13 Pages

Framing the Story, Framing the Reader: Two Spanish Masters

ByPeter N. Dunn

In her study of framing, Mary Ann Caws examines narratives where ‘certain passages stand out in relief from the flow of the prose and create, in so standing, different expectations and different effects’. 1 She notes the antiquity of framing devices: the Greeks invented ekphrasis, and their dramas alternated action and chorus, but modernist texts differ from the pre-modernist in that they call attention to the effects of internal framing (Chapter 1). The attention given to framing in recent years can be explained in large part because studies of literary works have shifted their focus from the ‘what’ to the ‘how’, from what the work signifies to its strategies, formal and rhetorical. The extension of critical reflexivity into new areas of inquiry has intensified our awareness of boundaries and margins, so that the insertion of one event into another, or a meditation by a character upon an event, or any interruption or intrusion produces a microstructure framed within the larger structure. 2 Our phenomenological and anthropological self-awareness has been so sharpened that we find ourselves always at some margin or threshold; from that margin we look both ways, inward and outward, and frequently find that inner may become outer, and vice versa. As a result, we can no longer speak with confidence of ‘beginning at the beginning’. Aesthetic objects traditionally have been marked off from other objects and from the activity that goes on around them. But formal boundaries are often ideologically and politically constituted, and our awareness of them has been sharpened by contemporary acts of subversion. In architecture, Christo has wrapped up public monuments. He has challenged our perception of the space they occupy, compelled us to de-aestheticize that space and to review our own implication with that space. In music, John Cage has erased the boundary between the silence that normally prefaces the performance and the performance itself by performing four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence, in a work entitled 4′33″.