GERARD GENETTE Narrative Discourse AN ESSAY IN METHOD Translated by Jane E. Lewin Foreword by Jonathan Culler CORNELL UNIVERSITY PRESS. Genette uses Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past as a work to identify and name the basic constituents and techniques of narrative. Genette illustrates the. In Narrative Discourse Revisited Genette both answers critics of the earlier work and provides a better-defined, richer, and more systematic view of narrative form .

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In order to understand narratology’s contribution to semiotics, it is important to grasp the distinction between its three fundamental entities: The story generally corresponds to a series of events and actions that are told by someone the narratorand represented in some final form, producing a narrative.

As a field of study, narratology looks at the internal mechanisms of narrative, the form taken by a narrated story. In the field of narrative discourse, we endeavour to identify the common, near-universal principles of text composition.

These relations operate within four analytical categories: This text may be reproduced for non-commercial purposes, provided the complete reference is given: We should point out that internal analysis, like any semiotic analysis, exhibits two characteristics. Firstly, it is concerned with narratives as independent linguistic objects, detached from their context of production and reception.

Secondly, it aims to reveal an verard structure that can be identified in many different narratives. Using a rigorous typology, Genette has developed a theory of narratological poetics that may be used to address the entire inventory of narrative processes in use.

According to Genette, every text discloses traces of narration, which can be studied in order to understand exactly how the narrative is organized. The approach advocated here clearly addresses a level that lies below the threshold of interpretation, and as such, it constitutes a solid foundation, complementing other research being done in the social sciences, e. By using narrative voice as a concept through which all the other categories are articulated, Genette engages the context of production as a fundamental element.

When a text is written, technical choices must be made in view of producing a particular result in the story’s verbal representation. In this way, the narrative employs distancing and other effects to create a particular narrative geenette that governs “the regulation of narrative information” provided to the readerp. According to Genette, all narrative is necessarily diegesis tellingin that it can attain no more than an illusion of mimesis showing by making the story nartative and alive.

Thus, every narrative implies a narrator. For Genette, then, a narrative cannot in fact imitate reality, no matter how geerard it is intended to be a fictional act of language discourze from a narrative instance.

There fiscourse no place for imitation in narrative [ Thus, in place of the two main traditional narrative moods, diegesis and mimesisGenette contends that there are discoutse varying degrees of diegesiswith the genwtte either more involved or less involved in the narrative, and leaving less room discoursd more room for the narrative act.

However, Genette insists that in no case is the narrator completely absent. Any study of narrative mood requires that we assess the distance between the narrator and the ggenette. Distance helps us to determine the degree of precision in a narrative and the accuracy of the information conveyed. Whether the text is a narrative of events tells what the character is doing or a narrative of words tells what the character is saying or thinkingthere are four types of discourse, each demonstrating progressively greater distance geeard by the narrator with respect to the textpp.

Transposed speech, indirect style: Gerwrd speech, free indirect style: The character’s words or actions are reported by the narrator, but without using a subordinating conjunction – distant. The character’s words are cited verbatim by the narrator – – distant. Using the notion of narrative distance as a starting point, Genette presents the functions of the narrator as suchpp.


He lists five functions that also reveal the degree to which the narrator intervenes in his narrative, based on the desired degree of detachment generte involvement. The narrative function is a fundamental one. Any time we have a narrative, this role detachment is assumed by the narrator, whether present in the text or not. The narrator performs a directing function when he interrupts the story to comment on the organization or articulation of his text involvement.

The narrator addresses the narratee directly that is, the text’s potential reader in order to establish or maintain contact with him or her involvement. The narrator affirms the truth of his story, the degree of precision in his narration, his certainty regarding the events, his sources of information, and the like.

This function also comes into play when the narrator expresses his emotions about the story, that is, the affective relation he has with it involvement. The narrator interrupts his story to introduce instructive comments or general wisdom concerning his narrative involvement.

The diegetic narrative mood, then, is expressed to varying degrees, depending on the degree to which the narrator is effaced from or represented in his narrative. This distancing between the narration and the story helps the narratee to evaluate the narrative information being presented, “as the view I have of a picture depends for precision on the distance separating me from it [ The narrative instance is said to be the conjunction between 1 narrative voice who is speaking?

As with narrative mood, by examining the narrative instance we can gain a better understanding of the relations between the narrator and the story in a given narrative. If the narrator lets signs of his nadrative appear in the narrative he is recounting, he may acquire a particular status, depending on the way the story is rendered. I call the first type, for obvious reasons, heterodiegeticand the second type homodiegetic “pp. Genette describes four kinds of narration:. This is the most common temporal position.

The narrator tells what happened in some past time. The narrator tells what is going to happen at some future time. This kind of narration gnette takes the form of a dream narratige prophecy. This complex type of narration combines subsequent and simultaneous narration. For example, a narrator tells what he experienced during the day after the factand also includes his current impressions about these events.

A distinction should be made between narrative voice and narrative perspective; the latter is the point of view adopted by the narrator, which Genette calls focalization. These are matters of perception: The narrator knows more than the characters. He may know the facts about all of the protagonists, as well as their thoughts and gestures. This is the traditional “omniscient narrator”. The narrator knows as much as the focal character.

Gérard Genette – Wikipedia

This character filters the information provided to the reader. He cannot report the thoughts of other characters. The narrator knows less than the characters. He acts a bit like a camera lens, following the protagonists’ actions and gestures from the outside; he is unable to guess their thoughts.

The use of different narratological processes creates different effects for the reader. For example, one could have a hero-narrator autodiegetic narrator who uses simultaneous narration and internal focalization and whose speech is often in reported form.

This would undoubtedly produce a strong illusion of realism and credibility. Various reading effects result from shifts in narrative level, traditionally known as embedding. Within the main plot, the author can insert other short embedded narratives, told by other narrators from other narrative perspectives.


This is a rather common technique that adds diversity to the narrative act and increases the complexity of the narrative. Narration of the main first-level narrative occurs at the extradiegetic level.

The event-story being narrated on this first level fills a second-level position, known as intradiegetic. If a character found in this story takes the floor and tells some other narrative, his narrative act will also be on the same intradiegetic level. However, the events being told through the second-level narration are metadiegetic. Today I saw a teacher come up to a group of children at play.

After narrstive few minutes, she spoke: This is the story of Marguerite Bourgeois Writers sometimes also use metalepsis, a process in which the boundary between two narrative levels geneyte is normally impervious is breached so as to deliberately blur the line between reality and fiction.

Metalepsis is a way of playing with variations gendtte narrative level in order to create an effect of displacement or illusion. This would be a case in which a character or narrator from one gnette appears on the scene at a higher level, whereas plausibility completely excludes this possibility. To return to our previous example, if the homodiegetic narrator from the main story line intervenes in the metadiegetic story of Marguerite Bourgeois, this would be a case of metalepsis.

Marguerite Bourgeois is a 17th-century heroine who founded the Notre-Dame Congregation school for girls in Montreal. So it would be impossible for a contemporary “current” narrator to appear on the disocurse, camping out in New France in this embedded story. We have already seen that the time of narration has to do with the relation between the narration and the story: What is the narrator’s temporal position relative to the events being told?

Genette also gave some thought to the question of narrative time: How is the story presented with respect to the narrative as a whole, with respect to the final result?

Once again, narrayive methodological choices are available to writers. In order to achieve the expected result, they can vary 1 the order of the narrative, 2 the speed of the narrative and 3 the frequency of events.

Skillful use of these techniques allows the narratee to identify which narrative elements are being emphasized by the author s and what the structure and organization of the text is. Order is the relation between the sequencing of events in the story and their arrangement in the narrative.

Gérard Genette

A narrator may choose to present the events in the order they occurred, that is, chronologically, or he can recount them out of order. For example, detective novels often begin with a murder that has to be solved.

The events preceding the crime, along with the facts leading to the killer, are presented afterwards. The order in which the events actually occurred does not match the order in which they are presented in the narrative. This mixing of temporal order yields a more gripping, complex plot. The term Genette uses to designate non-chronological order is anachrony. There are two types of anachrony:.

The narrator recounts after the fact an event that took place earlier than the present point in the main story. I woke up in a good mood this morning. In my mind were memories of my childhood, with Mum singing every morning, her voice ringing out. The narrator anticipates events that will occur after the main story ends. How will my adventure in Europe affect me?