Fictions of Discourse: Reading Narrative Theory

By Patrick O'Neill

© 1996

The fundamental principle upon which contemporary narratology is constructed is that narrative is an essentially divided endeavour, involving the story (`what really happened') and the discourse (`how what happened is presented'). For traditional criticism, the primary task of narrative discourse is essentially to convey the story as transparently as possible. Patrick O'Neill investigates the extent to which narrative discourse also contains the counter-tendency not to tell the story, indeed to subvert the story it tells in foregrounding its own performance.

The systemic implications of this perspective for narrative and for narrative theory are examined within the conceptual framework provided by classical French narratology. O'Neill ultimately attempts both to expand and to problematize the structural model of narrative proposed by this centrally important tradition of narrative theory.

O'Neill describes narrative as functioning in terms of four interacting levels: story, narrative text, narration, and textuality. Using a range of examples from Homer to modern European fiction, he discusses traditional narrative categories such as voice, focalization, character, and setting, and reinscribes them within the contextual space of author and reader to bring out narrative's potential for ambiguity and unreliability. He also discusses the implications of translation for narrative theory.

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Product Details

  • Series: Theory / Culture
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 190 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.6in x 9.0in
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SKU# SP001806

  • PUBLISHED JUN 1996

    From: $23.21

    Regular Price: $30.95

    ISBN 9780802079480
  • PUBLISHED JUN 1996

    From: $39.75

    Regular Price: $53.00

Quick Overview

O’Neill investigates the extent to which narrative discourse subverts the story it tells in foregrounding its own performance.

Fictions of Discourse: Reading Narrative Theory

By Patrick O'Neill

© 1996

The fundamental principle upon which contemporary narratology is constructed is that narrative is an essentially divided endeavour, involving the story (`what really happened') and the discourse (`how what happened is presented'). For traditional criticism, the primary task of narrative discourse is essentially to convey the story as transparently as possible. Patrick O'Neill investigates the extent to which narrative discourse also contains the counter-tendency not to tell the story, indeed to subvert the story it tells in foregrounding its own performance.

The systemic implications of this perspective for narrative and for narrative theory are examined within the conceptual framework provided by classical French narratology. O'Neill ultimately attempts both to expand and to problematize the structural model of narrative proposed by this centrally important tradition of narrative theory.

O'Neill describes narrative as functioning in terms of four interacting levels: story, narrative text, narration, and textuality. Using a range of examples from Homer to modern European fiction, he discusses traditional narrative categories such as voice, focalization, character, and setting, and reinscribes them within the contextual space of author and reader to bring out narrative's potential for ambiguity and unreliability. He also discusses the implications of translation for narrative theory.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Series: Theory / Culture
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 190 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.6in x 9.0in
  • Reviews

    'O'Neill's book is to be recommended as an introduction to the fascinating questions of narrative theory.'


    Andrew Hadfield
    TLS

    'One of the best introductions to narrative theory I have read so far.'


    Holgar Pausch, University of Alberta

    'In this fine study, Patrick O'Neill expands and problematizes the classic model developed by structural narratology...Fictions of Discourse is well informed and highly readable. It represents a substantial contribution to our comprehension of narrative functioning.'


    Gerald Prince, University of Pennsylvannia
  • Author Information

    Patrick O’Neill is a professor emeritus in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures at Queen’s University.
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