This article investigates narrators in recent narrative fiction who display features at odds both with our "natural" way of experiencing the world and with what is generally considered the prototypical form of first-person narratives, namely the pseudo-autobiographical account of events experienced by a character in the past. Such narrators question this prototype by acting as if they were omniscient, and in so doing they raise a number of questions concerning their presumed epistemological limits, the mimetic paradigms whereby narrative fiction is usually framed, and the role of authors in literary communication. The aim of this essay is to address these questions, starting from the assumption that the increasing use of these paradoxical narrators testifies to an ongoing process of conventionalization. After considering the classical and postclassical takes on this topic, I highlight the limits of these approaches through an analysis of Jeffrey Eugenides's Middlesex and Junot Díaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Finally, drawing on Paul Dawson's idea of first-person narrators as writers rather than reporters, I argue that one possible way to describe the narrative dynamics of recent texts featuring first-person narrators "equipped" with third-person features is to consider the influence of cinema and television on literature as well as on the reader's cognitive and experiential background.


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pp. 21-42
Launched on MUSE
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