Handout for 2/22

February 22: Shelley (4). Textuality: the different versions of Frankenstein; the impossibility of saying which is the “real” one. Choosing a version is choosing an account of authorship and authority. Revisions reveal signal moments in the text (e.g.: Elizabeth as cousin or foundling). We also discussed why Frankenstein does not understand the Creature’s threat (“I will be with you on your wedding night”).

All the textual differences between the 1818 and 1831 versions of the novel may be examined here: http://juxtacommons.org/shares/Nme50n.

Handout for 2/19

February 19: Shelley (3).

The handout details a strategy for revising your paper introduction.

My fly-by overview of intertextuality pointed to the quotation from Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” in the first chapter of vol. 3. The handout links to an electronic edition of Lyrical Ballads, the 1798 breakthrough volume of poems by Wordsworth and Coleridge that crystallized the English Romantic movement. Mary Shelley, like her husband Percy Shelley, is usually thought of as part of the second generation of Romantics: younger than Wordsworth and Coleridge, they were much influenced by them. But “influence” is inadequate to describe what Mary Shelley is doing with Wordsworth when she has Frankenstein quote “Tintern Abbey” to describe his friend Clerval.

(Incidentally, this intertextuality makes the fabula chronology a little tricky. “Tintern Abbey” was published in 1798, and Walton’s letters are dated “17—.” That could only make sense if it’s 1798 or 1799 and Frankenstein is really on the cutting edge with poetry. But that’s not the worst problem, since elsewhere (75–76) Frankenstein quotes Percy Shelley’s poem “Mutability,” published in 1816! At that point we have to say that Frankenstein narrates but Shelley writes, and it is Shelley’s writerly choice to cite “Mutability.” Or that chronological consistency is not as important as Frankenstein’s notable affinity for Romantic poems about sublime nature.)

Jake reminded you in class of the epigraph to the novel, the title-page quotation from Paradise Lost. It comes, as your edition tells you, from Book 10 of Milton’s long poem (1667–1674) retelling the story of Adam and Eve. In the passage Shelley quotes on the title page, Adam, having been cursed for eating from the tree of knowledge, is lamenting his fallen state.

Handout for 2/15

February 15: Shelley (2). More on embedded narratives, this time with the Creature in focus—as narrator of his own story (CN3) and narrator of Safie’s (EN4). Introduction to intertextuality (quotation and allusion), to be continued next time. The handout also includes detailed explanations, with examples, of how to quote literary texts correctly in your own writing.

A theoretical aside: notice that these three topics are versions of the same thing. Embedding is also a kind of intertextuality and (normally) a kind of quotation too. When we are thinking primarily about how a narrative embeds another narrative with its own sjužet and fabula, we might focus on “framing” and narrative levels. But if we are thinking primarily about the language itself or the text layer, we can focus on quotation and intertextuality. The fundamental principle (3.3) is that any individual’s discourse is capable of indicating or including the discourse of another; this is especially true for narrators. But quoting, embedding, citing, and alluding are also always acts of framing, and we can always ask: In what light is the speaker presenting the cited material? Frankenstein should teach you (among many other things!) just how many possibilities there are. By the same token, in your own writing, you should reflect very deliberately on how you frame quoted material yourself.

Handout for 2/12

February 12: Shelley (1). A few dates to orient you in history around Austen and Shelley—and a description of natural landscape. Principles of narrative embedding (a.k.a. “framing”).

Thanks to the fire alarm, we had to skip over a last look at Austen’s irony. What do you notice about the narration of the passage from the end of Pride and Prejudice on the handout?

Handout for 2/8

February 8: Austen (4). Systematic aspects of fictional characterization: flat and round, major and minor. Our discussion focused on what becomes of Elizabeth, whose “roundness” produces a complex transformation which is not necessarily all to the good. Woloch teaches us to ask why certain kinds of characteristics are relegated to flatness and minorness whereas others receive the fullness of narrative attention and sympathy.

The second page of the handout consists of bonus material: a hint from the historian E.P. Thompson about the historical context for the novel. There are soldiers quartered in Meryton: what war are they fighting? Does it matter?

Handout for 2/5

February 5: Austen (3). Fictional character. The historical meanings of “character” are documented in the Oxford English Dictionary, which every English literature student—this means you!—should learn how to access and use.

We did not have time to talk about the concept of heteroglossia and the brief passage about it on the handout. This term refers to a concept introduced by the Russian literary theorist M.M. Bakhtin. Bakhtin argued that the novel as a genre is distinguished by the way it “orchestrates” the many different kinds of speech found in social life. The “dialogism” of the novel does not just consist in the dialogue spoken by characters but in the way the language of both narrator and characters is marked by the speech styles of many social groups: every word is voiced through “other tongues” (hetero-glossia).

As we have already seen in our discussions of free indirect discourse and irony, what one person says can nonetheless echo or incorporate what another person says—but with a difference. At the opening of Pride and Prejudice, Austen’s narrator inflects the statements of “truth universally acknowledged” held by the members of the Bennets’ neighborhood with her own skeptical irony—a skepticism which she shares, in this case, with those members of the community whose “quickness” distinguishes them from everyone else: Elizabeth and her father. Heteroglossia here would be not just due to differing individual characters but to the tension between, for example, the social group of young women seeking independence and the adults who enforce the normative sexual order.

For more technical detail, see Valerij Tjupa, “Heteroglossia,” in The Living Handbook of Narratology, 2013. The essay by Bakhtin cited on the handout from class, “Discourse in the Novel,” is one of the most challenging and rewarding essays on the theory of the novel ever written.

A note on Woloch

I have supplied a PDF with just the assigned pages from Woloch, but you would learn a great deal if you read the whole of his chapter on Pride and Prejudice. You would learn even more if you also read all his endnotes, which you would have to download separately; the notes for the chapter we are reading begin on p. 347.

Woloch uses a slightly different narratological vocabulary than the one you have learned. Here is how to translate his terms into ours:

discours, discourse
either the text layer or the sjužet layer of narrative or both
histoire, story
the fabula layer of narrative
omniscient narrator
the kind of EN particular to novels like Pride and Prejudice, who seems to be fully informed about everything that is going on, including inside characters’ heads

As I said in class, not everyone uses the same terms for the narrative layers, though almost everyone recognizes the basic distinctions between them. Indeed, Bal’s term for sjužet is “story.” Since Woloch uses “story” to refer to fabula, I thought that term would be too confusing for us. “Plot” is used by some people to refer to the fabula, by others to the sjužet. There are even more terms out there, in various languages! For a lengthy overview of the different terminologies various theorists of narrative use, see Michael Scheffel, Narrative Constitution, in The Living Handbook of Narratology, 2013.

Handout for 1/18

January 18: Introduction. Introductory principles, and some fables by Aesop and Kafka.

I got some of my Aesop details wrong, though not the part about his having been a slave! One of you got Aesop’s time period right in class: ancient references to him suggest the biographical Aesop lived in the 6th century BCE (see this encyclopedia entry, which gives his birthplace as either Thrace on the Black Sea). His fables, in whatever sense they are “his,” come down to us from many sources, in both Greek and Latin. To get a sense of the overwhelming variety of what counts as Aesop, take a look at the website created by the translator Laura Gibbs, whose versions of the fables we looked at on the handout: Aesopica: Aesop’s Fables in English, Latin & Greek. For example, the page for The Ant and the Cricket will give you links to the Ancient Greek but also to the 1484 English version of William Caxton—from one of the very first books printed in English—and many other versions besides.

Key terms from Bal

In order to follow Bal’s discussion of sequential ordering in narrative, you have to know a little about her framework. I will explain this again in class on Monday, but in the meantime you need only one additional passage from her introduction:

A narrative text is a text in which an agent or subject conveys to an addressee (“tells” the reader) a story in a particular medium, such as language, imagery, sound, buildings, or a combination thereof. A story is the content of that text,and produces a particular manifestation, inflection, and “coloring” of a fabula; the fabula is presented in a certain manner. A fabula is a series of logically and chronologically related events that are caused or experienced by actors. (5)

Bal calls text, story, and fabula the three “layers” of narrative. Fabula, the chronological sequence of events, is distinct from story, the way these events are arranged by the narration. The pages from Bal that you are reading focus on some of the possibilities for the arrangement of story.

We will, as I say, cover all this ground in class. Focus on noticing everything you can about “A Scandal in Bohemia” and “The Blue Carbuncle.”