chapter  4
20 Pages

Sequence and Locale

The literature on narratives accords great importance to sequence, but attends less than it should to locale. In this book, we utilize sequence and locale together as an angle on narrative appreciation because we consider them both to be essential in locating the action and understanding its import. Sequence is about relationships between one act or event and another; sequence locates particular actions within the context of other actions. Locale, the scenic dimension of stories, locates actions in the particular places, often organizational settings, where the actions take place. Even though the literature underemphasizes locale, the position we adopt here is that stories that have sequences without locales don’t get anywhere. By this we mean that they are less capable than more well-rounded stories of transporting readers and listeners to the scene of the action and, thereby, having a moving effect on them. Thus, when thinking of history and memory, we should also think of geography (Ricœur, 2004). Robert Frost’s poem most economically captures the interconnection of

sequence and locale. It would not have said much had it been confined to the wistful observation that at a certain point in time, he made a consequential choice. The poem is brought to life in two key ways. First, it is enlivened by the image of

the woods in which two roads diverged. Second, the temporal setting is extended. From a present point in time, Frost predicts a future emotional telling about his past choice to go his own way when, at a point in the past, he could have chosen the oft-traveled road. The moral of the poem, the importance of making one’s own way, is conveyed via the poem’s unique time-and-space signature. In Ricœur’s terms, narratives are easier to recall because “the order of the places (preserves) the order of the things” (2004, p. 62). We proceed in this chapter from Hawes’ (1973, 1974) insistence that streams of

communication should be studied in their spatio-temporal contexts. This amounts to an appeal to embrace the particularity of communication events, something that narratives are especially well suited to do, but a position to which most narratologists have not subscribed. We begin below with a review of several key narratologists’ ideas about the centrality of sequence, then refer to Lyotard as a reminder of the importance of the spatial location of action in narratives. We next discuss how narrators construct or choreograph movement in time and space, focusing on how stories are punctuated and made coherent within plots. Punctuation concerns separating what is part of the story from what is not and arranging the parts into beginnings, middles, and endings. Plots are recognizable story forms around which particular events and places may be organized or with respect to which a new story may be recognized. A separate section of the chapter concerns stability and change in narratives. The concluding section of the chapter highlights the imagination application for narrative appreciation. With an illustrative story of underworld suspense, we display one of the imagination stories utilized in narrative research.