Is There a Narrator in This Narrative?



Some narratologists insist on the fact that a narrative cannot do without a narrator that has to be distinguished from the real author. Indeed, the narrator is considered as that mediating agency whose task is to prepare the reader’s entrance to the diegetic world by organizing all the necessary elements which may facilitate this entrance. This is what has been labelled the pan-narrator theory.

Others, on the other hand, advocate the idea that not all fictional narratives contain a fictional narrator (Köppe/Stühring 2011). Hence, they adopt something called the no-narrator theory.

These positions lead us to raise such questions as: do all narratives contain a narrator? And if not, does the death of the narrator engender the death of the narrative?


Narrative ; Narrator

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- On the author/narrator/ implied author distinction see, Booth (1961) ; Toolan (1988) ; Bal (1997) ; Rimmon-Kenan (2002) ; Prince (2003) Bortolussi and Dixon (2003) ; Herman and Vervaeck (2005) Jahn (2005); Fludernik (2009).

- For more critical studies on the concept of “author” see, W.K. Wimsatt and Monroe C. Beardsley’s essays ‘The Intentional Fallacy’ and ‘The Affective Fallacy’ ; Roland Barthes’s ‘The Death of the Author’(1977[1967]); Michel FOUCAULT’s ‘What is an Author?’ (1979).

- Here again another complexity is introduced, that of the identity and nature of the narratee. On the question see, G. Genette (1980); G. Prince (1973); S. Chatman (1978); Sh. Rimmon-Kenan (2002); M. Fludernik (2005, 2009); D. Herman (2007); Herman et al (2008).

- Some narratologists including G. Genette argued that “narrative is a mode of verbal representation which involves the linguistic recounting or telling of events, rather than their performance or enactment on stage.”

- Seymour Chatman defines the existents as “the objects contained in story-space […] namely character and setting (107). For G. Prince, “existents and events are the two fundamental constituents of the story, states and events” (qtd in Herman et al 388).

- Emile Benveniste, M.J. Toolan, Sh. Rimmon-Kenan, Ann Banfield, M. Fludernik,

- The heterodiegetic narrator belongs to the fictional world but does not participate in the events of the story. i.e., the narration is done by a third-person narrator, as opposed to the homodiegetic narration in which the narrator is also a character.

- As opposed to the overt narrator which is “one that can be clearly seen to be telling the story – though not necessarily a first-person narrator – and to be articulating her/his own views and making her/his presence felt stylistically as well as on the metanarrative level.” (Fludernik 22)

- For more details consult Stanzel’s A Theory of Narrative (1984 [1979]).

- Such as: Kate Hamburger (1973 [1957]); Emile Benveniste (1966); Ann Banfield (1982).

- The majority of Ernest Hemingway’s short stories consist of a great number of quotations and dialogues such as: The Killers, Hills Like White Elephants, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Cat in the Rain to name only a few.

- As, again, opposed to the overt narrator which is referred to by the first-person pronoun and whose physical appearance, gender, life, thoughts, desires, dreams and ideological affiliations are clearly and fully portrayed.

- This list comprises: the description of setting, identification of characters, temporal summary, definition of character, reports of what characters did not think or say, commentary and the use of footnotes. For a more detailed account see Rimmon-Kenan (2002) pp. 100-2.

- S. Chatman’s term in Story and Discourse (1978).

Works Cited

- Bal, Mieke. Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative. University of Toronto Press, 1997 (1985). Print.

- Banfield, Ann. Unspeakable Sentences: Narrative and Representation in the Language of Fiction. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1982. Print.

- Barthes, Roland. “The Death of the Author.” Image, Music, Text. NY: Hill and Wang, 1977 (1967). Print.

- Benveniste, Emile. Problems in General Linguistics. Trans. Mary Elizabeth Meek. Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami Press, 1971 (1966). Print.

- Booth, Wayne C. The Rhetoric of Fiction. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1961. Print.

- Bortolussi, Marisa and Peter Dixon. Psychonarratology: Foundations for the Empirical Study of Literary Response. Cambridge: CUP, 2003. Print.

- Chatman, Seymour. Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1978. Print.

- _______________. Coming to Terms: The Rhetoric of Narrative in Fiction and Film. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1990. Print

- Fludernik, Monika. Towards a ‘Natural’ Narratology. Routledge, 2005 (1996). Print

- _______________. An Introduction to Narratology. Trans. Patricia Hänsler-Greenfield and M. Fludernik. Routledge, 2009 (2006). Print.

- Foucault, Michel. “What is an Author?” in Textual Strategies, Ed by J.V. Harari. London: Methuen, 1979, pp. 141-160. Print.

- Genette, Gérard. Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method. Trans. Jane E. Lewin. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1980. Print

- ____________. Narrative Discourse: Revisited. Trans. Jane E. Lewin. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988. Print.

- Hamburger, Käte. The Logic of Literature. Trans. Marilyn Rose. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973 (1957). Print.

- Herman, David (ed). The Cambridge Companion to Narrative. Cambridge University Press, 2007. Print.

- Herman, David, Manfred Jahn and Marie-Laure Ryan (eds). Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory. London and NY: Routledge, 2008 (2005). Print.

- Herman, Luc and Bart Vervaeck. Handbook of Narrative Analysis. Nebraska, 2005 (2001). Print.

- Jahn, Manfred. Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative. English Department, University of Cologne. 28 May 2005. Web. 16 April 2014.

- Köppe, Tilmann and Jan Stühring. ‘Against pan-narrator theories’, in Journal of Literary Semantics. 40.1 (2011): 59–80. Print.

- Logan, Peter Melville (ed.). The Encyclopedia of the Novel. UK: Blackwell, 2011. Print.

- Prince, Gerald. Dictionary of Narratology. University of Nebraska Press, 2003 (1987). Print.

- Rimmon-Kenan, Shlomith. Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics. NY: Routledge, 2002 (1983). Print.

- Rossholm, Göran. To Be or not to Be: On Interpretation, Iconicity, and Fiction. Germany: Peter Lang, 2004. Print.

- Ryan, Marie-Laure. ‘The Narratorial Functions: Breaking down a Theoretical Primitive’, Narrative, 9, (2001): 149-52. Print.

- Stanzel, Franz. A Theory of Narrative. Trans. Charlotte Goedsche. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984 (1979). Print.

- Toolan, Michael J. Narrative: A Critical Linguistic Introduction. London: Routledge, 1988. Print.

- Waugh, Patricia. Metafiction: The Theory and Practice of the Self-Conscious Fiction. London: Methuen, 1963. Print.

- Wimsatt, William, and Monroe C. Beardsley. ‘The Affective Fallacy’ (1949), in D. Lodge, ed., 20th Century Literary Criticism: A Reader. London: Longman, 1972, pp. 345-359. Print.

- ____________________________________. ‘The Intentional Fallacy’ (1954), in D. Lodge, ed., 20th Century Literary Criticism: A Reader. London: Longman, 1972, pp. 334-344. Print.


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