(My) model for reading

Working on a follow-up post about literary lions, I typed ‘homodiegetic’ (and hot on its heels came ‘extradiegetic’) and in doing so I realised that I’d created another communication problem which required some immediate explication (there about the ‘Narrating-I’). Post production paused for a gaggle of questions about the terminology I was using: ‘Expect the curious reader to investigate for themselves? Follow up every technical term with a few sentences of explanation on how I am using that term? Refer the reader to suitable sources? Create a project page where I can talk through the terminology I am using?’ Questions led to further questions about method; whether to continue to explain by treatment of texts in individual posts or provide an overview for reference.

My aim (see About) is to provide interpretations of fictional narratives using a methodology flexible enough to accomodate multiple readers and thus multiple results. My aim is not the deconstruction of those narratives into component parts. Classification is a part of the process but not my project’s goal. In this section then (and its subsections) I will provide an outline of my approach and basic explanation of the terms according to my usage. It is neither a survey of theory nor an extensive discussion of the merits and failings of theoretical approaches as I see them. It’s simply explanatory notes, comment and chat on what currently works for me when creating readings. Note currently and cross-reference About. Unlike blog posts which are documents recording the project in the development stage, sections on this project page will be subject to revision as I modify my method. This page is very much Under Construction.

Some comments by Mieke Bal (1997: 101) on objections to the Müller school (concerning rhythm) are fresh in mind and reasonably apposite here.

That objection applies not only to this subject, however. Every analysis is continually preoccupied with demonstrating its own relevance … [discussion on merit of calculating words per event] … the fact that some of his students have, at times, lost sight of that original goal does not diminish the interest of their enterprise.

I won’t be counting words in text either, but each to their own.

My approach to text is reader-orientated and explores how and by whom texts are consumed rather than how and by whom they are produced. This Reader-Text-Author model draws heavily on narratological models and terminology. As this is the area which initiated complications, this is the area I should begin explication.

The important thing for me here and elsewhere/-when is consistency of expression. I should be able to word-search and replace all instances of, for example, ‘story’ and ‘discourse’ (if choosing to follow the terminology of Chatman) with ‘fabula’ and ‘sjuzhet’ (if following Shklovsky) and still make sense on the understanding that ‘fabula’ is the ‘what happened’ and ‘sjuzhet’ is the ‘the way the what is presented’. Roughly, at any rate…

Unfortunately, there is no ‘One Stop shop’ for narratology and every interested reader will have to do some digging for themselves. The Living Handbook of Narratology is a digital starting point (and with one click you will see just how wide and varied the postclassical field is). Introductions to Narrative Theory such as David Herman’s Basic Elements of Narrative or monographs using narratological models such as Nick Lowe’s cognitive model in The Classical Plot and the Invention of Western Narrative contain both rigorous discussion of methodology and very useful glossaries. I’ve used both in formulating this!

Classicists interested in the application of narratology can consult, for example, Scott Richardson’s The Homeric Narrator, Andrew Morrison’s The Narrator in Archaic Greek and Hellenistic Poetry and everything involving Irene de Jong as author and/or editor (most recently Narratology & Classics: A Practical Guide).

This project page, then, is intended as an overview of my approach and aims to facilitate the reading process by explication of the terminology as I am using it, made available in one location for convenience. A long sentence but a modest intention. The possessives ‘my, mine etc.’ which proliferate the following sections indicate only existing terminology I’ve adopted and make no claims to authorship or invention. It’s simply that this is all about me.

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