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Postclassical narratology vs. poetics: David Herman's "hypothetical focalization" as a test case
Örebro University, School of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2080-3620
2013 (English)In: Semiosphere of narratology: a dialogue of languages and cultures : an international volume of scientific articles / [ed] Ludmila Tatare och José Angel García Landa, Balashov: Nikolayev , 2013, p. 7-24Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In this article I discuss David Herman’s thesis about «hypothetical focalization» (HF), as it is presented in Story Logic: Problems and Possibilities of Narrative [1], in relation to different theories about reader interpretations (taken in a very basic sense) of narrative fiction. I will simplify the theoretical options to two approaches: the first is based on the assumption that fictional narrative is a secondary variant of factual narrative with the simple modifier “as if”. Accordingly, it is assumed that a fictional narrator informs a narratee about persons and events in a fictional world using linguistic means that work according to common grammatical rules. The alternative, advocated by theoreticians such as Käte Hamburger [2], Lars-Åke Skalin [3; 4] and Richard Walsh [5][1], is a “separatist” approach, which assumes that fiction is a particular “context” or “language-game”. According to this paradigm an author (or narrator) does not inform about objects but rather stipulates motifs that will have an aesthetic impact on readers. Such an approach can be described as pragmatic and it must, when used analytically, go from effects to poetics (in the sense of theory) since it cannot be assumed that certain forms have the same function or generate the same effects in different contexts.

An important argument for the latter opinion is that the former theoretical variant will, if applied to literary texts, generate “disquieting” interpretations that do not fit in well with the intuition of readers[2]. This implies, according to the critics, that readers interpret fictional narratives from the perspective of another poetics — in the sense of an internalized rule-system[3] — than the one assumed by the theoreticians advocating the former model. The putative counter-argument that theoreticians like Gérard Genette in his analysis of Marcel Proust [7] have come up with what are taken to be good readings is met by the answer that these theoreticians did not read the literature in accordance with their own “method” [8].  

[1]I do not associate what is called unnatural narratology with this theoretical approach since their very use of the concept “unnatural” implies that they assume the traditional approach [cf. 6].  

[2] “Disquieting interpretations” is used to denote interpretations that seem to be at odds with basic intuitions concerning the language game and sense of certain texts.

[3] When speaking about reading in this article, I do not refer to a professional reader but to the ability to read as a reader equipped with poetics — that is, a more or less conciously internalized theory of how to make sense of narrative fiction. I thus use the terms poetics to denote this “internalized theory,” or understanding of the rules and constraints of narrative fiction.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Balashov: Nikolayev , 2013. p. 7-24
Keywords [en]
narratology, post-classical narratology, Herman, hypothetical focalization
National Category
General Literature Studies
Research subject
Literature
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:oru:diva-34041ISBN: 978-5-94035-511-3 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:oru-34041DiVA, id: diva2:700412
Available from: 2014-03-04 Created: 2014-03-04 Last updated: 2019-03-27Bibliographically approved

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Andersson, Greger

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