Vous l’avez sans doute déjà repéré : sur la plateforme OpenEdition Books, une nouvelle interface vient d’être mise en ligne.
En cas d’anomalies au cours de votre navigation, vous pouvez nous les signaler par mail à l’adresse feedback[at]openedition[point]org.

Précédent Suivant

A Model of Narrative Discourse along Pronominal Lines

p. 11-29


The proposed model foregrounds the category PERSON by following E. Benveniste as to the fundamental disparity between the first and second grammatical persons, on the one hand, and the third person, on the other. My argument runs as follows: A statement about reality is in the first person, that is, made by its author. Third-person narrative fiction is a legitimate notion, given the displacement it enacts between the author and a narrating agency that does not share its realm of existence with the narrated characters (F. Stanzel). Third — and firstperson narrative can be structurally differentiated as to qualitative scope ([un-]reliability) and quantitative reach. Basically, both narrative types show the same interplay of the registers of enunciation and illusion: the narrating agency dissolves in evoking a world and emerges by commenting on it (a "narrator" does not narrate, but, in H. Weinrich's sense of the term, comments). Comment (which is general in subject matter and abstract in manner), report (particular and abstract), scene (particular and concrete), and metaphor (general and concrete) demarcate a frame of reference for narrative discourse that subsumes description. With third-person narrative, this frame of reference has a tendency to transcend itself toward the sphere of reality statements via comment (authorial "I"/"you") and toward first-person narrative via scene, given that, in third-person narrative, the speech of a character about his/her reality is a first-person narrative in nuce. The transposition principle at work between third — and first-person narrative and all further embedded narratives consists in the fact that narrative subject/object structure (K. Hamburger) vanishes in one frame of reference only by reemerging in another. The modes of conveying character thought and speech in fiction can be conceived in terms of complete or partial transposition of narrative discourse to a subordinate frame of reference. Regarding free indirect discourse, G. Genette's distinction between focalization and (narratorial) voice must be challenged as contradicted by our reading experience. Second-person narrative, whose special affinity for the depiction of consciousness is explicable from the angle of "natural" narratology (M. Fludernik), can be basically modeled on first-person narrative

Texte intégral

I. The proposed model foregrounds the category PERSON

1Given that a story normally presents an action, the radical of narrative is the verb. According to Emile Benveniste (1966, 227), no language possessing verbs fails to mark "les distinctions de personne": "On peut donc conclure que la catégorie de la personne appartient bien aux notions fondamentales et nécessaires du verbe." Surprisingly, theories of narrative do not much favor the category person.2 The present model of narrative discourse upgrades person by treating it as a transposition device, an operational principle permitting shifts and transitions between discrete frames of reference in narrative. In addition, this model emphasizes three elements habitually neglected in narrative theory: the reader's illusion, metaphor, and second-person narrative.

2The ternary conception of person, derived from antiquity, was first radically challenged by Benveniste, who posits a fundamental disparity between the first and second grammatical persons, on the one hand, and the third person, on the other. In substance, his argument runs as follows: "I" inscribes both the enunciator and the enunciated in the text as the use of "I" designates an "I" enunciating itself; when "you" is used, it presupposes an "I" addressing the enunciated "you"; the use of "s/he," however, constitutes an enunciation without the enunciator being conveyed by the enunciated "s/he." Hence, Benveniste distinguishes between the persons "I"/"you" and the "non-person" "s/he." One also notes that the third person designates previously named entities (not necessarily persons) by what are hence literally pronouns. In contrast, "I" and "you" (usually persons) do not lend themselves to anaphoric use. We might say that the third person calls the notion "person" into question whereas the first and second persons do the same with the notion "pronoun."

II. A statement about reality is always in the first person; nevertheless, third-person narrative is a legitimate notion

3Henry David Thoreau said in 1854: "We commonly do not remember that it is, after all, always the first person that is speaking" (1966, 1). A statement about reality is made by its author. In this sense it is always in the first person, irrespective of the pronominal use that prevails. Structurally, it is marked by the fact that the enunciator and what is enunciated (including the past and credited mythic and religious items) belong to one and the same reality. In the area of narrative fiction, first-person narrative is defined by Franz Stanzel as featuring an identical realm of existence for the narrator and the narrated characters. Hence, first-person narrative is modeled on statements about reality, as Käte Hamburger (1993, 313) observed, who called it a "feigned reality statement."3

4What, then, is third-person narrative? With fiction, the reader does not hold the author accountable for the factual veracity of what is enunciated. Likewise, the reader does not attribute to the author but to the "narrator" the more or less pronounced attitude (stance, voice) that the text conveys together with the fictive world. This is what has generated and legitimates the otherwise nonsensical notion "third-person narrative": its narrative agency exists in a displacement between the author and the attitude inscribed in the text. In third-person narrative fiction, "narratorial attitude" (a term I prefer to "third-person narrator") figures as the enunciator that, as noted above, the enunciated "s/he" fails to convey.

5Both statements about reality and first-person narrative fiction manifest quantitative limitation: the enunciator has, in principle, no access (short of inference, guess-work, etc.) to the minds of others. In third-person narrative fiction, however, there is such access. Conversely, first-person narrative fiction features qualitative unlimitedness, with the enunciator commanding the human being's whole range of expression: lying, erring, fantasizing, and telling the truth. Huck Finn believes he will go to hell for freeing a slave, for "stealing" Nigger Jim: clearly, the text wants us to disagree with this belief expressed by its first-person narrator. The situation is quite different if we take exception to the following views, propounded by way of comment upon a dentist's nearrape of his anesthetized patient in McTeague, a third-person novel by Frank Norris:

(1) Below the fine fabric of all that was good in him ran the foul stream of hereditary evil, like a sewer. The vices and sins of his father and of his father's father, to the third and fourth and five hundredth generation, tainted him. The evil of an entire race flowed in his veins. (1964, 29)

6This is outmoded biological determinism, whose effect is detrimental to the text unless the reader is willing to make allowances for Norris's naturalist context. Evidently, contradicting the authorial voice, an incipient interpretative register in the text, moves us onto the plane of value judgments. The qualitative limitation of third-person narrative, then, consists in the fact that, in principle, its narrative agency is held to its authority by the reader. Being an authorial attitude rather than an enunciating subject (such as Huck Finn), this narrative agency cannot become subjective (or objective), but is authoritative, as indicated by the fact that unacceptable views on its part cannot benefit the text (as Huck's can). In contrast, first-person narrative invites us to entertain the notion of the (un-)reliability of the enunciating subject, a fictional character. A general differentiation between spheres emerges from these considerations. Third-person (authorial) narrative is marked by quantitative unlimitedness/qualitative limitation, first-person narrative by qualitative unlimitedness/quantitative limitation.

7This differentiation is structural rather than reliant on pronominal use. So we might ask ourselves: Is there first-person narrative without "I"-usage? Sundry character-told narratives in The Canterbury Tales and other such story-cycles are told with zero selfreference of the teller. However, this tends to turn characters within such narratives into centers of consciousness by invocation of their mental states, which are necessarily fictional in relation to the tellers. Such narratives — with their typical claim to independent status, retold rather than told by frame figures — represent a projection of the structure of third-person narrative into first-person narrative. The narrating character assumes an authorial or story-teller function so that the identity of the realms of existence of enunciator and enunciated that defines first-person narrative is dissolved. Conversely, when third-person narrative becomes geared to the point of view of a fictional character or figure (Stanzel's figural narrative situation), the structure of first-person narrative (whose narrator is a fictional figure) can assert itself without any occurrence of "I"-usage. Narrative perspective then becomes potentially unreliable (qualitative unlimitedness) and forgoes authorial omniscience (quantitative limitation). The structural conception of pronominal narrative advanced here involves shifting frames of reference in narrative. Before elucidating the principle of transposition at work in such shifts, the spheres of both first-person and third-person narrative must be demarcated in terms of types of narrative discourse. Establishing these types involves a consideration of the role of the reader's illusion in narrative.

III. The registers of illusion and enunciation

8The reader responding to narrative discourse mediates between two registers that subtract from each other. That is, s/he shifts between the theoretical (never fully actualized) extremes of imagining (visualizing, "illusioning") a world and apprehending an act of enunciation. The register of illusion is weakest when there is barely anything to be imagined because the register of enunciation is so strong:

(2) Falseness dies; injustice and oppression in the end of everything fade and vanish away. Greed, cruelty, selfishness, and inhumanity are short-lived; the individual suffers, but the race goes on. Annixter dies, but in a far-distant corner of the world a thousand lives are saved. The larger view always and through all shams, all wickednesses, discovers the Truth that will, in the end, prevail, and all things, surely, inevitably, resistlessly work together for good. (Norris, 1938, 360f.)

9This concluding passage of a third-person novel is almost wholly given over to narratorial attitude, an authorial stance: the narrative agency's discussing or commenting on general matters in an abstract manner. We are practically incapable of imagining what we are told, given that "it is impossible to imagine at all without picturing things" (Goatly, 1997, 83). One also notes that this "narrator" does not narrate (erzählen), strictly speaking, but rather comments (besprechen), to use Harald Weinrich's distinction (1971). Evidently, the narrative agency manifests itself most clearly not by narrating a world, but by commenting on the narrated world, by formulating its attitude toward it. To the extent that it replaces the specific, concretely rendered textual world by abstractly worded general views, it makes it harder to visualize that world, to experience it through illusion. That is, narratorial attitude (the "narrator" of third-person narrative), in emerging (by commenting), discloses the textual world as narrated (renders it less capable of being "illusioned"), as conceived in a certain manner, thus engendering a narratee asked to share that conception. This is the register of enunciation, which reflects the tripartite structure of communication. The interplay of the registers of enunciation (communication) and illusion — an interplay in which the narrative agency dissolves by evoking a concrete, detailed world and re-emerges when commenting on and thus backgrounding that world — is evoked by Gérard Genette in his opposition mimesis/diegesis: "... the quantity of information and the presence of the informer are in inverse ratio, mimesis being defined by a maximum of information and a minimum of the informer, diegesis by the opposite relationship" (1980, 166). Benveniste's discrimination between histoire and discours also anticipates the illusion/enunciation distinction. In third-person narrative (histoire), "les événements semblent se raconter eux-mêmes. Le temps fondamental est l'aoriste [passé simple], qui est le temps de l'événement hors de la personne d'un narrateur." Of discours Benveniste says: "Il faut entendre discours dans sa plus large extension: toute énonciation supposant un locuteur et un auditeur, et chez le premier l'intention d'influencer l'autre en quelque manière" (1966, 241f.). The two foundations of illusion are the third-person pronoun, which does not designate the enunciator, and the past tense, used for evoking a world. The foundations of enunciation are the first and second persons, which explicitly or implicitly designate the enunciator, and the present tense, used for comment by the narrative agency. Typically, narrating in the present tense (cf. the majority of Margaret Atwood's numerous feminist stories) generates a certain exemplary quality.

10The interaction of illusion and enunciation also takes place in first-person narrative. The two registers can here be designated with the help of Stanzel's terminology as the experiencing "I" and the narrating "I," which, closely examined, constitute theoretical extremes, since, even when clinging to the experiencing "I," we never quite lose touch with the fact that the experience conveyed is a narrative act and since, when aligning ourselves with the narrating "I," we are still related, however tenuously, to the experiential world the narrator supplants by looking back to and commenting on it. Hence, in first-person narrative too, the "narrator" is never there as such, being either a commentator or becoming, as illustrated by the following passage, practically inaudible:

(3) "Are you married?" he [Rinaldi] asked from the bed.
I was standing against the wall by the window
"Not yet."
"Are you in love?"
"With that English girl?"
"Poor baby. Is she good to you?"
"Of course."
"I mean is she good to you practically speaking?"
"Shut up." (Hemingway, 1976, 142)

11Information about the act of enunciation is practically reduced to the level of general orientation on the part of the reader, who knows of course that the passage is narrated, but who is otherwise focused on — experiences — the event itself: a dialogue between Frederic Henry and his friend Rinaldi. However, for all the preponderance of the experiencing "I" in Hemingway's novel, the narrating "I" makes itself heard. Note how Frederic Henry commemorates his dead love, Catherine Barkley:

(4)... the night can be a dreadful time for lonely people once their loneliness has started. But with Catherine there was almost no difference in the night except that it was an even better time. If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them.... (209)

12The narrator becomes audible as a "discourser" employing the present tense. However, the enunciator of first-person narrative is generally more stable than that of third-person narrative. The narrating "I" and the experiencing "I," which respectively activate the two structural components of the pronoun (enunciating/enunciated "I"), are, after all, the same person: a human agent, or subject, endowed with a life anterior to his or her narrative act.

13The narrative agency of third-person narrative is not barred from adopting a backward-looking attitude. This is how Dickens opens A Tale of Two Cities: It [the period of the French Revolution] was the best of times, it was the worst of times... it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us" (5). In principle, what fiction conveys even in such passages is not the past, but retrospection resulting from an interaction of the temporal planes of the narrative act and the narrated events, respectively promoting the present and the past tense (cf. citation (4)). Data from history used in fiction apparently affect the reader's temporal orientation by underscoring retrospection, which strengthens the register of enunciation, as does the first person. Significantly, the retrospective passage from Dickens's third-person novel attracts an authorial "I" concealed in the amplifying plural "we" ("I" and the young people of that time).

IV. The frame of reference: comment-report-scene-metaphor

14Defining comment as general in subject matter and abstract in manner yields two basic oppositions for differentiating between narrative discourses: particularization/generalization and concretization/abstraction. These oppositions permit four combinations.

15COMMENT is general and abstract. Thus, citation (2), while recalling one of the novel's incidents ("Annixter dies"), is almost pure comment, proffering a world-view.

16SCENE, the opposite of comment, conveys a particular narrative reality in concrete terms:

(5) Mr. Lorry... had just poured out his last glassful of wine with as complete an appearance of satisfaction as is ever to be found in an elderly gentleman of a fresh complexion who has got to the end of a bottle, when a rattling of wheels came up the narrow street, and rumbled into the innyard.
He set down his glass untouched. "This is Mam'selle!" said he. (Dickens, 1968, 29)

17Apart from being an authorial gloss that portrays Mr. Lorry as the very image of the happy old tippler, the passage is scene.

18The combination particular/abstract yields REPORT, which provides an abstract or summary of a particular narrative reality, as in this example from Hawthorne's "Wakefield":

(6) The man, under pretense of going a journey, took lodgings in the next street to his own house, and there, unheard of by his wife or friends, and without the shadow of a reason for such selfbanishment, dwelt upwards of twenty years. (90)

19Though this is undoubtedly a report, a certain bemusement ("without the shadow of a reason," "self-banishment") also bespeaks judgmental and ironic values classifiable as comment.

20The fourth combination is METAPHOR, whose sphere is the concrete universal. Metaphor is not only "the archetype" (Ortony, 1993, 3) of tropes, but "an indispensable basis of language and thought" (Goatly, 1997, 1). It has been unduly scanted by narratologists (Cardonne-Arlyck, 1984, and Bal, 1985, being important exceptions). Narrative discourse is often saturated with metaphors, ranging from dead to conventional and active ones. The fact is that there is practically no escape from metaphor in narrative discourse, as can be seen from the citations offered in this study. For example, citation (1) is a commentmetaphor based on the image of "the foul stream of hereditary evil, like a sewer," which "flow[s]" in McTeague's veins. Metaphor privileges discourse using concrete terms (images) to figure forth general aspects of narrative reality.4

21The scheme report-scene-comment-metaphor constitutes a frame of reference (FR), its four demarcations figuring as theoretical reference points that narrative discourse can in practice only approach, but never reach. The distinction narration/description can be integrated into this scheme, which reflects the temporal determinants and generic affiliations of narrative discourse.

22Report is geared to action, which it summarizes and abstracts. Hence, with report, story time surpasses text time (note how Hawthorne renders "upwards of twenty years" in a sentence, as it were). The maximum asymmetry would be reached with a finite reporting of eternity, something that not even eschatological scriptures (e. g., the Book of Revelation) can do, reduced, as they turn out to be, to declaring some state of affairs as eternal, thus describing eternity rather than rendering it as a story. Report, conveying an action, is by its nature opposed to description, which addresses itself to situations and states. This, however, does not mean that a report ("He lived a life of adventure") cannot be descriptively rephrased ("His life was full of adventure"). Generically, report is narration pure and simple: it is "naked" narrative equally distant from the evocative quality of scene and the conceptual spirit of comment and, in its literalness and staightforwardness, is opposed to the figurative and imagistic nature of metaphor.

23Scene, the concrete rendition of a particular action, has a descriptive counterpart in concrete and detailed description of scenery, setting, and characters. Thus, Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants" features scene both as action and as scenery. With scene conceived as action, text time and story time are conventionally said to coincide, particularly when the scene consists of dialogue from which inquit-tags have been eliminated. However, a full equation of text time and story time is possible only outside narrative, particularly in drama, where time performed and performance time coincide in the scenes and acts of a play. Scene is thus generically related to drama. As Percy Lubbock (1923) already explained, the purpose of scene in narrative is to "show": it promotes illusion by minimizing the audibility of the narrative agency while simultaneously supplying the reader with detail amenable to visualization.

24Comment suspends the story, applying a pause to it. It promotes evaluation and characterization, thus becoming easily, but not necessarily, descriptive. Citation (2) illustrates how comment can convey a reality that is not static, a course rather than a state of affairs, as it were. The theoretical extreme of comment would be an enunciator no longer related to an enunciated world capable of being imagined — a speaker treating general issues abstractly, as done by the essayist.

25Metaphor conjoins similarity and dissimilarity. As a trope of resemblance or analogy, it works by incomplete feature-matching, by the "highlighting and suppression of aspects of experience" (Goatly, 1997, 2). Discussions of metaphor tend to locate its persuasive power in an imagistic dimension that "suggests the comparison of metaphor with figures or pictures" (Moran, 1989, 108). Melville's story "Bartleby the Scrivener" demonstrates how metaphor can graft an image-making quality on language. The "cadaverous" (132) protagonist is beheld writing "silently, palely, mechanically" (121), with other interlinking clusters of images of stasis, silence, and pallor casting the scrivener as a corpse. Generally speaking, by making us see one thing as something else, metaphor involves an iconic moment that makes it essentially descriptive.5

26Working on the principle of semantic substitution rather than syntagmatic continuity, metaphorization slows down narrative action and privileges text time over story time. In view of its iconic nature, the realm of metaphor can be conceived as circumscribed only by the infinitude of space (scientific, Christian, and otherwise), which it would take an eternity of text time to render. Making selections from the code (language), metaphor combines linguistic features in a way that suggests an equation of discrete semantic fields. Jacobson's dictum about poetry — "The poetic function projects the principle of equivalence from the axis of selection into the axis of combination" (1960, 358; emphasis in the text) — has been called "a definition of metaphorical substitution" (Lodge, 1977, 92).6

27The FR thus constituted embraces the registers enunciation (conveying a communication scenario), illusion (evocation, immediacy), narration (temporal reality), and description (static reality). The axis scene-comment, depending on the direction taken, designates orientation toward either illusion or increasing enunciative value. The axis reportmetaphor mediates between narration (report) and description. Metaphor is further removed from narration than any of the other types of discourse: its equidistant position in relation to comment and scene translates into a conception of metaphors as "iconic signs presenting meanings as well as representing meanings" (Goatly, 1997, 164). Scene and comment, as shown, partake of both stasis and temporality. Report is open to evaluative nuances (see citation (6)) while metaphor easily becomes interpretative. Thus, both report and metaphor are related to comment, and they also point toward scene, which dissolves report into detail and which, more than the conceptually involved imagery of metaphor, caters to the reader's illusion. Actual narrative discourses can be conceived as occupying the FR, a force field within which they are determined by report, comment, metaphor, and scene in inverse ratio to their distance from these four theoretical reference points (the shorter the distance between a reference point and a narrative discourse, the stronger the influence exerted by the former on the latter).

V. The transposition principle

28The scheme outlined above — a primary FR pertaining to thirdperson narrative — has an inherent tendency to transcend itself along the scene-comment axis. Comment often generates an authorial "I" and/or "you" after the model "you, my dear reader." Susanna Rowson uses this type of formulaic address in Charlotte Temple, a highly authorial novel: "Now, my dear sober matron... let me entreat you not to put on a grave face and throw the book down in a passion" (1964, 59). The authorial "I"/"you" is directed toward the sphere of statements about reality, constituting, as it does, a narrative device in which the "I" lays claim to identity with the author of the text and the "you" figures as a narratee directly implicating the reader in the realm of fiction. Typically, such usage often yields illusion-dispelling and ontologically stratifying effects.

29Hawthorne's sketch "The Haunted Mind," a second-person text in the present tense reflecting the essayistic origins of the American short story, is a foray into the domains of the authorial "you":

(7) What a singular moment is the first one when you have hardly begun to recollect yourself after starting from midnight slumber! By unclosing your eyes so suddenly, you seem to have surprised the personages of your dream in full convocation round your bed… (233)

30In English, the pronoun you (like French tu and vous) serves to address a person (or persons) or to make an impersonal statement. Hawthorne's text conveys views and experiences that, given their general application, are advanced as pertinent to "you," the text's narratee. The authorial "I" implicit in this generalizing "you" surfaces as a part of "we" in the following comment-metaphor: "In the depths of every heart there is a tomb and a dungeon, though the lights, the music, and revelry above may cause us to forget their existence" (235).

31Proceeding along the comment-scene axis, we eventually abandon the first frame of reference (FR1). In structural terms, every character speech in third-person narrative is a first-person narrative in nuce, provided the characters make statements about their reality (identical realms of existence of the enunciator and the enunciated) rather than narrating a fiction. Hence, a character speech after the model "S/He said: 'I...'" effects a complete, though momentary, transfer from FR1 to a second FR (FR2) — that of first-person narrative, with every reference to the primary narrative agency cut off, in principle, by the character speech. This means (by way of correcting Käte Hamburger) that the subject/object structure of narrative never totally vanishes, for it can vanish in one FR only to re-emerge in another. Typically, a character speech is a comment in the new FR that it establishes, but (no matter what its discourse variety) it has scenic value in the old FR, since it represents a character performing a speech act. Transference of discourse to a discrete FR puts discourse in a different key, as it were. Our term for this is "transposition."

32In FR2, the scheme of narrative discourse recurs, even though, as indicated, the enunciator proves more stable. With citations (3) and (4), two passages from a first-person novel have already been provided: Frederic Henry's reunion with Rinaldi exemplifies scene and, as far as the dialogue parts are concerned, switches to FR3, whereas the protagonist's commemoration of Catherine Barkley is comment-report in FR2. Another text anchored in FR2 is Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," a story told in the first person plural. The "we" encompasses the narrator and the other citizens of Jefferson, Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, USA: "When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral" (119). "We" and "you" occur in Lorrie Moore's "What is Seized," which is basically a story in the first person:

(8) The rooms in our house were like songs. Each had its own rhythmic spacing and clutter, which if you crossed your eyes became a sort of musical notation, a score — clusters of eighth notes, piles of triplets, and the wooden roundness of doorways, like clefs, all blending in a concerto. (27)

33This expanded simile has a general metaphoric capacity evoking the harmony that prevailed in the narrator's family ("our house") during her childhood. The effect of inserting the unspecified agent "you" is to enhance the pertinence of her account and to present a bid for authority.

34Going far beyond FR2, Theodor Storm's novella "Der Schimmelreiter" (1888) is a complex case of narrative embedding. The text has an anonymous old man (a first-person narrator in FR2) recall a tale he once read in a magazine at his great-grandmother's home. In the remembered magazine tale (FR3), a man tells how, during the 1830s, he met a country schoolmaster who related a somber story (FR4) about a mid-eighteenth century Deichgraf. The story about the dike-association chairman, Hauke Haien, encompasses his longings as well as his own and others'words, thus deploying character speech and consciousness: transposition to FR5. The projection of an authorial matrix into the schoolmaster's story is made explicit by the comment of a man in the schoolmaster's company who claims that his maid-servant is better at telling the story, which hence figures as a folktale undergoing creative modification while being passed on. For somebody familiar with Storm's sources and family history, the structure of the text may be even more complex. For such a reader, the anonymous old man may become associated with the authorial "I" engaged in an elaborate mystification, so that the articulation of the text begins in FR1.

35In theory, transposition is infinite, with the narrative agency of third-person narrative creating a first-person narrator introducing a "s/he" whose narrative may give right of speech to another character, and so on. In principle, FR2 and all further subordinate FRs are first-person narratives, but every embedded narrative that is fictive in relation to the narrator's world projects the matrix of third-person narrative into the FR in question. Clearly, the concatenation of FRs, which permits a survey of the territory of narrative discourse, functions along pronominal lines.7

VI. Modes of conveying speech and thought

36The presentation of thought in fiction is modeled on that of speech. "Thought" is to be understood here in a comprehensive sense, as consciousness in general, including sensory perception. Announced direct character speech corresponds to direct reporting of thought (patterns: "S/He said/thought: 'I am…'"). Announced indirect character speech corresponds to indirect reporting of thought (patterns: "S/He said/thought s/he was..."). When reporting of thought, direct and indirect, relies on a linguistic scenario — context — rather than on announcement, the result is, respectively, interior monologue or free indirect discourse (patterns: "[context] I am..."/"[context] S/He was..."). Free indirect discourse (discours indirect libre, erlebte Rede) also conveys speech. The spoken equivalent of interior monologue is unannounced direct character speech, which is the matrix of first-person narrative. Direct character speech and thought, whether announced or unannounced, effect a full transposition to a subordinate FR. Indirectly conveyed character speech and thought, whether announced or free, link up adjoining FRs.

37Free indirect discourse (FID) is the most frequently discussed of all modes of presenting speech and consciousness.

(9) Old Man O'Brien spoke of the good old days, gone by, of the Washington Park racetrack.... And some of them horses, too, they were beauts.... Johnny's mother knew how good them horses were, because she had had a good time more than once on their winnings.... (Farrell, 1977, 81)

38The third sentence is FID/speech variety: indirect character speech, unannounced, though foreshadowed by "spoke" in the first sentence and by the second sentence, a direct character speech. FID/thought variety mixes well with interior monologue (IM):

(10) He pulled the halldoor to after him very quietly, more, till the footleaf dropped gently over the threshold, a limp lid. Looked shut. All right till I come back anyhow. (Joyce, 1968, 59)

39"Looked shut" is FID, the sequel IM. Both "thoughts" are marked by ellipsis, a colloquial speech feature (cf. "them horses" and "beauts" in (9)). Free indirect discourse also occurs in first-person narrative:

(11) He [Lolita's husband] opened his mouth — and took a sip of beer…
Good. If he was silent I could be silent too. Indeed, I could very well do with a little rest.... (Nabokov, 1961, 288f.)

40The second paragraph is in FID, conveying what Humbert Humbert, the narrator, thinks in this little scene. Since Nabokov's novel is introduced by a fictional editor ("John Ray, Jr., Ph. D."), the second paragraph represents a transition from FR3 to FR4.

41Endorsing a distinction introduced by Genette, Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan states: "In so-called 'third-person centre of consciousness' (James's The Ambassadors...), the centre of consciousness (or 'reflector') is the focalizer, while the user of the third person is the narrator" (1983, 73). This distinction is more logical than real. In the following passage, Lambert Strether, James's finicky hero, is wondering whether liking Paris too much will not undermine his authority with Chad Newsome, his charge:

(12) Was he to renounce all amusement for the sweet sake of that authority? and would such renouncement give him for Chad a moral glamour? This little problem bristled the more by reason of poor Strether's fairly open sense of the irony of things. (57)

42The first two sentences are in FID, that is, focalized by Strether. By dint of that very fact, the narratorial voice is submerged in what (except for the past tense and the third person, both derived from FR1) figures as Strether's thought, subsequent to which the narratorial voice re-emerges ("poor Strether"). There is indeed no better way of suppressing the authorial voice than transposition — having fictional characters speak and think. Genette's distinction between "the question who sees? and the question who speaksT (1980, 186) has resulted in a wide-spread incapacity for perceiving the interaction between enunciation and focalization. The distinction between voice (the "narrator") and focalization does not correspond to our reading practice because the emergence of a figural perspective submerges the narratorial act, which means that a derivative subject-object structure (the character perceiving something) screens the superordinate one (the narrative agency telling something). This principle even extends to the merely incipient figural perspective provided by reference to, rather than a verbalization of, character consciousness ("psycho-narration" in Cohn's terminology [1978]):

(13) Presley was silent. Dyke's challenge was unanswerable. There was a lapse in their talk, Presley, drumming on the arm of the seat, meditating on this injustice; Dyke looking off over the fields.... (Norris, 1938, 17)

43The narratorial voice tends to fade away in the references to character consciousness, which are generated by the scenic context and in turn engender scenic value. The second sentence of the passage may be FID; "this injustice" is an instance of character deixis, suggesting a transcription from Presley's meditation.

44The authorial voice is also muted by character thought in the second person. In Lillian Smith's Strange Fruit, a third-person novel about race relations in the American South, Bess, a black woman, is shown lying in bed, blaming herself for not having interfered in her sister Nonnie's affair with a white man: "Yes, if you had dared tell her — why hadn't you? I don't know... sometimes I don't know! Bess turned restlessly" (14; ellipsis in the text). Prior to the re-emergence of the narratorial voice with "Bess..." (FR1), we have silent self-address in the second person leading to IM (both in FR2). In another passage, the narratorial voice gives way to FID using the second person: "Nonnie... looked across White Town. Strange... being pregnant could make you feel like this" (2; first ellipsis mine). Clearly, the narrative agency and figural focalization, if not mutually exclusive, are mutually subtractive.8

45Finally, second-person narrative, which has a special affinity with the depiction of thought, invites further comment. Benveniste speaks of a "relation par laquelle'je'et'tu'se spécifient" (1966, 228). The manner in which "you" and "I" specify one another can be construed thus: "you," as the designation of the addressee, presupposes an addressor who becomes explicit by referring to him-/herself as "I." In contrast, the use of "I" primarily points toward self-reference, not the designation of an addressor. Put differently, "you" necessarily evokes "I," whereas the reverse is not the case. This state of affairs is reflected in the fact that most first-person narratives manage without "you"-usage — i. e., without specifying a narratee — whereas second-person narrative (Michel Butor's as in novel La Modification) tends toward intermittent usage of "I," thus designating the addressor implicit in "you." All this suggests that second-person narrative can basically be modeled on firstperson narrative. In fact, the distinction between the two narrative types is a merely quantitative consideration in such texts as Robert Penn Warren's novel All the King's Men (1946), in which the narrator shifts between the first and the second person. Likewise, the authorial "I" has a counterpart in the authorial "you." Nevertheless, as has been indicated, the second person also has specific expressive possibilities. Among them, the affinity between "you"-usage and the depiction of consciousness stands out.

46This affinity is due to the fact that the reader, confronted with one character addressing another or the self as "you" and thereby providing a story, finds it easier to conceive of the addressor as thinking than as speaking. Special cases apart (e.g., the detective explaining to the culprit how "youdunit"), one does not usually tell the addressee his or her own story, nor is one likely to tell a story by addressing him-or herself in speech. Hence, most narratives in the second person, or those making significant use of it, can be "naturalized" as silent address to another (Joyce Carol Oates's story "You") and, above all, to oneself.9 Such texts often reflect the waning appeal of a mimetic conception of interior monologue. Molly Bloom's famous IM at the end of Ulysses conveys the very notion of stream of consciousness by blurring syntactic articulation (promptly restored by the reader, who breaks down the 40page "sentence" into little phrases). By contrast, the first chapter of Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury disarranges the chronological order of syntactically intact sections of first-person narrative in the past tense, thereby suggesting the working of an idiot's mind in structural rather them in syntactic terms (see Meindl, 1989, 151). The beginning of Butor's La Modification, evoking a passenger entering a train compartment, proves even less mimetic: "Vous avez mis le pied gauche sur la rainure de cuivre, et de votre épaule droite vous essayez en vain de pousser un peu plus le panneau coulissant" (9). The strange effect created by this passage is derived from the notation of automatic action and sense data unlikely to call for any mental registering at all — not to mention a mode of formal self-address. It is this difficulty, presumably, that has led to analyses of La Modification entertaining the authorial option. Increasingly, however, this novel employs the second person for selfdiscovery in the mode of silent self-address. Léon perceives that his love for his Roman mistress Cécile is inseparable from his fascination with the Eternal City: "... vous n'aimez véritablement Cécile que dans la mesure où elle est pour vous le visage de Rome" (198). Rome-Cécile proves incapable of being integrated into Leon's ordinary Paris life and shortening future. A new, resigned sense of self marked by an occasional appearance of the first person emerges, expressing a design to reanimate an arid marriage: "Vous dites: je te le promets, Henriette, dès que nous le pourrons, nous reviendrons ensemble à Rome" (236). If the novel is regarded as anchored in silent self-address in FR2, the promise to Henriette is IM in FR3.

47Jay McInerney's novel Bright Lights, Big City (1984) and several stories, including the title story, in Frederick Barthelme's Moon Deluxe (1983) use the Butorian matrix, but permit no "I" to emerge from the "you." There is even a type of "you"-plus-imperative-mood narrative appropriately dubbed "the recipe form" by Brian Richardson (1991, 319):

(14) Meet in expensive beige raincoats, on a pea-soupy night. Like a detective movie. First, stand in front of Florsheim's Fiftyseventh Street window, press your face close to the glass.... You can see your breath on the glass. (Moore, 1986, 3)

48In this text, which goes on to recount the brief affair of the "you" (eventually named "Charlene") with a married man, the authorial option (which, in Butors novel, looms in the background) seems to prevail. The imperatives and the "you"-usage in the present tense apparently issue from the narrative agency. However, this "you" poses the same problem as has been observed regarding certain forms of "you"-usage in Thomas Pynchon's work: "Apparently, the more concrete and detailed the experiences ascribed to you, the less plausible is the hypothesis that [the addressee] is identical with the narratee" (McHale, 1985, 108). That is, the "you" in Moore's story cannot be easily apprehended as a female reader-surrogate in the text. We suggest that this story, by means of educative authorial address, constructs a character ("Charlene") that eventually appears emancipated enough to be tentatively released into silent self-address as she is admonished/admonishes herself not to get inveigled again by the preying male: "He calls you occasionally at the office to ask how you are. You doodle numbers and curlicues on the corners of the Rolodex cards. Fiddle with your Phi Beta Kappa key. Stare out the window. You always, always say:'Fine'" (22). The reader cannot finally opt for one of the two mutually exclusive discourses between which the text negotiates: authorial address of a character and a character's silent self-address. However, such perplexities, far from invalidating the proposed model of narrative discourse, demonstrate its usefulness as a grid for explaining even very special narrative effects.


Des DOI sont automatiquement ajoutés aux références bibliographiques par Bilbo, l’outil d’annotation bibliographique d’OpenEdition. Ces références bibliographiques peuvent être téléchargées dans les formats APA, Chicago et MLA.

Works cited

Primary sources

10.5117/9781904633068 :

Butor, Michel, 1957. La Modification. Paris: Éds de Minuit.

Dickens, Charles, [1859] 1968. A Tale of Two Cities. New York: Lancer Books.

Farrell, James T.[1932-35] 1977. Studs Lonigan. New York: Avon Books.

Faulkner, William, 1950. Collected Stories of William Faulkner. New York: Random House.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel [1837, 1842] 1960. Twice-Told Tales and Other Short Stories. New York: Washington Square Press.

Hemingway, Ernest [1929] 1976. A Farewell to Arms. New York: Bantam.

James, Henry [1903], 1960. The Ambassadors. New York: New American Library, Signet Classic.

Joyce, James [1922] 1968. Ulysses. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.

Melville, Herman. The Shorter Novels of Herman Melville. Greenwich, CT: Fawcett Premier Book, n. d.

Moore, Lorrie [1985] 1986. "How to be an Other Woman." in Self-Help. Stories. New York: Plume.

Nabakov, Vladimir [1955] 1961. Lolita. London: Corgi Books.

Norris, Frank [1899] 1964. McTeague. A Story of San Francisco. New York: New American Library, Signet Classic.
[1901] 1938. The Octopus. A Story of California. Garden City, NY: Sun Dial Press.

Oates, Joyce Carol, 1970. The Wheel of Love and Other Stories. New York: Vanguard Press.

Rowson, Susanna [1791] 1964. Charlotte Temple. A Tale of Truth. New York: Twayne.

Smith, Lillian, 1944. Strange Fruit. New York: Reynal and Hitchcock.

Thoreau, Henry David [1854, 1849] 1966. Waiden and Civil Disobedience, ed. Owen Thomas. New York: W. W. Norton.

Bal, Mieke, 1985. Narratology. Introduction to the Theory of Narrative. Trans. Christine van Boheemen. Toronto: U of Toronto P.

Benveniste, Emile, 1966. Problèmes de linguistique générale. Paris: Gallimard.

10.1515/9780691213125 :

Booth, Wayne C., 1961. The Rhetoric of Fiction. Chicago: U of Chicago P.

Cardonne-Arlyck, Elisabeth, 1984. La Métaphore racontée. Pratique de Julien Gracq. Paris: Klincksieck.

10.4324/9780203451007 :

Cohn, Dorrit, 1978. Transparent Minds. Narrative Modes for Presenting Consciousness in Fiction. Princeton: Princeton UP.

— 1981. "The Encirclement of Narrative: On Franz Stanzel's Theorie des Erzählens." Poetics Today, II, 157-82.

Fludernik, Monika, 1993. The Fictions of Language and the Languages of Fiction. The Linguistic Representation of Speech and Consciousness.London: Routledge.

— ed., 1994. Second-Person Narrative. Style, XXVIII, 3 (Fall).

10.4324/9780203210000 :

— 1996. Towards a "Natural" Narratology. London: Routledge.

Genette, Gérard, 1980. Narrative Discourse. An Essay in Method. Trans. Jane E. Lewin. Ithaca: Cornell UP.

Goatly, Andrew, 1997. The Language of Metaphors. London: Routledge.

10.5040/9781474244244 :

Hamburger, Käte, 1993. The Logic of Literature. Trans. Marilynn J. Rose. 2nd, rev. ed. Bloomington: Indiana UP.

Jakobson, Roman, 1960. "Closing Statement: Linguistics and Poetics." In: Sebeok, Thomas Α., ed., Style in Language. New York: Technology Press, 350-77.

Lodge, David, 1977. The Modes of Modern Writing. Metaphor, Metonymy, and the Typology of Modern Literature. London: Arnold.

Lubbock, Percy. 1923. The Craft of Fiction. New ed. London: Jonathan Cape.

Mac Cormac, Earl R., 1985. A Cognitive Theory of Metaphor. Cambridge: MIT Press.

McHale, Brian, 1985. "'You Used to Know What These Words Mean': Misreading Gravity's Rainbow." Language and Style, XVIII, 93-118.

Meindl, Dieter, 1986. "Probing the Typological Circle." AAA-- Arbeiten aus Anglistik und Amerikanistik, XI, 246-50.

10.1086/448527 :

— 1989. "Some Epistemological and Esthetic Implications of William Faulkner's Discourse." In: Lothar Hönnighausen, ed., Faulkner's Discourse. An International Symposium. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, 149-58.

10.1017/CBO9781139173865 :

— 1998. "You and I: Concerning Second-Person Narrative." In: Brigitte Pichon, ed., Indirekte Kommunikation. Verkürzte Geschichte(n) und Metapher(n), fragmentarische Rezeption und die Unabschliessbarkeit des Dialogs. Siegen: FB 3 UniversitätGesamthochschule, 156-65.

Moran, Richard, 1989. "Seeing and Believing: Metaphor, Image, and Force." Critical Inquiry, XVI, 87-112.

Ortony, Andrew, 1993. "Metaphor, Language, and Thought." In: Andrew Ortony, ed., Metaphor and Thought. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1-16.

10.2307/1772342 :

Pier, John, 1992. "Between Text and Paratext: Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire." Style, XXVI, 12-32.

Richardson, Brian, 1991. "The Poetics and Politics of Second Person Narrative." Genre, XXIV, 309-30.

Rimmon-Kenan, Shlomith, 1983. Narrative Fiction. Contemporary Poetics. London: Routledge.

Stanzel, F. K., 1984. A Theory of Narrative. Trans. Charlotte Goedsche. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.

Weinrich, Harald, 1971. Tempus. Besprochene und erzählte Zeit. Zweite, neubearb. Aufl. Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer.

Notes de bas de page

1 This essay limits itself to narrative fiction. For linguistic advice I am indebted to Frances Schön, M. A., and the editor of this collection, John Pier, whom I also thank for some narratological suggestions.

2 Franz Stanzel originally distinguished between three implicitly pronominal narrative situations: first-person narrative, authorial (third-person) narrative, and figural (third-person) narrative. Since then, he has reconstituted his theory by balancing it between the categories person, perspective, and mode. Gérard Genette downgrades person (1980, 243f.), as does Wayne C. Booth (1961, 158).

3 Genette's homodiegetic narrative, defined by the presence of the narrator in the tale s/he tells, can he subsumed under Stanzel's concept of first-person narrative (identity of the narrator's and the tale's world). See note 8 below, which ties in with my earlier critique of Stanzel (Meindl, 1986). Stanzel and Genette are excellently compared hy Dorrit Cohn (1981).

4 "It is generally thought," Andrew Goatly says, "that metaphor tends to have Concretizing tendencies" (1987, 124). However, he cites such examples as "The building was a diagram of prayer" (1987, 207), where the metaphoric vehicle (in bold) is more abstract than the metaphoric topic (in italics). But does this metaphor not invite us to imagine a particular building (perhaps one resembling a Gothic church)? Metaphors derive their "metaphoricity" from the distance between the semantic fields they conjoin. Significantly, Goatly assigns top rank to such metaphors as "Life is a box of chocolates," for they span "the largest distance, because we have to cross... from the concrete artefact to the abstract," thus accomplishing "an analogical Transfer or Concretizing metaphor" (1997, 39). Metonymy ("crown" for "king") and synecdoche ("sail" for "ship") undermine or minimize that distance.

5 Strictly speaking, describing something is saying what it is like. In examining the values of metaphor (as a creative cognitive device, as a cultural entity, as a mediator between mind and the world), Earl R. Mac Cormac (1985, 229) says "one recognizes them as descriptive values." The most descriptive metaphors are noun-based, although this does not exclude verbs from metaphoric use: "Ships plowed the sea." In this report-metaphor, action is somehow stilled and framed, due perhaps to the fact that we cannot imagine plowing without imagining a plow: verbs, according to Goatly (1997, 86), permit only "indirect image evocation." The report-metaphor axis can be further fleshed out by treating simile, with David Lodge (1977, 105), as "the form of metaphorical language... least disturbing to syntagmatic continuity" (cf. "He fought like a lion"/"He was a lion in the fight"). Lodge's conception of metonymy, based on "Jacobson's characterization of prose as'forwarded essentially by contiguity'" (1977, 88), and his view of synecdochic detail permeating portrayals of milieu, also illuminate the FR's center area, where narration yields to description.

6 For the next paragraph and section V of this essay, consulting the following figure is recommended:

7 Stanzel's circular model has problems with embedding (cf. Cohn, 1981, 159). By claiming (1984, 201) that such devices as the fictional editor of a manuscript (Richard Sympson in Gulliver's Travels) approach the function of an authorial narrator, the structural difference between first-and third-person narrative is obscured. Clearly, Sympson, who calls Gulliver his "friend," and Gulliver share the same realm of existence. Sympson is a first-person narrator in FR2 introducing Gulliver's account (anchored in FR3). Genette (1980, 248) does not really transcend the distinction first-person/third-person narrative in positing "four basic types of narrator's status":
LEVEL: Extradiegetic Intradiegetic
Heterodiegetic Homer Scheherazade...
Homodiegetic Gil Blas... Ulysses
"Extradiegetic" designates a narrator in the first degree: "Homer" in the Odyssey, Gil Blas in Lesage's novel. Scheherazade and Ulysses (in Books IX-XII of the Odyssey) are intradiegetic,· embedded narrators. Gil Blas and Ulysses are present in the stories they tell (homodiegetic), "Homer" and Scheherazade are not (heterodiegetic). However, Scheherazade's stories, in disclosing (fictionalizing) the characters'minds, are invaded by the third-person narrative matrix, which also reigns in "Homer." The rubric "homodiegetic" provides examples of first-person narrative. "Extradiegetic," in designating the mere fact of first-degree narrative, has the disadvantage that it refers to dissimilar narrative levels: the Odyssey is anchored in FR1, Gil Blas in FR2. Nevertheless, Genette's terminology has provided the basis for very subtle studies of narrative embedding (e.g., John Pier's analysis [1992] of Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire).

8 FID is not only unifocal, but also practically univocal: we hear the figural voice or overhear, as it were, the character thinking. It is often additionally signaled by character deixis (see citation (13)) and lexical markers of figural subjectivity (see citations (9) and (10)). However, spanning, as it does, discrete FRs, FID can also attract authorial elements. Consider this passage: "It will have been sufficiently seen that he [Strether] was not a man to neglect any good chance for reflection. Was it at all possible, for instance, to like Paris enough without liking it too much? He luckily, however, hadn't promised Mrs. Newsome not to like it at all" (James, 1938, 57). Authorial irony invades Strether's thought. It is only in extreme cases such as this that one would consider FID a dual voice. Generally speaking, the authorial idiom can be colored by figural discourse ("the good old days, gone by" in citation (9)), just as authorial elements can infiltrate a figural context. See Fludernik (1993) for a state-of-the-art account of such modulations.

9 This mode of arguing is related to "the redefinition of narrativity qua experientiality" proposed by Fludernik (1996, 13). The most comprehensive publication on second-person narrative, subsuming previous scholarship, is Fludernik (1994). See also Meindl (1998).

Précédent Suivant

Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence Licence OpenEdition Books. Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.