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Experimental Narrative Techniques in Contemporary Fiction

May 31st, 2011

Natalya Bekhta: Experimental Narrative Techniques in Contemporary Fiction: Typologies, Categories, Case Studies

Narrative theory remains one of the most important approaches to the analysis of fiction. The development of narratology during the past ten years has been so intensive that we are ready to talk of its ‘classical’ stage, and to record its diversification and expansion into numerous branches, grouped under the name which seems to be used for the second stage, “postclassical narratologies” (D. Herman). This lecture will deal with the key concepts of narrative theory and focus on their application to the analysis of atypical narrative texts (e.g. novels narrated in the second person or in the first person plural). Classical narrative typologies, as proposed by F. K. Stanzel and G. Genette, among others, are being expanded, reformulated, and modified to meet the needs of contemporary literary analysis, but atypical texts still cannot be placed within the existing models without being destabilized. M. Fludernik’s suggestion of “communicative” categories and the typology of second-person texts, U. Margolin’s discussion of collective agents in first-person plural narratives, B. Richardson’s insights into multi-person narration and new “extreme” forms are only some of the contributions seeking to find a solution to this problem.

Subversive characteristics of the second person and the transgressiveness of we-narratives have caused a lot of theorists to view them as typically postmodern ways of composing narrative texts. Although the play with pronouns and narrative voices is to be found throughout literary history, it does seem to have gained more and more popularity with contemporary writers. On the basis of examples from contemporary novels we shall look into the possible implications of these ‘awkward’ narrative techniques and their influence on the understanding and interpretation of such narratives.

Natalya Bekhta is a doctoral candidate in the International PhD Programme in Literary and Cultural Studies at JLU Giessen, where she is writing a dissertation on the atypical narrative techniques of the contemporary British novel. She has received BA and MA degrees in philology and foreign languages from the National Ivan Frankó University of Lviv (Ukraine). Her primary areas of interest are narrative theory, cognitive studies, and linguistics.