Lee's minilecture about Gerard Genette's narratology
 (from Tyson and the Narrative Discourse handout
and from Genette's )

last revised 3/5/09

Genette's structural narratology (which tends to be the focus of many current narratologists) looks at narratives with the following elements focusing on anachrony, or discordance between these elements (of course W. Gass and S. Fish are also asking us to think about violations in texts; this can also be a way to think in more detail about the kinds of things you might notice when you do an affective stylistics close reading of a piece a la early Stanley Fish).


--constructed by reader (narratee) and narrator; the words on the page from which the reader constructs both story and narration


--the literal, or diachronic time events--the way we might summarize the story chronologically; "real time"; the tightest mimesis?  the most "transparency"?


<----what are the "anachronies" between all these that show simplicity or complexity in a narrative?---->

story, narrative, and narration interact by means of these three verbal qualities which determine differing levels of anachronies:





--the act of telling; the figurative, or synchronic time (fiction time stands in for literal time metonymically, but as readers, we accept this narrative game)


(in a nutshell: story action vs. narration POV(s))

"Mood is the atmosphere of the narrative created by distance and perspective" (Tyson 220)

  • distance: distance between story and narration.
    • The more intrusive the narrator, the more distance between story and narration (the act of someone telling the story); less mimesis (sometimes fewer story and setting etc. details)
    • Less distance means the story tells itself; there are more story details, less voice.
    • zero degree--story and narration are the same--the least amount of distance between story and the perspective that filters it (but how much literature does this?)
  • perspective: point of view--the eyes, or focalization; the character who's POV focuses us (Culler) which may be different than the narrator (see Voice also "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall").
    • may be more internal, or a "subjective" I
    • may be more "objective" (3rd Omniscient)
    • may be in control or subordinate, or any combination
      • first: I; We (sometimes E. Welty or J. Eugenedies use a We POV that can range in intrusiveness or intimacy). 
      • second: You (can seem intimate in a surreal way; eventually feels like 1st)
      • third: omniscient; limited (like 1st)  

(in a nutshell: chronological story time/action vs. narrative page time or duration and frequency fluxuations)

  • order: chronology of the story vs. the chronology of the narrative; see a sample: you can also see a lot of this in The Jilting of Granny Weatherall)
    • analepsis--retrospection, or flashback
    • prolepsis--anticipation (flash forward?)
  • duration: pacing--event time vs. space taken up on the page (try a writing exercise with these):
    • summary: reading time is less than than story time
    • scene: reading time equals story time; dramatization
    • gap: time passes but isn't noted in the narrative; white space; what isn't being said (may still saturate what is said)
    • stretch: reading time is longer than story time; slow motion
    • pause: narrative is interrupted to go somewhere completely different, then returns (perhaps as if nothing is odd about the pause or the pomo short-circuit--Moby Dick's whale chapters)
  • frequency: one event may be described in the narrative multiple times with different twists; or a certain event may be repeated in story time, but told once (deja vu? also called iteration).
    • iteration, or the "sometimes" or "often" quality of story telling; something that happens multiple times but is only narrated once (sometimes my wife doesn't plan everything in advance like ingredients for Pad Thai or birth control; she always acts surprised when things don't well; we kissed all through the winter, and then something changed)

(also see Metro pp. 121+)


(in a nutshell: story action vs. narration attitude(s) and layers vs. narrative)

Narrator's voice or attitude:

  • which may be a very immediate, personal, intimate, instrusive character voice (this doesn't just happen with first person POV; personal, confessional; the narrator is a brightly colored lense);
  • or this narrator's voice might be more distant (see Mood).
    • There may be a somewhat different voice attitude over/around/uber the visible narrator.  This ubernarrator (lee's word) may be more autonomous from the story like an intrusive "ideal" author which sometimes can be seen through inside jokes or obvious personal politics, or in a major shift from the narrator's persona.  This is still not the same as the "real" author who was "killed" by poststructuralist theories.
    • zero degree-- author and narrator are the same, but Genette says this is basically impossible, thus we should focus on the least amount of distance between story and narrator (the narrator is more a key part of the story and doesn't get in the way much at all; as opposed to Scheherazade's embedding which is at the 5th degree - Genette 214; also see Barthes?)
  • The relationship of the narrator(s) or voices to the story and to the narrative can show reliability or unreliability (Gatsby's Nick is unreliable which takes the focus off Story and puts it on Narration).