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No-Narrator Theories/Optional-Narrator Theories: Recent Proposals and Continuing Problems


The narrator is the fundamental concept of classical narratology and has carried on into most post-classical forms of narratology (pan-narrator theories). For these theories, the presence of a fictional narrator, whether overt or covert, is constitutive of the definition of fictional narrative. I propose to survey the recent scholarship challenging pan-narrator theories and favoring optionalism: the argument for the optional nature of the narrator in the theory and analysis of fictional narrative. By “recent” I mean articles or book chapters belonging to the period of new or postclassical narratology (Walsh 1997, reprint 2007; Gaut 2003; Kania 2005; Thomson-Jones 2007, 2009; Currie 2010; Köppe and Stühring 2011; Margolin 2011a) as distinct from those written in opposition to classical narratology (Kuroda 2014 [1973], 2014 [1974], 2014 [1976]; Banfield 1973, 1978a, 1978b, 1982) or even prior to the date generally thought to mark its coming into being (Hamburger 2003 [1957, 1968]). After a few preliminary remarks concerning terminology, I will briefly present the various proposals mentioned above and the relations that exist (or not) between them as well as the proposals of the first generation (those of Kuroda and Banfield in particular). I will offer a synthesis of the main arguments put forward in favor of the optional-narrator theory. The first argument concerns the inadequacy of the arguments of the opposing theory, although optional-narrator theorists also base their views on other theoretical or critical-interpretive data. In the second section of my paper, I will emphasize the absence of historical perspective in most of the proposals in question and identify a few errors or approximations in certain presentations of the history of the concept of the narrator. In the third and final section, I will outline a contribution that could be made to the debate between pan-narrator theories and optional-narrator theories by a history of literary theories based on the model of the history of linguistic theories, as understood by the so-called French school, which is closely linked to epistemology rather than to historiography alone.
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hal-02989032 , version 1 (02-08-2023)


  • HAL Id : hal-02989032 , version 1


Sylvie Patron. No-Narrator Theories/Optional-Narrator Theories: Recent Proposals and Continuing Problems. John Pier. Contemporary French and Francophone Narratology, The Ohio State University Press, pp.31-53, 2020. ⟨hal-02989032⟩
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