Narrative in Real Time: Chronicle, Mimesis and Plot in the Baseball Broadcast
Of all the papers listed here, this one was the most fun to write. I had long wanted to do something on an oral form of narrative, based on a transcript of a live performance. Since I am also an avid baseball fan, I decided to combine both interests by recording the radio broadcast of two games during the 1989 playoffs. One game--matching Toronto and Oakland--did not offer much in terms of dramatic interest, but the other, between the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants, was a narrative gem. In a tense, pitcher-dominated action, the Chicago Cubs not only lost an early lead, but wasted enough opportunities to strengthen the myth of the Cubs as lovable losers forever doomed to break the heart of their fans. The topic took shape when I was invited to participate in a conference session on present-tense narration. The paper discusses the contrast between "real-time narratives," in which the present tense has the full deictic value of a (near) correspondence between time of occurrence and time of narration, and fictional present-tense narration, in which the plot is shaped by the author from a perspective external to the story world, and the reference of the present tense is to an imaginary time whose pace of elapsing can be freely controlled, so that the narration never gets behind the action. Three dimensions of narrative are distinguished: chronicle, which focuses on the what (the linear succession of events), mimesis, which focuses on the how (descriptions), and plot, which gives meaning and shape to the events by focusing on the why. Chronicle is the dominant dimension of the baseball broadcast, but the success of the performance is heavily dependent on the broadcaster's ability to interweave play-by-play report with mimesis and tentative emplotment schemes. Insofar as emplotment requires a retrospective interpretation of the action, however, it conflicts with the real-time situation. The paper examines how the game is emplotted through prospective and retrospective interpretations that break up the simultaneous character of the narration, and how the choice of plot patterns and stereotyped narrative themes evolves during the course of the broadcast.
What is the Point of Compulit ?
A review article of Littérature et informatique. La littérature générée par ordinateur, eds. Alain Vuillemin and Michel Lenoble (Artois Press Université, 1995). (Literature and Informatics. Computer-generated Literature). The discussion of the contributions gathered in this anthology leads to a taxonomy of computer-generated texts based on three main categories: utilitarian (the automated production of texts [such as news summaries] to save human time); cognitive (story-generation conceived as an exploration of creative mechanisms [James Meehan's Tale-Spin]) and aesthetic-experimental (the attempt to produce new literary genres). The experimental category is divided into texts meant to be printed, and texts that exist exclusively in the electronic medium: games, hypertexts, and animated texts ("cyberpoetry"). All of these texts are produced in a collaboration human-machine in which, as Espen Aarseth observes, the computer can play three roles: pre-processor (plot-outline generation), co-processor (dialogue computer-user, such as the ELIZA program), or post-processor (staging and manipulation of texts written by a human).
The Narratorial Functions: Decomposing a Theoretical Primitive
The notion of narrator has generally been treated in narratology as necessary, given, monolithic and self-evident. In this essay I argue that the notion of narrator is not the theoretical primitive for which it has been taken so far. “Narrating” a story is a complex activity which can, and should be analyzed into distinct functions. If we regard the conversational narrator of personal experience, i.e. Labov’s “natural narrator” as the fullest form of narrator, these functions are three: the creative (or self-expressive), the transmissive (or performative), and the testimonial (or assertive) function. The creative function resides in the activity of shaping the story as a mental representation and as an expression of one's identity. This representation leaves the mind and becomes material signs through the transmissive function. The testimonial function, finally, consists of presenting the story as true of its reference world, which means that the narrator accepts responsibility for the accuracy of the representation. In standard fiction this function is fulfilled by an imaginary narrator rather than by the actual author. This essay studies the various ways in which the three functions can be dissociated, both in fiction and nonfiction.“Narratorhood” is therefore a matter of degree: the presence, visibility, and psychic density of the narrator depends on how many of these functions are fulfilled by the storytelling agent.
Narrative Cartography: Towards a Visual Narratology
The concept of map has been used in literary studies in both a figural and a literal sense: talk of “mapping the territory” and of “mental maps” at one end
of the figural-literal axis; designing visual diagrams to represent various aspects
of literary works at the other end.
In its figural use, the concept of map blends metonymically with the concept of tour:
to “map” an area of knowledge is to divide it into territories, and to offer a tour
of these territories, so as to allow the construction by the reader of a mental map
of the whole area. This paper presents a figural map, or tour, of the very literal uses
of maps in narrative and narratology. The tour looks at two uses of maps, and visits four territories
1. Textual maps: Maps designed by authors as part of the interface between the text
and the reader.
2. Metatextual maps: Maps designed by critics to overcome the limitations of the
traditionally verbal language of their field.
1. Maps of the textual world, in its geographical configuration.
2. Maps of the plot: attempts to represent such phenomena as the causal/temporal relations among events in the life of characters, the interaction of destiny lines, or patterns of rise and fall in tension.
3. Symbolic maps, or maps of the signified: visual representations of thematic networks, systems of power,
distribution of features among characters, etc.—everything that constitutes the “spatial form”
of a text.
4. Maps of the text itself as a network of signs: diagrams of the possible routes
available to the reader through the text (hypertextual maps).