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Narratology and Detective Fiction

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Jonathan Newman

on 25 January 2016

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Transcript of Narratology and Detective Fiction

and Detective Fiction
The Tale vs. the Telling

Structuralist (classical) narratology
Narrative structured like a language:
grammar vs. utterance
(de Saussure)
competence vs. performance
story vs. discourse (Culler)
tale vs. telling (Dale Parker)
Representing Thought and Speech

Direct Discourse
Indirect discourse
Free Indirect Discourse
(<<style indirect libre>>)

DD uses quotation marks.
ID uses "that" (usually)

FID uses the third person but blurs boundary between narrator's and character's language.

Tale vs. Telling
: a sequence of actions or events conceived as independent of their manifestation in discourse

the discursive presentation or narration of events.'

Narration ("telling")
direct/indirect/free indirect discourse
)-- can cause tension between inside and outside of the frame. Can the outside cast doubt on the inside? Certainly. But can the inside cast doubt on the outside? We can have different narrators with different perspectives. How many narrators do we have in "A Study in Scarlet?" Watson, Holmes, Gregson, LeStrade, Jefferson Hope...
Important figures:
Ferdinand de Saussure (linguistics)
Claude Lévi-Strauss (anthropology)
Roland Barthes (literary criticism)

ENG 212
Popular Narrative: Crime Fiction-- the Great Detectives

Jonathan Culler,
The Pursuit of Signs: Semiotics, Literature, Deconstruction
, Routledge Classics ed. (London: Routledge, 2001) 189
Systematic study of narrative, including novels, stories, films, reporting, conversation, and other places where we find narration.
Our experience of reality is structured like a language. Therefore, human culture and its artifacts are structured by systems of differences:
raw -- cooked
hot -- cold
clean -- dirty
legal -- illegal
true -- false
male -- female
elite -- popular
natural -- artificial
rational -- emotional
Reliability -- Unreliability

Wayne C. Booth,
The Rhetoric of Fiction
, first published 1961.

What makes a narrator trustworthy? Untrustworthy?

Is there such a thing as a fully reliable narrator?

Is the detective a fairy tale about a reliable narrator?

Does it matter if a narrator is intentionally encoded to be unreliable or not?
: similar but not identical to
point of view


-- the "angle of mind"-- not who speaks but whose eyes or mind the narration looks or thinks through. Who is the
"As to what occurred there, we cannot do better than quote the old hunter's own account,
as duly recorded in Dr. Watson's Journal, to which we are already under such obligations."

A Study in Scarlet
Screenshot from "The Testament of Sherlock Holmes," Xbox 360. Frogwares Studios. Focus Home Interactive. 2012.
"Gregson and Lestrade had watched the manoeuvres of their amateur companion with considerable curiosity and some contempt. They evidently failed to appreciate the fact, which I had begun to realize, that Sherlock Holmes's smallest actions were all directed towards some definite practical end."
"As he spoke, he whipped a tape measure and a large round magnifying glass from his pocket. With these two implements he trotted noiselessly about the room, sometimes stopping, occasionally kneeling, and once lying flat upon his face... As I watched him I was irresistibly reminded of a pure-blooded well-trained foxhound as it dashes backwards and forwards through the covert, whining in its eagerness, until it comes across the lost scent. For twenty minutes or more he continued his researches, measuring with the most exact care the distance between marks which were entirely invisible to me, and occasionally applying his tape to the walls in an equally incomprehensible manner."
Who is the focalized? The focalizer?
Dr. Jonathan Newman
Bishop's University
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