Cambridge University Press 2002 icon

Cambridge University Press 2002

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The Cambridge Introduction to


Cambridge University Press 2002

The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative is designed to help readers understand what narrative is, how it is constructed, how it acts upon us, how we act upon it, how it is transmitted, and how it changes when the medium or the cultural context change. Porter Abbott emphasizes that narrative is found not just in the arts but everywhere in the ordinary course of people's lives. Abbott grounds his treatment of narrative by introducing it as a human phenomenon that is not restricted to literature, film, and theatre, but is found in all activities that involve the representation of events in time. At the same time, he honors the fact that out of this common capability have come rich and meaningful narratives that we come back to and reflect on repeatedly in our lives. An indispensable tool for students and teachers alike, this book will guide readers through the fundamental aspects of narrative.

H. Porter Abbott is Professor in the Department of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of The Fiction of Samuel Beckett: Form and Effect, Diary Fiction: Writing as Action, Beckett Writing Beckett: the Author in the Autograph, and editor of On the Origin of Fictions: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, a special issue of the journal SubStance.


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Ruiz de Alarcon 13, 28014 Madrid, Spain

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^ For Jason and Byram

© Cambridge University Press 2002

This book is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2002 Reprinted 2003 (twice)

Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge

Typeface Bembo 11/12.5 pt. System LATEX2fi [TB1

^ A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

ISBN 0 521 65033 X hardback ISBN 0 521 65969 8 paperback


List of illustrations Preface


Chapter 1

Narrative and life 1

The universality of narrative 1

Narrative and time 3

Narrative perception 6

Chapter 2

Defining narrative 12

The bare minimum 12

Story and narrative discourse 14

The mediation (construction) of story Constituent and supplementary events Narrativity 22

Chapter 3

The borders of narrative 25

Framing narratives 25

Paratexts 26

The outer limits of narrative 27

Is it narrative or is it life itself? 31

Chapter 4

The rhetoric of narrative 36

The rhetoric of narrative 36

Causation 37

Normalization 40

Masterplots 42

Narrative rhetoric at work 46

Chapter 5

Closure 51

Conflict: the agon 51

Closure and endings 52

Closure, suspense, and surprise 53

Closure at the level of expectations 54

Closure at the level of questions 56

The absence of closure 57

Chapter 6

Narration 62

A few words on interpretation 62

The narrator 63

Voice 64

Focalization 66

Distance 67

Reliability 69

Free indirect style 70

Narration on stage and screen 72

Chapter 7

Interpreting narrative 76

The implied author 77

Underreading 79

Overreading 82

Gaps 83

Cruxes 85

Repetition: themes and motifs 88

Chapter 8

Three ways to interpret narrative

The question of wholeness in narrative 93

Intentional readings 95

Symptomatic readings 97

Adaptive readings 100

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