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The Narrator : A Historical and Epistemological Approach to Narrative Theory


This article belongs to the field “history of literary theories,” which, as we will see, partially overlaps with the field “history of linguistic theories,” and which is also modeled on the history of linguistic theories, as it is understood in the dubbed “French school,” in close relation with epistemology, more so than with pure historiography. Thus, pan-narrator and optional-narrator theories will be considered within the wider framework of the history of literary theories and of their relationship to linguistics, and they will also be brought closer to other issues which have already been explored in the history of linguistic theories (e.g., the heritage of Ferdinand de Saussure, or the didactisation of Émile Benveniste’s theory of enunciation, or more broadly the issue of the relationship between concepts and the naming of concepts). We will borrow to the history of linguistic theories the ideas of “horizon of retrospection” and “horizon of projection” (horizon de rétrospection, horizon de projection), “reinscription rate” (taux de réinscription), “lines of history” (lignes d’histoire): they by themselves will allow us to establish a link between the optional-narrator theorists of the first (Käte Hamburger, S.-Y. Kuroda, Ann Banfield) and second generation (Tilmann Köppe and Jan Stühring, among others). The article as a whole will be led by the following considerations. The forgetting of mediations and prisms of reception has caused the “naturalization” of the concept of the fictional narrator being present in all fictional narratives. But the historical comparison of earlier ways of thinking about fictional narratives can exercise a “denaturalizing” function in the debate between pan-narrator and optional-narrator theories. However, the relativism of historical description must be nuanced by taking into consideration the adequacy of the concept of the narrator at issue to the phenomena it is intended to account for. These reflections on the narrator (and the author) of literary narrative may then be extended to the narrator (or the author, or the collective author) of narratives in other media.


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hal-04056606 , version 1 (02-08-2023)


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Sylvie Patron. The Narrator : A Historical and Epistemological Approach to Narrative Theory. Sylvie Patron, ed. Optional Narrator Theories : Principles, Perspectives, Proposals, University of Nebraska Press, pp.107-130, 2022, Frontiers of Narrative, ‎ 1496223373. ⟨hal-04056606⟩
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