern the application of narratology to the non-human (Caracciolo); to the factual (the examples of lists in von Contzen’s contribution); the linking of narratology and mimesis with issues of probability in the 18th century (Kukkonen); and the elaboration of a turn towards experience (subsuming experientiality) as a fundamental element in narratives and in narratology (Grethlein).

No research area stands still. At the end of the first chapter of TNN (1996: 52), I had speculated that the model would clearly be open to revision; on its twentieth birthday it is inevitable that the field has moved on and that—as Dan Shen and Maria Mäkelä correctly emphasize—what was necessary and innovative in 1996 now needs to be modified or rejected and displaced. The wonder for me has been the impact that TNN has actually had on narrative studies, in terms of (a) the wide-spread acceptance of experientiality in writings by Marie-Laure Ryan, David Herman, Werner Wolf, Raphaël Baroni, Jens Brockmeier, and others, (b) in the diachronic turn in narratology that is slowly making headway, and (c) in the adoption of the notion of embodiment in recent cognitive narratology as, for instance, in Marco Caracciolo’s work. The model has even [End Page 330] inspired a school of critical opposition to natural narratology, namely unnatural narratology.1

In what follows I would like to engage with the critical points raised by the papers above. Let me say beforehand, however, that I greatly appreciate the less revisionist essays for their fine discriminations and judicious analyses. If they are not treated extensively here, this is due primarily to the necessity of responding to the critical comments and to the page limit for this forum. I will start with the points that I can perhaps deal with more briefly and end with the subject of experience and experientiality, since this has received more unfavorable notice and has raised sustained opposition.

The ‘Naturalness’ of ‘Natural’ Narratology and the Voiding of Its Deconstructive Potential

In his perceptive lead essay to this forum, Jonathan Culler has commented on the inherently deconstructive orientation of TNN. In contrast to classical narratology, TNN inverts the position of plot and the representation of consciousness by proposing that experientiality (represented in ideal form in the modernist novel of consciousness) constitutes narrativity, with plot merely a sub-category of experientiality. Culler goes on to note that TNN tries to include postmodernist texts in its portfolio (besides conversational storytelling and older literary texts) and that the concept and process of narrativization (based on Culler’s naturalization) go a long way towards recuperating experimental narratives for the field of narratology. As Culler astutely recognizes, the practice of narrativization is a wide-spread strategy among readers trying to make sense of a refractive text.

The readers’ need to recuperate the oddity of the text, to make it conform to basic plot schemas and to psychological authenticity, is worrisome to the postmodernist critic; as early as 1996, Andrew Gibson delineated a different non-mimetic framework for the interpretation of experimental narratives, which foregrounded the disorienting features of postmodernist texts but proved applicable only to radically experimental prose. The problem that Culler and McHale decry in TNN is its theoretical [End Page 331] mimeticist bias. As Culler correctly observes, the reader trained in mimetic narrative will try to recuperate the scriptible text (to adopt a Barthesian formula) by resorting to real-life schemata (whether cognitive or psychological). The question remains to what extent the critic—and narratology as a discipline—should narrativize the non-narrative. Culler points to my comment that readers regularly construct a narrator figure for texts that have no linguistically foregrounded speaker position and that narratology should not fall into its readers’ trap by adopting a theoretical model that takes readerly resorting to cognitive schemata as an example for how narrative works. The theoretical model and the level of reader processing of the text should not be collapsed into one another.

I am very grateful to Jonathan Culler for posing this question. If readers rely on cognitive parameters, does the fact that these parameters are theoretically grounded in the “mediation of experientiality” level of the theoretical model (see Diagram 1 below) mean that narrativization always occurs, thus rendering naught the subversive qualities of the experimental text? I do not think that this is actually the case. For one, experimental texts are perceived as troubling and refractory: even if they are eventually narrativized in the reading process, their initial disturbing effect cannot be entirely displaced. For instance, the “Ithaca” chapter in Ulysses will always be a tour de force, even if the reader construes a plot behind the question-and-answer format. And there is a second argument I would like to bring in. The generic and literary frames to which readers resort are located on the third level of cognitive narrative frames (compare Diagram 2 below). A reader trained in sophisticated and demanding literary narratives will have developed a frame for the contravention of realistic narrative formats or even for a category like “experimentalism.” This will help such readers to appreciate the subversive strategy of the text and may perhaps even detain them from going on to narrativize the story in a more mimetic-realist manner. I therefore do not think that the problem raised so thoughtfully by Jonathan Culler is really beyond repair. The theory, on the other hand, is a description of what happens most commonly, but provides tools for the response of the sophisticated reader, too.

The more fundamental question brought up by Brian McHale is more difficult to respond to, not least because our premises are ultimately very different. Brian McHale is fundamentally opposed to the term natural (which is why I originally put it in scare quotes). That I am myself suspicious of the natural should have been more than obvious from the “Prologue in the Wilderness” which opens TNN and which was meant [End Page 332] to clarify that what I was engaging in was a deconstruction of the deconstructivist critique of the natural in the light of cognitive studies. For McHale, it is “artifice all the way down,” a position that chimes in with Derrida’s grammatological outlook (writing before speech).

The dissensus between McHale and myself can be followed back to two presuppositions on which we differ. The first of these—also articulated at the ISSN session by the late Lubomír Doležel—concerns the place of conversational narrative in the context of the rise of written narratives and particularly in relation to the epic. Of course, McHale is entirely right to say that a novel and so-called Labovian natural narrative are incompatible and seem to have nothing in common. This is the commonsense approach that predated my TNN. However, in analyzing conversational narratives, I found that the tension and dynamics between tellability and point (which is precisely that dynamic which the double story of histoire and discours produces) allows for the significance of the telling, and that this structural feature is one that conversational narratives and literary ones share. The emphasis here is on why one tells and how the story conveys a signification that lies beyond the sheer supplying of information (report). I therefore also tried to argue against the communication model of narrative, in which a speaker produces text that sends information to the reader as recipient of that information. The main difference between conversational storytelling and the novel or epic is obviously its length, and the theses that I laid out in Chapters 2 to 4 of TNN were meant to demonstrate how in English late medieval narrative the small-scale episodic model of conversational narrative is initially pervasive but then becomes transformed as longer narratives develop more fully. This development is one that can be perceived on the discourse level thanks to discourse markers, tenses, etc., and it is one that obtains structurally on the deep structure of the narrative, where episodic sequences are transformed into larger teleological units. However, these formal developments do not imply that the cognitive core of experientiality (the dynamics of tellability and point) is destroyed.

Put differently, my thesis (still) is that Labov has discovered a quality of conversational narratives that novelistic and elaborated stories—despite their much greater length and complexity—continue to preserve. The explanations I have provided work well for English late medieval to early modern narratives. McHale’s query about the impact of the epic falls flat for Middle English since there is an important historical discontinuity between Old English and Middle English. The situation may be different in French literature, where there is more continuity, and in the [End Page 333] context of a new project I do plan to cooperate with medieval scholars from German and French Studies to explore to what extent the patterns described in TNN work in these languages. As for antiquity or, more concretely, Latin and Greek, there are two comments that I can make. Doležel was right in pointing to the ritual, institutional nature of the epic (see also Fludernik 2014a). However, since this in turn derives from an oral tradition, the invocation to the Muses looks very much like a feature added in the frame of literary composition by means of which the epic was fixed in writing. In any case, there exist residual elements of the oral narrative structure in the classical epic, at least in Homer. Traditionally, these have been related to the repetition of phrases and the use of epitheta ornantia as aids to memory, but they can actually also be linked to the submerged oral episodic structure. There is at least one study (Wittchow 2001) that discovers the episodic model in medieval Latin prose. However, even if classical and medieval scholars were to demonstrate that the oral model does not have such a big impact on the deep structure and discourse level of the texts, this in no way undermines the basic thesis, namely of the dynamic of tellability and point as the core of narrative and therefore as being the link or shared quality between oral and written, simple and elaborated stories. In fact, the challenge to my thesis is much greater from the direction of narrative report, small stories, and factual narratives—a point that Dan Shen has raised in her essay.

Where I think McHale and myself disagree is in our choice of levels of analysis. While I see the basic issue as one of a matter of cognitive frames, he understands the “oral nature” of narrative as one of material equivalence or linguistic evidence. Possibly this has not been clarified sufficiently in TNN. My analysis of conversational narratives was the epiphanic moment which led me to elaborate the thesis of experientiality as the key feature of narrative; the demonstration of residual oral frameworks in late medieval and early modern texts was never meant to prove that all narrative is structured on the lines of the episodic narrative model (indeed, the fact that there is this obvious incompatibility between phone conversations and novels was the problem I needed to solve in discovering a commonality between the two, and it was not going to be found on the surface structure of the texts). As we will see below, the real problem lies in the extension of experientiality, as Dan Shen correctly points out, particularly in the application of the theory to factual narratives.

One final note on the ‘natural’ or natural. Whatever the deconstructivist framework within which Jonathan Culler employed his concept of naturalization, the two other sources of the concept in my theory are non-essentialist [End Page 334] in the sense of politically incorrect impositions of an ideologically suspect assumption that something is “given by nature.” Naturally occurring conversational narratives (incidentally, not the ones Labov made famous in his work, since he used elicited stories) are ‘natural’ in the sense of occurring spontaneously and without a pre-existing imposed narrative structure. That all storytelling is a craft and an artefact generated by the storyteller because experience cannot be reproduced except through the mediation of retrospective evaluation is taken for granted. The second source of the term ‘natural’ had been linguistic and cognitive, namely the model of natural linguistic preferences in a variety of categories of language production. That theory indeed links to markedness and defaults and analyzes choices that speakers preponderantly make in various languages as more likely to occur and therefore requiring special effort on the part of listeners if they are contravened (and such choices are then called marked). Wolfgang Dressler’s model was one that participated in the rise of cognitive linguistics and partook of insights into frames, scripts, and prototypes. This work (including Lakoff 1987) was an inspiration to me and helped me to elaborate the cognitive arguments in TNN. These, as Maria Mäkelä shows so convincingly, are reader-centered in that they provide a description of how the text is processed on the basis of scripts, frames, and prototypes.

Departures from cognitively inflected expectations are of course possible (just as contraventions of Gricean cooperative principles abound) and then require additional interpretative effort. Cognitive prototypes and principles are natural in the sense of currency, statistical prevalence, and ease of processing. There is no non-natural, much less un-natural, side to their infringement. As for the issue of omniscience, I would like to point out that zero-focalization narrative has been in use from the start of the written record in Homer; the puzzle of literary history is that narratives of personal experience, which are so predominant in conversational storytelling, do not impact on early written texts, since these tend to have mythical, historical, and régime-related functions. In all literatures, written autodiegetic narrative is a latecomer, though embedded first-person narratives exist from Homer onwards. I do not see this as an invalidation of my theses, since omniscient narrative is a blend that must have imposed itself spontaneously in the course of narratives about the mythic past (see Fludernik 2010b). [End Page 335]

The Role of the Reader in Towards a ‘Natural’ Narratology

Turning from McHale’s paper to Mäkelä’s, I first need to express my gratitude for a very fine analysis of TNN in terms of the function of the reader position in my study. Mäkelä is absolutely right to point out that the reader plays a central role in TNN and that this is a synthetic model (as she calls it) in which no empirically traceable reader is necessarily assumed. As Mäkelä outlines, and I can only agree, the reader in my diachronic development of narrative is an abstraction. No individual reader could make any difference to the history of narrative, but there will be a momentum in the wake of repeated and mushrooming readings which result in a widespread acceptance. The process of naturalization can be described in terms of blending, and the apparent ‘naturalness’ of omniscient narrative can be explained precisely through a transfer from personal to vicarious experience (see Fludernik 2010b). Mäkelä is also spot on when she compares my procedure to that of the Russian Formalists, where “sometimes the agent seems to be the autonomous literary text” (275). When I look at the development of narrative surface structure from late medieval to 17th-century narratives, what I am describing is indeed how textual phenomena change, but I do not attribute these changes to the conscious agency of individual authors. (In parallel, one cannot, I believe, attribute the rise of free indirect discourse to conscious decisions on the part of authors, at least not until the device had acquired a name and become available as a resource that could be used strategically.)

I am, moreover, in full agreement with Mäkelä in her assessment that the diachronic process I describe is one that goes beyond deviation or estrangement in the Formalist paradigm. However, as will have become clear from my earlier remarks in response to McHale, deviation as departure from default settings for scripts and cognitive frames is a common occurrence on that level, which is not the one of textual surface structure. One could, moreover, add that Russian Formalists saw the aesthetic quality of a text in the deployment of ostranenie, whereas the departures from familiar patterns of narrative surface structure analyzed in TNN reflect systematic long-term shifts that respond to the changing requirements of narrative (which include cultural and social developments impinging on literary production). Although as a literary scholar I am naturally interested in aesthetics, the research presented in TNN is not geared towards literary appreciation and the foregrounding of the aesthetic element in narrative texts. [End Page 336]

When we return to the process of narrativization and the application of cognitive parameters in the reading process, there is of course an empirical reader who is implied in the theory, much as in models of classical narratology and reader-response theory, but in the absence of methods of mental scrutiny (which do not yet exist), it is presumably impossible to verify or falsify the model. (Richard Gerrig would be the person to know.) Hence, Mäkelä is right to point out that here, too, the reader is somewhat of an abstraction, meant to illustrate the cognitive processes involved in the reading of narrative. Mäkelä therefore highlights a methodological problem which I should have discussed more explicitly in TNN, namely the fact that getting away from an intentionalist author or from a narrator-based model and adopting a constructivist and hence reception-oriented alternative involves an abstract notion of the reader, and that reader is as much of a construct as the author as guarantor of textual meaning used to be. Like the armchair linguist, the cognitive narratologist of yore (twenty years ago) had little cognitive research to rely on; or, at least, my source was cognitive linguistics rather than cognitive science per se. This has changed drastically since the work of Lisa Zunshine, and its effect can be seen in the work of Karin Kukkonen and Marco Caracciolo. This takes me, finally, to the question of experientiality and experience, which is the crux of TNN for many respondents and—in the context of my recent work on factual narrative—has also required revision.

Experientiality and Narrativity

I will start with Dan Shen’s fine paper and then move to a more general review of experientiality, which will include some comments on Caracciolo’s “Notes for a(nother) Theory of Experientiality” (2012), since this will allow me to confront some major misunderstandings of the concept of experientiality in current representations of TNN.

When I developed the notion of experientiality, it was in response to the problems that classical narratology had with modernist and postmodernist novels with no plot. I had found that conversational storytelling focused less on plot than on the dynamics of tellability and point (see also Rabinowitz 2015), and that its informational value was less crucial than emotional appeal and self-presentation (what linguists call face) within a communicative situation in which speakers insert their stories into ongoing argument. As a consequence, I saw fundamental parallels with novels that could be used to revise the classical emphasis on plot. From the start, [End Page 337] I saw plot as included in experientiality but lacking in emphasis on an extensive representation of consciousness, which tends to enhance both the conveying of the narrated experience and the evaluative character of the “point” illustrated by the tale. From that perspective, I proposed zero narrativity for historiography, since academic historical writing tends to focus on point (i.e. interpretation) and argument to the detriment of experiential and especially mind-related presentation of the experience of historical persons.

The thesis, controversial and deconstructionist though it was (inverting the traditional privileging of plot in relation to mind telling), met with unexpected approval and has found its way into definitions of narrativity in Marie-Laure Ryan (2006), David Herman (2009, Herman et al. 2012), and Werner Wolf (2003, 2004), among others. It has also been greeted with approval by theorists of conversation analysis across the board, most recently in Brockmeier’s magnum opus Beyond the Archive (2015). At the same time, traditional narratologists have been doubtful, underlining the importance of plot in genre fiction (e.g. James Bond novels) as well as in tales from Antiquity through the Middle Ages (von Contzen 2014).

Since 2012, I have been Director of a graduate school called “Factual and Fictional Narration” (GRK 1767, funded by the German Research Foundation [DFG]). The topic of this institution evolved from a previous graduate school on “History and Narrative” (originally initiated by the Classics and Ancient History departments), which focused on historiography. In order to gain new funding, a follow-up topic was found in the subject of factual narration. While I had been looking at legal texts, diaries, and letters in the early modern period in the framework of studying episodic narrative structure, I had already started to revise my ideas about zero narrativity. Earlier (in Fludernik 2004), I was able to show how a focus on interiority develops in stages and how the use of adverbs and changes in syntax can indicate minimal shifts towards greater (or incipient) experientiality. In the context of the graduate school “Factual and Fictional Narration” it soon became apparent that—with the exception of some journalism and fully expanded conversational narratives—experientiality was lacking or in low supply in most other factual narratives (as was to be expected). However, what emerged very clearly was the fact that conversational storytelling was a special case in the context of factual narratives.

Conversational narratives are more performative than other factual reports and they employ a great many stratagems and devices familiar from novels—for instance, invented dialogues. Thus, the focus of the [End Page 338] graduate school on factual narration (see Fludernik 2013) and my work on early modern prose have led to a revision of TNN, with the result that narrativity is now conceived of as scalar, with minimal experientiality (only action report) for many factual narratives and for oral small stories (Bamberg, Georgakopoulou) and increasing levels of experientiality towards the other end of the scale, where fiction and conversational stories hold pride of place. Not that the scalar approach was entirely new since, in principle, a scale had already been proposed in TNN; however, by outlining a less biased scalar schema, the evaluative prejudice of TNN in favor of experiential narratives is now less foregrounded. Among the essays, Eva von Contzen’s admirable analysis of how the non-narrative list provokes narrativization on quite experiential lines also demonstrates the continued relevance of that concept even for factual or quasi-factual contexts.

It is for this reason that I welcome Dan Shen’s astute analysis of TNN, in which she demonstrates that not all forms of natural narrative are equally experiential. Though both narratives of personal and vicarious experience may come in the form of elaborate experiential storytelling, there are of course less elaborate natural narratives such as small stories (Bamberg, Georgakopoulou) and mere reports (for instance: “Yes, that’s true. I went to the pharmacy yesterday and saw him buy a package of pain killers”). Likewise, many witness narratives will have a low experientiality factor. Despite this, both psychologists and conversation analysts alongside literary scholars cherish experiential narratives.

Dan Shen very perceptively remarks that TNN in fact uses two different concepts of experientiality. The first is a global one that relates to cognitive parameters. Within that framework, action sequences or report are also experiential, since they are based on our cognitive apparatus of perception and interaction with the world. The second is a more specifically emotional (or affective) and consciousness-related experientiality which links the tensions between telling and experiencing, between tellability and point, into the special experience we have when listening to or reading stories. Going back to my discussion of experientiality in the first chapter of TNN, one could argue that global experientiality relates to the way in which narrative is mediated through consciousness on several levels: [End Page 339]

Diagram 1. The Constitution of Narrativity (cf. : 209)
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Diagram 1.

The Constitution of Narrativity (cf. Fludernik 2010c: 209)

As one can see, experience on the histoire level morphs into mediated experientiality as narrativity (in scalar form, as a cline). I will come back to the notion of experience vs. experientiality in a moment since it has been the focus of Caracciolo’s work and is here presented as a new paradigm by Jonas Grethlein.

One could also diagram the various levels of cognitive frames as follows, thus perhaps illustrating the four levels more clearly:

Diagram 2. The Four Levels of Cognitive Narrative Frames (: 208)
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Diagram 2.

The Four Levels of Cognitive Narrative Frames (Fludernik 2010c: 208)

I agree with Dan Shen that there are actually two notions of experientiality which have been merged together in TNN and which it is useful to distinguish. Where I dissent from her arguments is in relation to her conclusion that there are two conceptions of narrativity, a cognitive and a textual one. Shen’s opposition between narrativity as an attribute that [End Page 340] is imposed on discourse by way of narrativization and textual narrativity is, from my perspective, not a matter of a cognitive vs. textual dichotomy but needs to be analyzed within reception vs. production-based frameworks. Thus, narrativization refers to the readerly processes of sense-making and interpretation. My definition of narrativity is not merely textual, I believe, but analytical, descriptive, or narrator-related, asking: what constitutes a narrative? Shen is right to see that there is a constructivist answer to this question as well as a more traditional answer that stipulates the existence of basic features (specificity, anthropomorphic protagonists) conjoined with the dynamics between tellability and point. The main point of differentiation, however, is at what level one locates the definition, since the process of narrativization is automatic where the ground elements are incontestably narrative.

If I have one major disagreement with Dan Shen, however, it is regarding her analysis of the reflecting frame. I introduced this frame to account for postmodern texts in which it is the consciousness of the teller figure which supplants the evocation of a (past) world of experiences that are being narrated. In these texts, consciousness is extensively represented, but the natural formula of “live first and tell later” has been displaced. My examples are not the equivalent of narrative comment (the report sequences relating to the action schema), but of an autotelic focus on oneself as a writer. Dan Shen is right to draw our attention to the fact that texts and genres deploying the reflecting schema indeed (textually) include much authorial commentary. The historical ancestors of the reflecting mode are, moreover, preponderantly factual narratives (essays, sermons, didactic tracts). Their main impact—and that is what I wanted to highlight—was the evocation of a self, that of the writer or narrator protagonist, and his or her consciousness.

Let me now turn to my final point, the relation of experience and experientiality. In the original proposals outlined in TNN, the experiences that narratives represent by means of experiential parameters are not merely events in which people get involved—like coincidental meetings, happy turns of events, emotional distress, tragic outcomes of plans, etc. In TNN I meant to distinguish between experience in the familiar sense of the word as (life) experience, on the one hand, and experientiality, on the other. The latter links telling and experiencing in the dynamics of tellability and point, hence sublating (in the sense of a Hegelean dialectics) the narration and the narrated in the concept of experientiality. Since people’s life experience correlates with experientiality—what stories teach us is exactly what we find significantly characterizes our human [End Page 341] predicament—I sometimes used the word experience, as in the passage which Caracciolo cites (2012: 177), though he drops the scare quotes.2 Caracciolo interprets experientiality as experience (but note that in Diagram 1 narrativity figures as “mediated experientiality”). This wreaks havoc with the conception of experientiality elaborated on pp. 29–30 of TNN, where the initial formula is expanded to read as follows:

Human experience typically embraces goal-oriented behaviour and activity, with its reaction to obstacles encountered on the way. The appearance of such an obstacle in one’s path also constitutes a major event, and one which is reflected in the central incidence schema (Pollak 1988) of oral narratives (Quasthoff 1980; Fludernik 1991, 1992). This unexpected occurrence indeed dynamically triggers the reaction of the protagonist, and it is this three-part schema of “situation—event (incidence)—reaction to event” which constitutes the core of all human action experience.

In narrating such experience, however, after-the-fact evaluations become important as a means of making narrative experience relevant to oneself and to others. All experience is therefore stored as emotionally charged remembrance, and it is reproduced in narrative form because it was memorable, funny, scary, or exciting. Whereas, in oral narrative, narrated experience always tends to be related to incidence, more extended narrative ventures (already in oral history interviews, as in Studs Terkel’s work) frequently reproduce quite uneventful experiences and already tend to center on interviewees’ mental situations. The dynamics of experientiality as it surfaces in the narrativity of natural narratives reposes not solely on the changes brought about by external developments or effected through the self-monitored (goal-oriented) actions of a central intelligence or consciousness. On the contrary, this dynamics is related particularly to the resolution effect of the narrative end-point of the tale and to the tension between tellability and narrative “point.”


Hence, though I may have used the word experience incautiously, my focus on experientiality as including the “meaning-making role of storytelling” (Caracciolo 2012: 179) should be clear. Nor is experientiality to be equated with the “poet’s experience” (Alber 2002: 68); on the contrary, the reason why not all poetry is experiential in the sense of narrativity is that few poetic scenarios are located in a specific time and place or even project a specific moment of utterance (Fludernik 1996: 29–30). [End Page 342] However, one could indeed narrativize such poetry by using the reflecting frame, and to this extent Alber is perfectly justified in assuming that the line between narrative and poetry (1996: 354–55) may be fragile. Owing to generic conventions, such a narrativization will, however, be the exception rather than the rule, since not all poetry is the expression of a lyric speaker (Culler 2015).

Though, in my view, Alber and Caracciolo have misunderstood my concept of experientiality by equating it too closely with experience tout court, I am grateful to Caracciolo for elaborating on my emphasis on embodiment in the manner in which he has been doing this on the basis of newer research in cognitive studies.3 In fact, I am raising these points because I now wish to turn to Jonas Grethlein’s exciting proposal to put experience rather than experientiality on the narratological map.

As Grethlein argues, by emphasizing the importance of experience from a philosophical and especially phenomenological perspective, narratology could profit from an inclusion of the concept of experience. Narrative theory has much too long neglected, if not suppressed, this important quality of narratives, which is closely connected to temporality as well as to the dynamics of suspense, curiosity, and surprise in the Sternbergian formula (1978). In the article printed above, Grethlein’s notion of experience embraces not only narrated experience (including the consciousness of protagonists), but also the reading experience of configured and reconfigured time on the narratorial (discourse) level. Since his forthcoming book, which will elucidate these issues in more detail, has not yet appeared, I find it difficult to determine clearly to what extent Grethlein’s fascinating new theory encloses or contains my concept of experientiality as a special case or complements and revises it. As I reiterated above, experientiality in my theory actually concerned the dynamics of tellability and point, which was closely modelled on or parallelized with Ricoeur’s mimesis levels II and III. When dealing with Ann Banfield’s “empty center” texts, I also located mediated consciousness (= experientiality) in the reader, as I did in the process of narrativization. However, it seems to me that Grethlein is more widely interested in the reader’s emotions and aesthetic pleasure in the process of reading and that, for the plot level, his use of experience is close to Heidegger’s Geworfenheit. [End Page 343]

As already stated in Eva von Contzen’s essay in her example of lists, the reader is apparently coming back with a vengeance—a development that is to be welcomed. I also think that both Caracciolo’s and Kukkonen’s work on experientiality importantly complements Grethlein’s proposal on account of its link to the cognitive sciences and because they include non-mimetic aspects of consciousness and embodiment in their proposals. Though, at least in the essay included here, Grethlein seems to see his theses as being in line with Caracciolo (and Kukkonen?), it will take a close reading of his monograph to determine how close the correspondence actually is. What is important is Grethlein’s focus on aesthetics in the title of that monograph, a subject that narratology has theoretically neglected (except in its work on deviation or defamiliarization) and that is overdue in narrative studies; after all, the aesthetic turn has been with us for quite some time already.

Let me close with an apology for not having been able to address every point raised in the papers printed above. This would have been desirable, but was practically impossible. My main intention in this response has been to focus on what I see as crucial issues and on aspects that, twenty years after its publication, may well have to be modified in TNN. Although I dislike having to defend a theory that I have always regarded as an initial step towards new fields of enquiry, I have had to explain what I originally meant to say and where I feel I may have been misunderstood. Yet a book is in the public domain and may be read and interpreted in different ways. There is no sense, eventually, in trying to uphold an original meaning. Drift and innovation cannot be halted. As is often noted, TNN was one of many narratological studies in the wave of postclassical narratologies. As the tendency towards widening narratology’s scope has persisted since the 1990s, it is fitting that revisions and extensions continue to be made.

Monika Fludernik
University of Freiburg

Works Cited

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———. 2016. Unnatural Narrative: Impossible Worlds in Fiction and Drama. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Alber, Jan, Stefan Iversen, Henrik Skov Nielsen, and Brian Richardson. 2012. “What is Unnatural about Unnatural Narratology.” Narrative 20/3: 371–82.
Alber, Jan, and Rüdiger Heinze, eds. 2011. Unnatural Narratives—Unnatural Narratology. Berlin: De Gruyter. [End Page 344]
Alber, Jan, Henrik Skov Nielsen, and Brian Richardson. 2013. A Poetics of Unnatural Narrative. Columbus: The Ohio State University Press.
Alber, Jan, and Per Krogh Hansen, eds. 2014. Beyond Classical Narration: Transmedial and Unnatural Challenges. Berlin: De Gruyter.
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1. For debates about unnatural narratology see the forum issue of Narrative (Alber et al. 2012; see also Fludernik 2010b, 2012a) and discussions of unnatural narratology by Klauk and Köppe (2013) and von Contzen (2017). Key texts of unnatural narratology are Alber and Heinze (2011), Alber et al. (2013), Alber (2016), and Richardson (2006, 2015).

2. I had preliminarily referred to experientiality as “the quasi-mimetic evocation of ‘real-life experience’” (1996:12). Alber (2002; see also Alber and Hansen 2014) and Caracciolo take experience to refer to experience in the raw, discounting “quasi” in “quasi-mimetic” and the scare quotes.

3. The questioning of the anthropomorphic foundations of narrative is a topic that poses fascinating questions with regard to the cognitive abilities and the world of animals.

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