Cyberage Narratology: Computers, Metaphor and Narrative
What is the role of metaphor in narratology ? Does its use condemn the discipline to be a virtuoso solo performance in textual interpretation, or is it compatible with the ambition of narratology to build a sharable basis for a systematic, objective study of narrative that relates to the texts of its corpus much in the same way that linguistics relates to language ? This essay tries to debunk two myths: one that claims that metaphor is incompatible with a scientific approach, and another that denies distinctions between metaphorical and literal language. Since the early sixties, narratology has steadily widened its scope by borrowing concepts from a variety of fields: traditional grammar, transformational grammar, optics, the cinema, psychoanalysis, formal semantics, game theory, social theory and feminism. Here I propose to expand the metaphorical repertory of narratology to a domain that owes much of its vitality and ability to market its ideas to its own skillful use of metaphor: cyberculture and computer technology. Through the development of four concepts inspired by computer programming--virtuality, recursion, windows and morphing--I hope to substantiate the claim that in narratology, as in other disciplines of the physical and social sciences, analogical thinking is the force that reveals new perspectives and moves knowledge forward. But if metaphor blazes trails into unknown areas, it takes the literal designation of technical vocabulary--such as Genette's terminology--to divide, explore, map, and administrate the conquered territories.
Taking Risks With the Truth: The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Human Reality
A commentary to Mark Freeman's article, "Experience, Narrative, and the Relationship Between Them," published in the same issue of Narrative Inquiry. The title alludes to an article by Hayden White, and the essay argues that by denouncing narrative as a form extraneous to "life" or "reality," White opts for a definition of the real that excludes any kind of mental phenomena, human interest and human desires.
Fiction and its Other: How Trespassers Help Defend the Border
A review article of Dorrit Cohn's book The Distinction of Fiction (Johns Hopkins, 1999) discussing some hybrids of fiction and history, such as Dutch, the recent biography of Ronald Reagan by Edmund Morris, and debating whether the opposition of fiction and nonfiction should be conceived as digital or analog.
Cognitive Maps and the Construction of Narrative Space
The concept of cognitive map is widely but loosely used in literary criticism and narratology. Here I work from a much narrower and literal definition: a cognitive map is a mental model of spatial relations. Stories tell about the actions of intelligent agents. These agents are situated within a world, and so are the objects they act upon. One may infer from this description that telling a story necessitates, in the words of David Herman “modeling, and enabling others to model, an emergent constellation of spatially related entities.” Narrative thus entails “a process of cognitive mapping that assigns referents not merely a temporal but a spatiotemporal position in the storyworld”. But cognitive maps, like graphic ones, can represent worlds in various degrees of detail and precision. While it seems evident that narrative comprehension requires some kind of mental model of space—how else could readers imagine character movements ?—the issue of the form and content of this model remains to be explored. What are the relations between cognitive maps and graphic maps ? To what extent and in what detail do mental maps of textual worlds need to represent spatial relations between objects ? Through what strategies do texts facilitate the conceptualization of these relations ? Is a totalizing, bird’s eye view mental image of narrative space necessary to a proper understanding of plot, or do readers work from cartographic fragments ?
In this paper I try to answer some of these questions through an empirical investigation of reader reconstructions of the world of Gabriel García Márquez’ Chronicle of a Death Foretold. More precisely, I compare my own “master-map” of the text, a map reconstructed through close attention to spatial cues, with maps drawn by readers (high school students) who do not construct narrative space for its own sake, but as a background for the understanding of plot, character motivations, and the moral issues articulated in the text. Though these drawings, made at the investigator’s request, should not be confused with purely mental maps, they provide important clues of what constitutes for the reader the salient features of the plot and the landmarks of the fictional world.