chapter  3
14 Pages

Narrative and narratology

ByPaul Wake

Narratology, which has roots in structuralism and which draws much of its terminology from linguistic theory, is the study of the ways in which narratives function. Rather than being the study of any one particular narrative, an individual novel for example, narratology begins from a consideration of the ways in which narrative itself operates. This said, the value of narratology lies in its application, and the narratologist Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan makes a valuable point when she suggests that narratology should have a ‘double orientation’ that allows it to ‘present a description of the system governing all ctional narratives’ and, at the same time, ‘to indicate a way in which individual narratives can be studied as unique realizations of the general system’ (Rimmon-Kenan 2002: 4). This ‘double orientation’, which marks out much of the best of narrative theory, can be seen in works such as Roland Barthes’ S/Z (1990b), which presents both his narratological theory and a remarkably close reading of Honoré de Balzac’s short story ‘Sarrasine’ (1830); Gérard Genette’s Narrative Discourse (1972; trans. 1980), which sets out its rigorous methodology alongside a reading of Marcel Proust’s novel À la recherche du temps perdu [Remembrance of Things Past] (1913-27); and Peter Brooks’ Reading for the Plot (1984), a discussion of intention in narrative that is combined with what have become in uential readings of several texts, notably Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1902) and William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! (1936).