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Contextualizing narrative theory: reading the politics of formal innovation in contemporary women's fiction

Smith, Emma Elizabeth (2008) Contextualizing narrative theory: reading the politics of formal innovation in contemporary women's fiction. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

To ignore the strategies and structures through which stories are told, this thesis contends, is to neglect a vital dimension of their politics. Narratology provides productive analytical tools to illuminate the complex and varied mechanics of narrative form, yet it also bears the traces of its structuralist origins. Its value is therefore contingent upon its continuing reformulation as an expansive, pluralist and contextualized critical discipline. Participating in this expansion, this thesis evidences the pertinence and vitality of some narratological models and the limitations of others. It opens up alternative critical possibilities by drawing upon insights within contemporary critical theory, from poststructuralist philosophy to transcultural feminism to sociolinguistics. Above all, my interventions proceed from close readings of innovative fiction by women writers hitherto all but unrepresented in, and therefore potentially subversive of, existing models: Nicole Brossard, Daphne Marlatt, Hiromi Goto, Ali Smith, Jackie Kay, Erna Brodber, Dionne Brand, Aritha van Herk. The first chapter formulates an in-between critical space where feminist and postmodernist theories of narrative intersect. It re-examines metafiction through the lens of auto(bio)graphical practice and feminist poststructuralist theories of self, and introduces the notions of folds and echoes to describe specific structural innovations. Chapter Two examines unconventional uses of second-person address and reconsiders existing narratological approaches in their light, focusing on the `push and pull of narrative' that the `you' form enacts. Chapter Three addresses the insufficient attention paid to multiply narrated novels, theorizing them as `narrative communities' and introducing terms to describe different internal relations between narrators, relations that can often be read as determinedly 'democratic'. The final chapter contests the hegemony of temporal models of narrativity by formulating a 'spatial poetics' that accounts both for how spatial structures can be agents of narrative change and for the complexity of textual constructions of space, which frequently exceed static definitions of 'setting'. Running throughout is a reconception of narrative as located not with the figure of the narrator, but in relations of intersubjectivity. The narratological criticism formulated here works towards a situated ethics of reading responsive to the politics of writing: it is engaged, relational, and ever in process.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts (Leeds) > School of English (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.491634
Depositing User: Ethos Import
Date Deposited: 08 Apr 2011 11:20
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2014 11:13
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/1445

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