Many contemporary novels feature multiple narrators who tell distinct, sometimes incommensurate, stories. While this narrative strategy is often viewed as a relic of the short story cycle tradition, I argue that this technique actually constitutes a new subtype of the novel that I call the braided narrative. In braided narratives, novelists plait together different narrative threads, distinct in terms of both narrator and story, to grapple with both the poignant fissure that fractures the most intimate attachments between individuals and the chasm that historical violences carve between social groups. Here, I focus on Nicole Krauss’s The History of Love (2005) and Louise Erdrich’s The Plague of Doves (2008) to detail the way the braided narrative’s formal features facilitate ethical work that requires the recognition of different, often opposing, experiences. By pairing narrative theory with cognitive approaches to literature, especially the psychoanalytic concept of intersubjectivity, I highlight the ethical possibilities of this new genre. Recognizing the nuances of the braided narrative not only allows us, as critics, to see similarities between novels usually read separately, such as Erdrich’s and Krauss’s, but also draws our attention to the way this narrative technique can train us, as readers, in a particular form of ethics—one that requires us to hold different, sometimes conflicting, perspectives in our minds simultaneously.


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pp. 262-281
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