Some Narratology Advice

A. Questions regarding narrative situation

  1. What is the text’s major narrative situation? Or does it use several narrative situations? If so, what is the pattern or strategy behind the juxtaposition of several narrative situations?
  2. Does the text stand in the tradition of certain other texts? Or does it deviate in certain respects from the stylistic norm, perhaps to the extent that it originates a new pattern?

B. Questions focusing on the narrator

  1. Who does the author choose for a speaker? Does s/he have a name and/or a distinctiv voice? Is the narrator overt or covert or somewhere in between? Is the voice quality different in specific location such as (chapter) beginnings and endings?
  2. Does the narrator make any assumptions about actual or potential addressees? Is there a clear-cut narrator-audience contract? Is the extent of the narrator’s (human) limitation or omniscience ever discussed or problematized?
  3. Is the narrator largely reliable or does s/he deceive him- or herself or others? Does his or her unreliability concern value judgments or facts?
  4. If the text were ‘transvocalized’, i.e., narrated by another narrator and in a different narrative situation, which effects would be gained, which lost? (See Stanzel 1984: ch. 3.1 for examples, including the beginning of The Catcher in the Rye.)

C. Questions regarding focalization

  1. Does the narrator use one or many story-internal focalizers? If the latter, to establish which point? In first-person narration, to what extent is the experiencing I used as an internal focalizer?
  2. How accurate are the perceptions and thoughts of the focalizers, and to what extent are they fallible filters (Chatman)? Does the narrator ever comment on the focalizer’s perception from a superordinate perspective?
  3. If there are several focalizers (multiperspectival narration), do their various perceptions contradict or corroborate those of other focalizers?
  4. Is the general attitude of the narrator one of sympathy/empathy towards his or her focalizer? Are the focalizer’s perceptions and thoughts reported consonantly or dissonantly (ironically)?
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