Printer Friendly

Booth's The Rhetoric of Fiction and China's critical context.

Wayne C. Booth's rhetorical narrative theory has not only enjoyed great influence on narrative studies in North America but it has also exerted a wide-scale and profound impact in the most populous country on the other side of the globe. Of the long list of Booth's publications, The Rhetoric of Fiction has been the most influential in China, currently existing in two Chinese translations, and having been embraced and applied by a large number of Chinese scholars. The warm reception of this book and the significant role it has played in China are very much a consequence of the peculiar Chinese critical context. This essay will start with a discussion of this Eastern context, then go on to explore the functioning in this context of three specific concepts or aspects of Booth's The Rhetoric of Fiction: (1) the implied author, (2) (un)reliability, and (3) narrative distance.


Modern and contemporary Western literary theories began entering China on a large scale around 1980. Prior to that, the field of literary studies in China had for decades seen the domination of political and sociological criticism, which reached the ultra-'Left' extreme during the Cultural Revolution (1966 to 1976). In that period, literary theory and criticism were treated only as political tools for class struggle, and formal(ist) and aesthetic studies were largely excluded from the scene (see Shen "The Future"). After the end of the Cultural Revolution, China adopted a policy of economic reform, opening the country up to the outside world. Alongside the flow of Western capital and commodities came the principles and procedures of various schools of Western literary theory and criticism. All these schools, whether fashionable (such as feminism, deconstruction, psychoanalysis) or out of fashion (such as New Criticism, the Chicago school, structuralist narratology) in the West, were invariably new and contemporary to Chinese scholars (see Shen and Zhou). But the change in China's political climate established a reverse hierarchy among critical schools around 1980. Political (and other kinds of extrinsic) criticism was devalued, and formal (or intrinsic) criticism became the norm. That is to say, the trend of development in China and in the West went in two opposite directions around 1980. When scholars in the West moved away from long-term formalist criticism towards sociohistorical and political concerns, many Chinese scholars moved away from long-term political and sociological criticism towards formal and aesthetic studies, which paradoxically gave them a veritable sense of liberation and freedom.

This revived interest in formal and aesthetic studies established a congenial context for the reception of Booth's The Rhetoric of Fiction. In general, Booth's The Rhetoric of Fiction has had great appeal for Chinese scholars for the following reasons: (1) Western literary theories in the twentieth century characteristically originated from Europe, but the Americans Henry James and Wayne C. Booth came up with epoch-making original theories that have enjoyed world-wide influence. (2) Booth's The Rhetoric of Fiction is a milestone in twentieth-century Western aesthetics of fiction, and it laid the foundation for contemporary American theories of fiction. (3) The Rhetoric of Fiction offers a very useful and wide-ranging discussion of fictional narrative techniques, and it is therefore a book of high practical value. If in the West The Rhetoric of Fiction transformed the study of literature with a combination of technical and ethical analysis as a reaction against purely formalist criticism, it has played a significant role in transforming literary studies in China mainly through its attention to the techniques of fiction. Before the end of the Cultural Revolution, the literary field in China was marked by dogmatic and stereotyped political criticism, treating literary texts as social documents, lacking subtlety and aesthetic/technical attention. When the trend switched from the political to the formal around 1980, there was a great need for innovative and invigorating technical tools for analyzing literary texts as works of art, and The Rhetoric of Fiction provides many enlightening concepts and useful tools, hence catering to the expanding pragmatic needs and pedagogical requirements of literary teaching and research after the Cultural Revolution. Moreover, the shift from long-term political/sociological criticism to formal/aesthetic studies based on The Rhetoric of Fiction among other works, has enabled many a Chinese scholar to produce new and original literary interpretations, in turn enhancing the book's attractiveness for the next generation of students and scholars.

Several aspects of the book's reception in China further illuminate the interaction between text and context. The two Chinese translations both appeared in print in 1987, one translated by Lijun Fu (1) (Guangxi People's Press) and the other by Ming Hua, Shuxiao Hu and Xian Zhou (Peking Univ. Press). While the latter is based on the first edition of the original for the simple reason that it was the only edition within easy access, the former is based on the second edition (1983), whose new features are an exceptionally-long Afterword and a bibliography updated by James Phelan. The Afterword is marked by Booth's critical reflections on the first edition, grouped under "Extensions" and "Clarifications." These reflections include Booth's second thoughts about various aspects of his original argument, his responses to ongoing work on narrative technique by Genette and Bakhtin in particular, and his ideas about how the book relates to changes in critical theory in the twenty-two years between editions such as the increasing interest in flesh-and-blood readers, sociohistorical contexts, and the indeterminacy of meaning. The Chinese translation based on the second edition displays a notable inconsistency: while the translator specifies on the title page that the original is the second edition and the translation contains the whole Afterword, he totally neglects the Afterword in his preface. This is not surprising. While Booth was responding to changes in academic climate in the West, Chinese scholars were far more concerned with the positions Booth argued for in the first edition. Interestingly, a similar inconsistency is found one and a half decades later (2002) in Contemporary American Theory. of Fiction by Xilin Cheng and Xiaolu Wang. The book's first chapter (out of six) is devoted exclusively to Booth's "Rhetorical Aesthetics of Fiction." The first section of the chapter is entitled "The Milestone of Fiction Theory--The Rhetoric of Fiction" and the second "Booth's Ethics of Fiction" (focusing on Booth's The Company We Keep). At the beginning of the first section, the authors mention the second edition of The Rhetoric of Fiction--not as a way to indicate Booth's change in stance but as a way to show the continuing importance of the book. This section, which contains a 22-page discussion of The Rhetoric of Fiction, does not touch on the Afterword to the second edition at all.

By the turn of the twenty-first century, however, the literary critical field in China had changed again. It is now marked by a balance between extrinsic criticism and intrinsic criticism, or, frequently, a combination of the two. Yet there is still one notable difference from the West: in general, the renewed interest in sociohistorical contexts and other extrinsic matters does not stem from political or ideological convictions but rather from a desire to gain a fuller understanding of individual literary texts. (2) Because of the differences in the Chinese critical context between the turn of the century and the 1980s, Contemporary American Theory of Fiction displays the following two characteristics in discussing Booth's The Rhetoric of Fiction. On the one hand, it foregrounds Booth's emphasis on the ethical function of fiction (37-8), and on the other, it is critical of Booth's view of the author's controlling the (implied) reader, for failing to consider the different flesh-and-blood readers' subjectivity and creativity (27-8). But this criticism fails to take into account the way that Booth in the Afterword to the second edition has already adjusted his view of "reader" to a certain extent, providing some room for the consideration of flesh-and-blood readers. To present a fuller picture, I published an essay to draw Chinese readers' attention to the change in stance (Shen "Author"). The essay fails into two sections, the first entitled "Booth's Classical Rhetoric of Fiction," and the second, "Booth's Limited Advancement towards Postclassical Narrative Theory," a section that is exclusively devoted to Booth's Afterword and that characterizes Booth's position there as helping to pave the way for the development of postclassical rhetorical narrative theory. In light of Booth's change of position in the Afterword, we may gain a better understanding of the preface Booth wrote for Contemporary American Theory of Fiction. In that preface, Booth on the one hand criticizes traditional critics for neglecting structural or aesthetic properties of individual works, and on the other criticizes formalist critics for neglecting various sociocultural dimensions of literature, such as its ethical function, social significance, political influence, and attention to racial and gender issues (i-ii). But except for the emphasis on ethical function, Chinese scholars rarely associate Booth with this latter aspect.

In a recent book-length study on the rhetoric of fiction, Jianjun Li, after offering a good summary of the significant contributions of Booth's The Rhetoric of Fiction, comes up with the following criticisms: (1) It fails to do justice to the central place of plot and character in narrative. (2) It neglects some "important supporting factors," such as the novel's spirit, which derives from the author's personality, strength, and moral courage, the author's "thinking resources," and the whole nation's character and custom which impose constraints on writing and reception. (3) It overlooks sociocultural factors that condition the author's choice, such as political democracy, freedom of the press, social fashions and human circumstances. For instance, during China's Cultural Revolution, the author did not have the freedom of choosing many narrative techniques: ironic means, subjective points of view, or variations of distance were out of place in that sociocultural context. (4) It is not entirely free of the negative influences of "New Criticism," since the "implied author" is a result of bending to "New Criticism" (23-25).

Li's first criticism is based on his very limited view of the function of fiction, and it misses the way Booth's arguments about technique typically involve attention to them as an author's means for enhancing effects that are also crucially dependent on character and plot. To Li, readability is of primary importance to fiction, and readability for him stems primarily from the presence of vivid and round characters and plots full of suspense and tension (24). Li's discussion of "national character and custom" in the second criticism and his third criticism make sense. But, as indicated above, Booth himself did take sociocultural factors into account at a later stage. In Li's second criticism, "thinking resources" is kept vague, and Li seems to have overlooked Booth's emphasis on the author's ethical strength. Interestingly, Li's discussion of the author's personality, strength, and moral courage is to a certain extent linked with China's Cultural Revolution since he had in mind "going beyond the dictatorial rules and great suppression" (24). As for Li's fourth criticism, it is very much due to a partial understanding of Booth's "implied author" (see the detailed discussion below). For all its criticism of Booth's The Rhetoric of Fiction, Li's book is very much based on this masterpiece which, in Li's own words, is "the most original," marked by "the most thorough understanding of the nature and characteristics of fiction, the clearest and most sober analysis of the limitations and defects of modern fiction," as well as its key role "in promoting the ideal spiritual communication between authors and readers." (1)

In short, Booth's The Rhetoric of Fiction has found a congenial context of reception in China, where it has played a very significant role in transforming and promoting narrative studies.


Of the various concepts Booth has proposed, the "implied author" is regarded by Chinese scholars as the most important and original. The concept has greatly helped transform the reigning Chinese conception of the relation between author and text. Traditional Chinese literary theory puts emphasis on the identity or correspondence of the text's character with that of the real author. There is a well-known Chinese saying "Wen ru qi ren" ("the writing mirrors the writer", or "like the author, like the book"), a view that originated from the discussion of classical Chinese poetry, and extended into that of prose fiction (Liu, "On 'the Implied Author'" 157 and Li, "On the Author" 106). Consequently, traditional Chinese literary theory demanded close association between the text and the real author's experiences. If the text was found not in keeping with the real author's experiences, the author would be regarded as deceitful, and the text as untrue. The strict binding of the text to the real author was strengthened during the period of political or sociological criticism before the end of the Cultural Revolution, when readers tended to infer from the text the real author's ideological stances, which led to severe criticisms or even persecutions of many fiction writers.

After the end of the Cultural Revolution, as noted above, Chinese scholars started treating fictional works as works of art rather than personal or social documents. And Booth's concept of the "implied author" has helped many Chinese scholars to get free of the strict identification of the text with the flesh-and-blood author, leading to a more artistic conception of the image of the author as inferred from the text. In two mutually-reinforcing essays--"'Implied Author' and Artistic Truthfulness" and "On 'the Implied Author' and its Artistic Generation"--Yuexin Liu offers a systematic discussion of the "artistic truthfulness" of the "implied" author. He counters the traditional Chinese view that a fictional text's truth depends on its correspondence with the character of the real author, and draws on Booth to argue that its truthfulness resides in the relation of the implied author to the text. Liu tries to account for the gap between the real and the implied author mainly in the following two ways. First, as regards the distinction between real life and artistic activity, the real author may be restricted by, or under the control of, various social relations, practical interests and pragmatic considerations, which make him or her vulgar and hypocritical. By contrast, in constructing a fictional narrative, the author can transcend, in an aesthetic way, the confinement of social relations and pragmatic considerations, resulting in a more idealistic "second self." In this light, the implied author is an aesthetic resistance to and transcendence of the alienated or distorted self in reality ("Implied Author" 72-73).

Secondly, based on Hans-Geog Gadamer's game theory and Paul Ricoeur's hermeneutic theory, Liu draws an analogy between literary creation as "an imaginatively fictive activity" and the game activity. A game tries to draw the game player into its realm, filling him with its own spirit and working on him with its own rules and demands. The particular norms of a game, that is to say, request the game player to transform himself and wear a mask in the special situational context (Liu "On 'Implied Author'" 158). Liu argues that literary creation is an imaginative game activity and he compares the author to the game player, the object of literary creation to the object of game (the Other), and the reader to the game watcher. The interaction--especially the conflict and (anti)subjugation--among the three leads to the transformation of the real author into a different implied author (158-9). More specifically, while the author tries to control and transform the object of his creation, the events, characters and setting he writes about have their own "life" and characteristics, demanding the author to catch their essence with artistic sensitivity and intuition. The author is also implicitly communicating with the (implied) reader, under the influence of the reader's expectations. The three parties carry out an implicit dialogue full of artistic tension, leading to the transformation of the author "from the utilitarian self to the aesthetic self" (159-60). But of course, the author may stick to his usual self and fail to meet the demands of the object of creation and the reader's expectations, in which case there will not come into being an "elevated" implied author (159). Liu also argues that the writing process is implicitly controlled by the rules and regulations of the literary institution, which may partly account for the gap between the real author in life and a different implied author in literary creation.

While Yuexin Liu puts emphasis on the implied author's elevated artistic status, Xixiu Cao views the gap between the real author and the implied author in a more neutral way. He not only discusses cases where the implied author is more noble than the real author, but also directs attention to works where the implied author is marred by certain weaknesses not shared by the real author (52; see also Booth "Resurrection" 77). An example he offers is Zhongshu Qian's satirical novel Fortress Besieged, whose implied author stands in a god-like position, being somewhat unreasonably scathing, while the author in real life was not. Cao also draws attention to the contrast between Dafu Yu and Manshu Su, arguing that Yu is less romantic in real life than in his romantic works and Su more romantic in life than in his literary creation.

In "On Constructing the 'Implied Author' in Novel Reading," Xiangjun She approaches the gap in question from a different perspective. Drawing on Freud's psychoanalytic theory, he sees the gap in many cases as a matter of the real author's trying to make up for certain real-life deficiencies through disguised and objectified presentation of fantasy that helps release repression. In effect, he argues for a relation of complementarity between the real and the implied author. He takes D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover as an example. The implied author of the fiction seems to be a bold and unrestrained man in terms of seeking sexual fulfillment, but in real life Lawrence was very conservative and restrained in sex because of a functional problem (153). As distinct from the dominant approach that puts emphasis on the gaps or differences between the implied author and the real author, She, in focusing on complementarity, stresses instead the close connection between the two.

Interestingly, Xiangjun She's view allows him both to accept Booth's distinction between the implied author and the real author and to defend the traditional Chinese view that "the writing mirrors the writer" (153). He observes that the real author has a very rich and complex personality. In many cases, although the implied author appears to be different from the real author, the former is in effect the projection of a certain aspect of the personality of the latter (153). He takes the German writer J. W. Goethe as an example. In real life, Goethe was marked by certain vulgarity and narrow-mindedness, but this, She argues, is not the whole, not even the major aspect, of Goethe's complex personality, where sincerity and nobility have a more important position. Goethe's great literary works are an embodiment of this positive aspect of his personality while his more vulgar literary works form a reflection of the more vulgar aspect (153). She also mentions the Chinese writers Yuan Qu, Bai Li, and the Russian A. S. Pushkin, who on the one hand produced masterpieces and on the other also wrote vulgar works to ingratiate themselves with the imperial or royal court (153). In conclusion, She proposes that, while constructing the image of the implied author from the text, readers should also take into account the context of the real author's creation, trying to find out the real author's creative intentions (154).

Xiangjun She's attempt to defend the traditional Chinese view points to a recent trend in China, especially in the field of comparative literature, to reflect critically on the domination of Western literary theory and the "aphasia" of traditional Chinese literary theory (see Shen & Zhou 147-150). A more straightforward and single-minded defense of the traditional Chinese view is found in Jianjun Li's "On the Author and the Implied Author in Fictions," which says, "From the point of view of traditional Chinese literary theory, Booth's concept of 'the implied author' is not only unacceptable, but also incomprehensible" (106, see also J. Li A Study 41-2). Traditional Chinese novel theory "puts strong emphasis on the close connection between the novel and the writer's personal experiences" and on the point that "the novel is a reflection and expression of the [real] author's feelings, personality, capability and judgment" (106). From the point of view of traditional Chinese theory, Li argues, "to sever the text from the real author is to render the novel into 'a tree without roots, or water without a source,' which will lead to the dying of the novel's spirit and will affect the spiritual communication between the novelist and the reader" (106).

In "On 'the Implied Author' and its Significance," Xiaoming Fan refers to Jianjun Li as a representative opponent of the concept and to me as "an enthusiastic supporter" of the concept (89). In my view, Li's worry is unnecessary and is based on a one-sided understanding of the concept. Let's look at the following simple and crude diagram of narrative communication:

Author (encoding)--Text (product)--Reader (decoding)

To obtain a full and balanced picture of the "implied author," it is, in my view, necessary to take into account both the process of encoding and that of decoding. In terms of the encoding process, the "implied author" is the author in a certain state of mind when writing, but in terms of the decoding process, the "implied author" is the authorial image as implied by the text for the reader to infer. Booth's discussion of the concept moves back and forth between the two processes as the following passage indicates. (I have marked references to the encoding process as "[1]" and those to the decoding process as "[2].")
   To some novelists it has seemed, indeed, that they [1] were
   discovering or creating themselves as they wrote. As Jessamyn
   West says, it is sometimes "only by writing the story that the
   novelist can discover--not his story--[1] but its writer, the
   official scribe, so to speak, for that narrative." ... it is
   clear that [2] the picture the reader gets of this presence is
   one of the author's most important effects. However impersonal
   [1] he may try to be [2] his reader will inevitably construct a
   picture of the official scribe [1] who writes in this manner....
   [2] Just as one's personal letters imply different versions of
   oneself, depending on the differing relationships with each
   correspondent and the purpose of each letter, so [1] the writer
   sets himself out with a different air depending on the needs of
   particular works. (Booth Rhetoric 71, my italics)

In the first sentence, the expression "discovering [a word repeated thus emphasized] or creating themselves as they wrote" may be paraphrased into "finding themselves in certain states of mind during the process of writing" or "the writing process's leading them into certain states of mind." The accounts by Yuexin Liu and Xixiu Cao of the author's transformation when writing are different versions of the same idea. Significantly, as regards the term "implied author," the words in the above passage marked by [1] point to "author" and those marked by [2] point to "implied" (implied by the text for the reader to infer). The concept of the "implied author," that is to say, is supposed to cover both the encoding and the decoding process. In terms of the encoding process, the implied author is unequivocally the producer of the text, who creates the narrator and other elements of the artistic whole (Booth, Rhetoric 73). But when it comes to the process of decoding, the reader can only infer from the implied author's own choices--from the completed artistic whole--the authorial image, an image that is therefore identifiable with the textual "norms and choices" (Booth, Rhetoric 74). In the following passage, Booth shifts in a more smooth way from the process of encoding to the process of decoding: "We can be satisfied only with a term that is as broad as the work itself but still capable of calling attention to [1] that work as the product of a choosing, evaluating person rather than as a self-existing thing. [1] The "implied author" chooses, consciously or unconsciously, what we read; [2a] we infer him as an ideal, literary, created version of the real man; [2b] he is the sum of his own choices (74-5)." In [1], there is a clear borderline between the implied author as the creator/writer and the text as his product. In [2a], however, there occurs a shift from the encoding process to the decoding process, which seems to suggest the conflation in [2b] of the implied author with the text itself. However, if we realize that in the decoding process the reader has access only to the text and not to the process of composition and if we keep in mind what Booth says about the encoding process, then there is no real conflation. What the reader attempts to decode is the textual image of the agent who produced the text. In Booth's discussion of the implied author, the decoding process sometimes receives more emphasis than the encoding process. Given the academic climate in which Booth was writing, I suspect that this was a purposeful strategy.

In "Do We Need the 'Implied Author'?" published in China, I discussed the difference between Booth's rhetorical theory and New Criticism in terms of the former's emphasis on the communication between author and reader. And I explained the academic climate in which Booth coined the term "implied author": in the 1950s, intrinsic criticism dominated the scene and extrinsic criticism was very much anathematized, in which context the "implied author" enabled Booth both to meet the demands of intrinsic criticism ("implied" by the text in terms of the decoding process, hence free from the charge of "Intentional Fallacy") and to retain the room for the rhetorical critic to discuss how the "author" communicates with the reader or how the text conveys the "author's" intended effects to the reader (7-8). Indeed, the "implied author" is an ingenious term pointing at once to the producer of the text ("author") and the text itself ("implied"--"his different works will imply different versions [of the author]" (Booth, Rhetoric 71)). Given the academic climate as such, it is not surprising that Booth sometimes narrowed down the scope of consideration to the decoding process only, a move that enabled him to equate, logically and justifiably, the implied author with the text: "Our sense [the decoding process only] of the implied author includes not only the extractable meanings but also the moral and emotional content of each bit of action and suffering of all of the characters. It includes, in short, the intuitive apprehension of a completed artistic whole [the decoding process only]; the chief value to which this implied author is committed, regardless of what party his creator belongs to in real life, is that which is expressed by the total form [the decoding process only]" (73-4, original italics and my boldface). Narrowing down the scope of consideration to the decoding process, Booth can offer a clear picture of the difference between the implied author (as the implied textual image) and the real author. Indeed, the difference between the implied author and the real author usually can only be detected in the difference between the textual image and the author in real life. But as soon as the encoding process comes into view, there is restored the continuity between the implied author and the real author.

To account for the dual identity of the implied author both as the producer of the text (in terms of encoding) and as the textual image (in terms of decoding), I offered in my 2000 essay the following definition of the implied author: "the author with his particular stance(s), beliefs and attitude(s) when writing constitutes the author's second self as implied by that particular text" (7). In my view, the dual reference of the "implied author"--both to the author's second self as the producer of the text and to the author's second self as the textual image [for the reader to infer]--is the major advantage of this term over other terms like "the author in a particular state of mind" (which can only accommodate the encoding process), "the textual authorial image or the text's norms [as inferred or inferable by the reader(s)]" (which can only accommodate the decoding process). (3)

In the light of the dual identity of the implied author, I proposed in my 2000 essay to replace Chatman's well-known diagram (Story 151):


by the following diagram (13):


where the dotted line between the real author and the implied author is changed into a solid line to show the continuity between the two. The frame confining the implied author to the text is also deleted since in terms of the encoding process, the implied author, as the producer of the text, is outside the text. I also changed the dotted line between the implied reader and the real reader into a solid line because, in terms of the (real) decoding process, the implied author can only be inferred by real readers, who, of course, often try to enter the position of the postulated implied reader, with or without success.

The failure to realize the dual identity of the implied author as both the producer of the text and the textual image is the fundamental cause underlying Jianjun Li's opposition to the concept. Overlooking the encoding process, Li regards the implied author only as "the author in the novel" (103) or the author "within the scope of the text" (104), which leads him to worry unnecessarily about the novel's becoming "a tree without roots, or water without a source."

As distinct from Li, many Chinese critics, like Liu and Cao as mentioned above, have focused on the encoding process, on the implied author as the creator of the text, which forms a sharp contrast with the focus of most Western narratologists. In a recent discussion of the implied author, James Phelan points out that most Western "narratologists who follow Booth seek to make the implied author a textual function rather than an independent agent" (Living 40). This difference between the Western and the Chinese scholars involved may be accounted for in part by the difference between the two critical contexts. As mentioned above, Booth's "implied author" came into being partly as a response to the anti-intentionalist position of the New Critics (see also Phelan, Living 39), and Western narratologists who follow Booth tend to share the same concern (intensified by Barthes's and Foucault's anti-intentionalist theories) and tend to confine the discussion to the text itself or to the relation between the text and the reader. (4) In China, however, many scholars have felt free to talk about the implied author as the transformed writer or "the narrative subject" (Xu 66-7), who produces the text. Nevertheless, Booth's strategic focus on the decoding process, coupled with the Western narratologists' seeing the implied author merely as a textual function, has also led other Chinese narratologists to view the implied author merely as a textual entity (see, for instance, Cheng 17; Hu 38; Zhao 210; J. Zhou 163).

To summarize, in China, the opponents of the "implied author" have remained few in number and most Chinese scholars with access to The Rhetoric of Fiction (including its translations) or related works have embraced the concept. Many Chinese scholars have applied the concept in their narrative analysis with fruitful results and often with Chinese characteristics.

(a) "Generic" Implied Author

Some Chinese scholars have applied the concept of the "implied author" to generic studies. In "On the Art of Space Structure in the Narration of Fairy Tales," Lili Jin observes that the implied author of this genre is marked by a dual aesthetic mentality: the child's intuitive aesthetic mentality and the adult's rational aesthetic mentality, the former playing a dominant role, which results in a space [world] of the fairy tale based on fantasy (88). According to Jin, "the space of a fairy tale is like a circle with irregular protrusions" as a result of the child's uncontrolled thinking, but the boundary of the circle always remains as a result of the implicit control exerted by the adult rational thinking (ibid.). In order to successfully create a fairy tale, the (generic) author has to transform from his usual adult mentality into the (generic) implied author with the dual child-adult aesthetic mentality, which gives rise to a peculiar structure of the narrative. Analyzing the structure of fairy tales in terms of the dual mentality of the (generic) implied author, Jin's study presents a fresh angle of investigation of this narrative genre. (5)

(b) "Female" Implied Author

In a dialogue with Wei Hua focusing on the contemporary Chinese woman writer Fang Fang, Fei Wang discusses the issue of "female implied author." Since the discussion centers on the "implied" rather than the "real" female author, the stress falls on how Fang Fang, when writing, "transcends herself" and "transcends reality" (62). Wang contrasts Fang Fang with some other women writers who tend to project their personal experiences or emotions onto their works, and argues that Fang Fang is a writer who "on the one hand has a quite strong feminine consciousness but on the other can transcend gendered consciousness" or "go beyond her personal state of mind," which results in a transcendent "literary quality" marked by confidence, superiority and unrestrainedness (63-4).

(c) Implied Author and Narrator

Traditionally, Chinese critics tended to identify the author with the narrator. The introduction of Booth's "implied author" into China has led not only to the distinction between the real author and the implied author, but also to the distinction between the implied author and the narrator. When commenting on Fang Fang's Landscape, for instance, Shouyi Jiang directs attention to the gap between the implied author and the narrator in judging the behavior of the character Qi-ge (the seventh son in the family), who tries during the Cultural Revolution to change his low social status by marrying an older and infertile woman with powerful parents. According to the norms of the text (the implied author's standards), such a marriage primarily out of pragmatic ends is unethical, but in the eye of the narrator, the character is forced into choosing such a marriage by the social circumstances, thereby inviting sympathy (148). Jiang argues that the split of the narrative subject and the co-existence of implicit criticism and sympathy leave open the judgment on the character. (6)

(d) Different Implied Authors of the Same Real Author

As mentioned above, traditional Chinese literary theory puts emphasis on the identity or correspondence of the text's character with that of the real author. As a result, when reading different texts by the same (real) author, readers tended to overlook the different "implied" authorial stances and tended to impose on the different texts the same image of the (real) author, which frequently gave rise to misinterpretations. The introduction of Booth's "implied author" has significantly changed the situation, leading many Chinese scholars to pay more attention to the different "implied" authors of different narratives under the name of the same flesh-and-blood author, helping them to gain a better understanding of the differences among the narratives involved. In my recent essay "Implied Author, Narrative Structure and Subtext," I focused on the relation between the contrastive implied authors of Kate Chopin's narratives and the subtexts involved. Based on the analysis, I argued that distinguishing among the divergent implied authors of the different narratives is a preliminary and necessary step in the investigation of the deeper meanings in the subtexts.

In short, Wayne Booth's the "implied author" has helped Chinese readers to gain a better and more sophisticated understanding of the workings of narrative literature, especially of the rhetorical communicative relation among the (implied) author, narrator, and reader.


The "implied author" has been frequently applied by Chinese scholars in the analysis of two related issues "(un)reliability" and narrative "distance" in specific narratives. These two concepts--the latter a development of the modern conception of "aesthetic distance" (Booth Rhetoric 121-23) and the former being Booth's original theoretical contribution--have also come into China primarily via the original or translation or exposition of The Rhetoric of Fiction. In this section, I'll discuss the issue of narratorial "(un)reliability," and then move on in the next section to narrative "distance."

Booth's concept of narratorial "(un)reliability" has played an important role in China, providing a new angle for approaching the text and helping to make more sophisticated fictional studies. Of the Western rhetorical theorists who follow Booth, James Phelan figures most prominently in China partly because of his development of Booth's theory, especially the extension of the yardstick of unreliability from the axes of facts/events and values/judgments to the axis of knowledge/perception ("The Lessons," Living). Based on Phelan's extended model, Xiaoyong Zhang, in investigating narratorial unreliability in Xun Lu's short story "Kong Yiji," systematically proceeds from the unreliable report along the axis of facts/events, to the unreliable evaluation along the axis of values/judgments, and finally to the unreliability along the axis of knowledge/perception.

As distinct from Xianyong Zhang, Junqiang Tan, in approaching another short story by the same author "The New Year's Sacrifice" focuses on the contrast and alternation between the narratorial unreliability along the axes of values/judgments, knowledge/perception and the narratorial reliability along the axis of facts/events ("On the Reliability"). Tan observes that the alternation between reliable and unreliable narration not only contributes to the complexity and multi-dimensionality of the character-narrator, but also makes the reader experience more complicated psychological changes, prolonging the process and broadening the scope of the reader's aesthetic judgment and appreciation (100-101). In Lu's "Remorse for the Past" ("Shangshi"), there is also found different degrees of unreliability among the different axes. The autodiegetic narrator gives a quite truthful account of his ill-fated love affair which leads to the tragic death of his girlfriend, but his narration is sometimes unreliable along the axis of values/judgments or perception/knowledge, not in keeping with the narrated facts (see Tan "Narratorial" 216; Shen Literary 151-4). In Tan's view, such alternations between the same narrator's reliable and unreliable narration pose a challenge to the clear-cut distinction between reliable narrator and unreliable narrator. He calls for more attention to the dynamic changes of (un)reliability in the same narrator's narrating process (98).

Precisely because of Xun Lu's ingeniously "changeful" treatment of narratorial (un)reliability, his works figure most prominently as the object of investigations on unreliability. Tao Zhou's essay deals exclusively with Lu's works and explores the different degrees of (un)reliability and the different ways to convey unreliability in Lu's different first-person narratives. In some, the first-person narrator is seen to be quite reliable, thus creating sort of an effect of "defamiliarization" against the background of usually unreliable first-person narration. The reliable first-person narrator can either be a "first degree" (intradiegetic) one or a "second degree" (metadiegetic) one (48-9). In the case of unreliable narration, the unreliability may be partly detected in terms of "narrative structure." In analyzing the unreliability in Xun Lu's "Kong Yiji," Zhou focuses on the structural relation between the story's two parallel narrative units. By way of a careful comparison of the observer-narrator's contrastive attitude and perspective in the two units respectively focusing on his former self and the protagonist Kong Yiji, Zhou reveals the implied author's ironic structural treatment of the narrator, implicitly rendering his narration unreliable. Zhou also draws attention to the more apparent yet more intricate unreliability in Lu's "A Madman's Diary." The narrator's discourse exhibits various outward signs of madness, but gradually shows an internal logic, becoming in essence a symbolic and allusive discourse that implicitly conveys the implied author's social satire. The narratorial unreliability, that is to say, is to a great extent a mere "deceptive" appearance, a thematic strategy for conveying the implied author's ideas in a roundabout and more forceful way.


An issue frequently related to yet distinct from "unreliability" is narrative "distance." Like "unreliability," the concept of "distance" is of particular importance to the Chinese critical context since traditional Chinese literary theory tends to identify the author with the narrator. Perhaps as a reaction against this "indiscriminating" context, many Chinese scholars have set store by Booth's view of the variations of distance among (implied) author, (character-) narrator, the other characters, and the reader "on any axis of value, moral, intellectual, aesthetic, and even physical" (Rhetoric 155).

In "The Fuzziness of Narrative Distance in Fiction by Women Writers," Bin He focuses on the variation in narrative distance between the narrator as mediator and the implied author/protagonist. The narrator, characteristically marked by certain feminine traits, may be "distanced from yet close to" or "close to yet distanced from" the implied author or the protagonist (33). Bin He offers an analysis of Anyi Wang's Everlasting Regret, where the omniscient narrator depicts with approval and appreciation a Shanghai woman's life trajectory, which deviates and thereby gains freedom from phallocentric discourse and judgment. Bin He argues that this conveys the intention of the implied author: paying attention to woman's experiences from a feminine perspective, exhibiting the unique way of living of marginalized woman, and liberating woman from the domination of patriarchal ideology. That is to say, in terms of the anti-conventional feminine consciousness, the narrator, implied author and protagonist are quite in keeping with each other (34). But in the narrator's discourse, there can be detected from time to time uneasiness and hesitation, due to the influence of patriarchal values, which betrays the fact that the narrator is not entirely free from the bondage of conventional moral norms. This creates some "distance within the closeness" between the narrator and the implied author (34).

Bin He also directs attention to a woman writer's choosing a male autodiegetic narrator. In Fang Fang's retrospective first-person narrative Art of Behavior, the male protagonist "I" is male in essence, but the male narrator "I" sometimes displays implicitly or explicitly feminine traits or feminine consciousness, which not only creates gaps within the closeness between the character "I" and the narrator "I," but also generates "closeness within the distance" between the male narrator and the female implied author (35). Bin He observes that the male narrator infiltrated by feminine characteristics not only functions to foreground the anti-conventional feminine narrative features, but also constitute a convenient means for the woman writer to deconstruct the phallocentric illusions and principles (36).

Moreover, Bin He explores the fuzzy narrative distance in Ailing Zhang's The Story of the Golden Lock. In general, the omniscient narrator is a mouthpiece of the implied author and narrates with repulsion and indifference the story of a negative female protagonist who embodies values just opposite to the implied author's. But sometimes, the narrator adopts the character's point of view and narrates her story with sympathy, thus deviating from the implied author's norms. This creates some "distance within the closeness" between the omniscient narrator and the implied author, while generating some "closeness within the distance" between the narrator and the character (35-36). Fuzzy narrative distance is also found in Fang Fang's Ambush, where the male protagonist functions as a third-person reflector. In general, there is a big gap between the female implied author/narrator and the male character marked by selfishness, narrow-mindedness, even brazenness, but the narrator occasionally discovers some good human points in the character, thereby shortening the distance between the character and the narrator/implied author (34-5).

Bin He argues that such fuzziness or variation in narrative distance has the following advantages. First, in terms of characterization, it helps create a more round, authentic and vivid character. Readers can also approach the character and plot development from different angles and dimensions, thereby gaining a deeper understanding of the narrative. Secondly, in terms of thematic significance, as the distance between the narrator, implied author and character varies, the meaning of the narrative becomes rich, complicated and multi-layered, which may stimulate readers' interest, making them participate more actively in the "dialogue" and explore more fully the narrative's rich implications (36).

In analyzing Lianke Yan's novel Solid as Water in first-person narration, Wenbin Mei, drawing on both Booth's model of narrative distance and Phelan's model of narrative progression, traces in the reading process the variation of distance between the reader and the "I," a variation that very much hinges upon the variation of distance between the implied author and the "I" in the narrative progression. At the beginning of the novel, there is created a big gap between the somewhat absurd "I" and the implied author/reader. But as the narrative progresses, the emotional distance is gradually shortened because of the choice of internal focalization and the reader's increasing understanding of the protagonist's internal world, his motives and desires as distorted by the social context of the Cultural Revolution. Although the reader's growing sympathy is not in keeping with the reader's usual moral standards, the former gradually dominates and suppresses the latter. When "I" escapes from confinement, the reader feels pleased; and when "I" commits murder out of revenge, the reader feels worried about his fate, thus sort of becoming an accomplice of the murderer. Mei argues that this is because the implied author, through the use of internal focalization and inside view, successfully shortens the distance between himself and "I" in terms of emotion or psychology, although there remains a big gap in terms of rational judgments. This shortening of distance brings about the shortening of the distance between "I" and the reader whose initial contempt and repulsion towards "I" gradually turn into sympathy and regret in the reading process.

In investigating Hua Yu's The Story of Xu Sanguan's Selling his Blood, Lifei Yan and Baofeng Xu have also based their analysis on Booth's concept of narrative distance in combination with Phelan's model of narrative progression. The frequent variation in distance between the implied author and the protagonist is seen as "the motive force" propelling the progression of the narrative. The variations, which go along with the change in focus from the protagonist himself to the conflict between the protagonist and the social circumstances, include those from satire to appreciation, apathy to sympathy, or from contrastive "double-voicing" (Phelan Narrative 217) to a harmonious "shared voice." Readers continue to derive comic delight, but the source of the delight changes from the incongruity between the implied author and the protagonist to the incongruity between the protagonist and the absurd social circumstances. Readers at the later stages of the narrative progression not only watch the protagonist's behavior with sympathy and approval but also feel themselves the pressure of the social circumstances as well.

In discussing the variations of distance in Xun Lu's "The True Story of Ah Q," Zhi Li directs attention to flesh-and-blood readers' responses. This narrative is a satire on some weaknesses of Chinese as embodied by the comic-tragic anti-hero Ah Q. The main butt of satire is Ah Q's "spiritual victory," which was shared by many flesh-and-blood Chinese readers. When the story was serialized by the supplement of Beijing's Morning News (from Dec. 4, 1921 to Feb. 12, 1922), some readers felt that the implied author seemed to be directly criticizing him or her (22). This enlarged the distance between the readers and the implied author and shortened the distance between the readers and the protagonist. As the narrative and the reading move(d) forward, the readers' misunderstanding of the implied author in this aspect was gradually cleared up and they finally came to the acceptance of the implied author's ideological norms (22).

In investigating the woman writer Ailing Zhang's fiction, Qiong Ma holds a more "static" view on narrative distance. Ma's discussion is only concerned with two kinds of distance: temporal and emotive. In terms of the former, the narrator in Zhang's novels may be seen metaphorically as a modern person who "peers at" the life of the remote past (94). The notable distance in time between the narrator and the characters partly accounts for the unique aesthetic property of Zhang's fiction. The temporally-distanced narration tends to generate an effect of desolation, helplessness and flight of time, creating a sense of unfamiliarity and estrangement in the reading process, but what underlies the remote happening is some eternal truth of human life (94-5). Like other women writers, Ailing Zhang was interested in depicting love, marriage and family, but as distinct from other women writers, in Zhang's nearly 30 novels (with two exceptions), there is almost no "lovable" character, no pure love and no happy marriage. The aim of Zhang's creation is "to tear down the tender veil over 'family', telling the world that 'things are not like that at all'" (95). Not surprisingly, Zhang's narrator is characteristically distanced from the characters in terms of emotion, often showing no sympathy even to very pitiable characters. Through careful analysis, Ma shows that the narrator's cold detachment in presenting the minute details of a character's senseless behavior may help portray "shockingly authentic" characters and invite readers to engage in in-depth thinking about human life, thus able to penetrate into the depth of human nature in an indirect yet forceful way.

Some Chinese scholars have taken a comparative approach in analyzing narrative distance. Hanneng Deng and Haiyang Qin, for instance, compare the different ways of controlling distance between two satirical novels in omniscient narration: Thackeray's Vanity Fair and Qian's Fortress Besieged. The omniscient narrator in Vanity Fair frequently interferes in the capacity of "I," criticizing or sympathizing with characters, even entering the scene as a witness at the end of the story. So the narrator is quite close to the characters, commenting on them as a person comments on his neighbors. This functions to shorten the distance between the reader and the characters, making the former somewhat sympathetic towards certain butts of irony like Rebecca. Moreover, it shortens the distance between the reader and the narrator ("I"), who often seem to engage in a face-to-face communication, and the former is therefore inclined to accept the latter's views. By contrast, the narrator in Fortress Besieged is a god-like entity, high above the characters, consistently marked by cold detachment. With a firm negative attitude towards the characters as a means to expose "the fundamental features of the two-feet hairless animals," the narrator never tries to provide justification for any character's behavior, but sometimes tries, instead, to penetrate into the selfish motives underlying a character's good behavior. Although the narrator adopts from time to time the male protagonist's focalization, he always distinguishes his own stance from that of the character. The readers are therefore not misled by the character's perspective and can perceive the character's weaknesses clearly. The narrator, however, is distanced from readers both because of his detachment and because of his superior knowledge--many illusions and symbols in this "scholarly novel" are beyond the reach of less learned readers. Such differences in narrative distance underlie many significant differences in effects between the two masterpieces of social satire.

Many other aspects of The Rhetoric of Fiction have played a significant role in China, such as the classification of different types of point of view, the distinction between dramatized and undramatized narrators, or the discussion of telling versus showing. But I've singled out for discussion the three most influential concepts: "implied author," "(un)reliability" and "narrative distance" in order to give weight and substance to my broader claim that The Rhetoric of Fiction has helped to transform and promote narrative studies in China on the other side of the globe.


Booth, Wayne C. The Rhetoric of Fiction. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1961 (2nd edition, 1983).

--. The Rhetoric of Fiction. Translated by Lijun Fu. Guilin: Guangxi People's Press, 1987.

--. The Rhetoric of Fiction. Translated by Ming Hua, Shuxiao Hu and Xian Zhou. Beijing: Peking Univ. Press, 1987.

--. The Company We Keep: An Ethics of Fiction. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1989.

--. "Preface" to Contemporary American Theory of Fiction, by Xilin Cheng and Xiaolu Wang, i-ii. Beijing: Foreign Language Teaching & Research Press, 2001.

--. "Resurrection of the Implied Author: Why Bother?" In A Companion to Narrative Theory, edited by James Phelan and Peter J. Rabinowitz, 75-88. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005.

Cao, Xixiu. "Implied Author and Implied Reader in the Framework of Rhetoric of Fiction." Modern Literary Magazine no.5 (2003): 51-4.

Chatman, Seymour. Story and Discourse. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1978.

Cheng, Xilin. "On Booth's The Rhetoric of Fiction." Foreign Literature Review no. 4 (1997): 17-25.

Cheng, Xilin and Xiaolu Wang. Contemporary American Theory, of Fiction. Beijing: Foreign Language Teaching & Research Press, 2001.

Deng, Hanneng and Haiyang Qin. "Comparison and Contrast of Narrative Art in Vanity Fair and Fortress Beseiged." Journal of Sichuan International Studies University 18.1 (2002): 32-34.

Diengott, Nilli. "The Implied Author Once Again." Journal of Literary Semantics 22 (1993): 68-75.

Fan, Xiaoming. "On 'the Implied Author' and its Significance." Journal of Heilongjiang College of Education 24.4 (2005): 88-89.

Gadamer, Hans-Georg. Zhenli yu fangfu (Truth and Method). Translated by Handing Hong. Shanghai: Shanghai Translation Press, 1986.

Genette, Gerard. Narrative Discourse Revisited. Translated by Jane E. Lewin. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1988.

Han, Lixia. "Approaching Some Characteristics of the Overt Narrative Mode of Chinese Drama through Investigating the Structure of Yuan Poetic Drama." Journal of Henan Education College no. 2 (1997): 9-13.

He, Bin. "The Fuzziness of Narrative Distance in Women Writers' Novels." Modern Literary Magazine no.1 (2003): 33-36.

Hu, Yamin. Narratology. Wuhan: Central China Normal Univ. Press. 1994 (2nd edition 2004).

Jiang, Shouyi. "On the Division and Comparison of Modern Novel's Narrative Subject." Journal of Renmin University of China no.4 (2005): 144-49.

Jin, Lili. "On the Art of Space Structure in the Narration of Fairy Tales." Academic Exploration no. 12 (2003): 88-90.

Li, Jianjun. "On the Author and the Implied Author in Fictions." Journal of Renmin University of China no. 3 (2000): 103-07.

--. A Study of the Rhetoric of Fiction. Beijing: Renmin Univ. of China Press. 2003.

Li, Zhi. "Modern Quality of Reading and Control of Distance in Xun Lu's Fiction." Journal of Tangshan Teachers College 26.4 (2004): 21-27.

Liu, Yuexin. "'Implied Author' and Artistic Truthfulness--With Reflections on the Limitations of Chinese Classical Conception of Artistic Truthfulness." Journal of Changsha University of Electronic Power (Social Sciences) no. 4 (1994): 70-74.

--. "On 'the Implied Author' and its Artistic Generation." Jianghai Academic Journal no. 2 (1995): 156-161.

Ma, Qiong. "On the Control of Distance between the Narrator and Characters in Ailing Zhang's Novels." Journal of Yunnan University for Nationalities 20.5 (2003): 94-96.

Mei, Wenbin. "The Control of Distance in Fiction." Journal of Jiujiang University (Philosophy and Social Sciences) no.1 (2005): 58-60.

Nunning, Ansgar. "Reconceptualizing Unreliable Narration: Synthesizing Cognitive and Rhetorical Approaches." In A Companion to Narrative Theory, edited by James Phelan and Peter J. Rabinowitz, 89-107. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005.

Phelan, James. Narrative as Rhetoric. Columbus: Ohio State Univ. Press, 1996.

--. Living to Tell about It. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 2005.

Phelan James and Mary Patricia Martin. "The Lessons of 'Weymouth': Homodiegesis, Unreliability, Ethics. and The Remains of the Day." In Narratologies, edited by David Herman, 88-109. Columbus: Ohio State Univ. Press, 1999.

Ricoeur, Paul. Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences. Translated by Yuanhua Tao et. al. Shijiazhuang: Hebei People's Press, 1987.

She, Xiangjun. "On Constructing the 'Implied Author' in Novel Reading." Journal of South-Central University for Nationalities 24.3 (2004): 151-154.

Shen, Dan. "Do We Need the 'Implied Author'?" Foreign Literatures Quarterly 20.3 (2000): 7-13.

--. Literary Stylistics and Fictional Translation. Beijing: Peking Univ. Press, [1995] 2001.

--. "Author, Text, and Reader: On Wayne C. Booth's Rhetorical Theory of Fiction." In English & American Literary Studies, edited by Jianhua Yu, 16-25. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Languages Education Press, 2002.

--. "Multidimensional, Dynamic, Synergistic: James Phelan's Postclassical Rhetorical Narrative Theory." Foreign Literatures Quarterly 22.2 (2002): 3-11.

--. "The Future of Literary. Theories: Exclusion, Complementarity, Pluralism." Ariel 33 (2002): 159-82.

--. "Implied Author, Narrative Structure and Subtext." Journal of Peking University (Humanities and Social Sciences) no.3 (2005): 114-24.

--. "Why Contextual and Formal Narratologies Need Each Other." JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory 35 (2005): 141-71.

Shen, Dan and Xiaoyi Zhou. "Western Literary Theories in China: Reception, Influence and Resistance." Comparative Critical Studies 3 (2006): 139-155.

Tan, Junqiang. "On the Reliability and Unreliability of the Narrator in Narrative Works." Sixiang Zhanxian 31.6 (2005): 97-101.

--. "Narratorial Intervention and Ideology in Narrative Works." Jiangxi Social Sciences no. 3 (2005): 209-217.

Wang, Fei, and Wei Hua. "Fang Fang: Transcendency and Taste--Rereading Fang Fang with a Discussion on Transcending-Gender Consciousness and Female Implied Author." Contemporary Writers Review no. 5 (1996): 62-72.

Xu, Dai. Narratology of Fiction. Beijing: China Social Sciences Press, 1992.

Yan, Lifei and Baofeng Xu. "The Reliability of Fictitious Narration: Analysis of Narrative Rhetoric in The Story of Xu Sanguan's Selling his Blood." Journal of Hebei University of Science and Technology (Social Sciences) 3.2 (2006): 33-36, 53.

Yang, Yi. Chinese Narratology. Beijing: People's Press, 1997.

Yu, Deshan. "On the Gendered Characteristics of Fictional Narrator." Journal of Nanjing University no. 4 (1996): 112-76.

Zhang, Guixia. "The Narrator and the Implied Author of The Catcher in the Rye." Journal of Luoyang University 19.3 (2004): 51-54.

Zhang, Xiaoyong. "On the Narrator's Unreliability in 'Kong Yiji'." Journal of Qinghai Junior Teachers' College (Education Science) no. 2 (2006): 36-40.

Zhao, Yiheng. Literary Semiotics. Beijing: China Wenlian Publishing Company, 1990.

Zhou, Jingbo. Television Fictional Narrative: An Introduction. Beijing: Culture and Art Press, 2000.

Zhou, Tao. "The Reliability of the First-Person Narration in LU Xun's Short Stories." Journal of Anhai Institute of Eduction 21.1 (2003): 48-51.


(1.) In Chinese, the surname always precedes the first name, just the opposite to the Western order. Nowadays, there is a tendency to preserve the Chinese name order in publications in Western languages, especially in the case of the names of well-known Chinese persons. But in order to avoid confusing Western readers, the present essay has consistently used the Western name order (except for the names of characters appearing in the titles of Chinese narratives). I would also like to note here another Chinese peculiarity, which has to do with the Works Cited section. Chinese journals traditionally do not count in terms of volumes, but only in terms of year, with each issue starting from page 1. Recently, under Western influence, some Chinese journals, especially new ones, have started counting in volumes, but each issue in a volume still starts from page 1.

(2.) Various Western contextual approaches, such as feminist criticism, Marxist criticism, New Historicism and cultural studies, have played an important role in the re-contextualization of literary studies in China, but Western contextual or postclassical narratologies were very much neglected in China in the 1990s when Chinese narratologists were primarily concerned with Western classical narratology or engaged in building up Chinese narrative poetics. Many works of Western classical narratology published in the 1970s or early 1980s were translated into Chinese in the 1990s. In order to redress the neglect of the postclassical, I published a series of essays on postclassical narratologies and edited a translation series entitled "New Narrative Theory" (Peking Univ. Press, 2002), including the translations of Susan S. Lanser's Fictions of Authority, James Phelan's Narrative as Rhetoric and David Herman (ed.) Narratologies, which have played a key role in arousing Chinese readers' interest in postclassical narrative theory. It is, however, very important to realize the fact that the relation between postclassical narratologies and classical/formal narrative poetics in the West is not one of replacement, but one of continuing mutual nourishment (see Shen "Why Contextual").

(3.) Failure to grasp the dual identity of the "implied author" in relation to both the encoding process and the decoding process has led to many critical debates (for summaries of the debates, see Phelan Living 38-49; Diengott 68-73; Niinning 91-2). Seymour Chatman, for instance, while viewing the implied author both as the "inventor" of the text and as "the patterns in the text," confines the implied author to the text itself (Coming 84-87), which has incurred Nilli Diengott's challenge: "One wonders how the source, the inventor, can be a depersonified pattern [or vice versa] in the text" (71, original italics). In trying to get rid of the contradiction, Diengott narrows down the scope of consideration to the word "implied" alone, leaving aside the word "author" (73). Thus we get a one-sided picture of the decoding process, losing sight of the implied author as the constructor of the text. In Living to Tell About It, James Phelan offers a re-conception of the implied author "not [as] a product of the text but rather [as] the agent responsible for bringing the text into existence" (45-9), which has significantly helped to clarify the issue, but which focuses on the encoding process only.

(4.) Apart from the contextual reason, there is also a disciplinary reason. Western narratologists tend to treat the "implied author" only as an element of narrative poetics (see, for instance, Genette 148). And since narrative poetics is only concerned with the structure of the text, the "implied author" is therefore viewed only as an aspect of the structure of the text, as the text's norms.

(5.) Interestingly, Lixia Han in her 1997 essay applies the concept of the "implied author" to the generic investigation of the poetic drama of the Yuan Dynasty.

(6). In contrast with Jiang's discussion which sees the implied author and the narrator as two contending subjective forces, Deshan Yu explores the control the implied author exerts over the narrator as a puppet.

Dan Shen is Changjiang Professor of English and Director of the Center for European & American Literatures at Peking (Beijing) University. Apart from her numerous books and essays published in China, she has published over 30 essays in North America and Europe in narrative theory, stylistics, literary theory, and translation studies.
COPYRIGHT 2007 Ohio State University Press
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Shen, Dan
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:May 1, 2007
Previous Article:Keeping company in Hollywood: ethical issues in nonfiction film.
Next Article:Fiction as restriction: self-binding in new ethical theories of the novel.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |