Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Perceiving and Telling: A Study of Iterative Discourse By Danièle Chatelain

ISBN 1-879691-52-3
paper, 202 pp.
US $17.50

Perceiving and Telling: A Study of Iterative Discourse is a comparatist study exploring verbal conventions that create the illusion of time, as well as of theories about how these conventions have operated in the works of various authors. In her introduction, Danièle Chatelain says, "Central to current theories of narratology is a persistent sense of the separation of space and time. In Gerald Prince's A Dictionary of Narratology (1987), the categories of narratology appear to have reached canonical status, and the separation between time and space seems encoded in them. Typically, Prince defines "description," as "the representation of objects, beings, situations, or (nonpurposeful, nonvolitional) happenings in their spatial rather than temporal existence, their topological rather than chronological functioning, their simultaneity rather than succession" (19). "Narration," on the other hand, is "a discourse representing one or more events," that is, temporal phenomena (57). What we have, then, are sets of binary oppositions, which inform everything from structural distinctions, such as narration versus description, down to the fundamental binary histoire (story) and récit (narrative). In terms of story versus narrative, the separation of space and time is in a sense built into the very terms in which that distinction is traditionally formulated. In Prince's Dictionary, "story" is the content of the narrative; it is a succession of events "with an emphasis on chronology" (91). On the other hand, "narrative"is the recounting of this chronology; it is a "structuration," that is, a mental spatialization of this presumed flow of events. Underlying modern theory of narrative, in fact, is both a separation of time and space (story = chronology; narrative = structuration), and a sense of rivalry between these two dimensions. The result, it seems, is a valorization of the latter over the former." In her study, Chatelain seeks to show how these dimensions exist on a "spacetime continuum." The book is provided with a glossary of terms. Danièle Chatelain is Professor of French at the University of Redlands, California.

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