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Description and perspective: the representation of interiors.

The narratological analysis of description and even its definition and distinction from surrounding narrative report of action has given rise to a host of problems and questions (Genette, Bal, Klaus, Ronen), as indeed the introduction to this special issue has already briefly acknowledged. Narratological study of description has invariably focused on the nineteenth-century novel and its Modernist heirs, and to a lesser extent on the prevalence of description in the nouveau roman (though Genette argues that even there description does not replace narrative but becomes narrativized--"Frontieres" 59-60). Extensive work has been done on the enumeration of items in descriptive passages (Hamon, "What is"; Bal 122; Haupt) and on the articulation of themes and subthemes (see Bal and the studies she summarizes; Mosher and Zoran) as well as the elaboration of contiguous features and qualities that serve to expand lists into descriptions in Balzac or Zola (Hamon, Introduction, "What is"). (2) David Lodge, in a brief subsection of The Modes of Modern Writing (93-103), has additionally noted the inherently metonymic character of descriptions (see also Bal 122); not only does the narrative move from one contiguous item to the other but the qualities ascribed to the listed objects tend to become representative of the place or person(s) described. Characters' habits and clothing inevitably signal their morals or beliefs, thus operating on the lines of synecdoche. However, as Lodge notes, these metonymies often congeal into metaphors and symbols (he defines a symbol as a "metaphorical metonymy"--100) since the rhetorical elaboration of the noted objects or features consistently resorts to metaphoric implication. At the same time, Lodge points out that description may sometimes forego the use of tropes but then tends to achieve a generally 'metonymic' effect through the extensive use of "repetition, balance, and antithesis," a strategy--illustrated on the example of E. M. Forster's opening paragraph to A Passage to India--that Lodge regards as "perhaps the nearest thing in prose to 'the projection of the principle of equivalence from the axis of selection into the axis of combination'" (98).

Other narratological studies of description have focused on description's non-storylike (event-less) quality. Description occurs in the pauses of narrative progression (events and dialogue) just like narratorial commentary. As Seymour Chatman's model illustrates to perfection, existents and setting provide the static background on which the dynamically conceived events are configured (66-81). In accordance with Chatman, both Hamon (Introduction, "What is,") and Margolin ("Character") emphasize the strong correlation between description and constitution of character. The tendency to partition description off from the surrounding report of events is carried to an extreme in Helmut Bonheim's The Narrative Modes, in which he sees texts as splitting up into four kinds of chunks: narrative report, commentary, dialogue, and description. There is, as I have argued, a tendency in the development of written narrative from an oral model of storytelling to the rise of the novel in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to increasingly proportion the narrative discourse into alternate segments of report, commentary, description, and dialogue scenes (later also representations of characters' thoughts), which eventually expand into discrete textual units in the discourse (see Fludernik, Towards, Chapters 2-4). In the nineteenth-century novel, this practice of juxtaposing these four types of textual elements rose to a high point. The pattern appears in many nineteenth-century novels like Le Pere Goriot, which opens with a several pages' long description of the setting (zooming in on the characters from a survey of the region to the town and down to the house in which the protagonists live); the novel thus anticipates sociological analysis in a synecdochic manner.

Description moreover has been noted to be a crucial functional element in the configuration of narrative dynamics. Expositional information is preponderantly descriptive, whether of setting or characters, and the passages providing expositional information can be placed both at the beginning of the narrative or in intermittent sections throughout (compare to Sternberg's distributive exposition in "What is Exposition"). Indeed, exposition, at least in Sternberg's sense, seems to be the equivalent of what linguists like Labov and later discourse or conversation analysts call "orientation" (see Norrick; Ochs and Capps; Ruhlemann). It is a well noted fact that in conversational storytelling, orientation can be placed either at the beginning of stories or in brief chunks later in the story ("delayed orientation"). (3)

In what follows, I would like to take my inspiration from a so-far little-noted section in Stanzel's Theory of the Novel and discuss his thesis of a/perspectivism. I will then turn to a linguistic model dealing with perspective in factual descriptions (giving directions), which was first elaborated by William Labov and Charlotte Linde and later expanded by Holly Taylor and Barbara Tversky in a series of articles. Contrasting these two models serves two interests: the elucidation of perspective in description, which will also involve a discussion of focalization, and, secondly, the integration into narratological analysis of linguistic approaches to the text type description. In a third section I will illustrate the usefulness of these models for a range of example passages from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and try to formulate some insights into the possibility of combining the linguistic and literary-narratological approach. It needs to be noted that this article draws exclusively on English-language examples and that the study of German, French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, etc. texts (not to mention those of non-Indo-European languages) is a prime desideratum and would provide ample material for dozens of PhD theses.

1. Perspectivism and Aperspectivism: Stanzel's Model Reconsidered

In section 5.2 of his Theory of Narrative, Stanzel proposed a thesis regarding the development of description. He submitted the hypothesis that before the late nineteenth century--in fact before the advent of the figural novel, i.e. the novel of internal focalization--descriptive passages tended to be aperspectival, whereas, with the onset of intenal focalization, perspectivism asserted itself. The only critic to have engaged with this thesis so far is Manfred Jahn, who noted that his students consistently agreed that Stanzel's example of perspectivism (an extract from James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) was a clear instance of perspectival description but overwhelmingly balked at the alleged aperspectival nature of the Trollope passage, which Stanzel quotes as illustrating a lack of perspective (Jahn 95-6). What does Stanzel, then, mean by the term (a)perspectivism?

Stanzel's definition of this term, it should be underlined, does not at all coincide with internal focalization per se; after all, since Stanzel is well aware that the figural novel emerges only at the turn of the twentieth century, it does not make sense to expect internal focalization to occur in the Victorian or eighteenth-century authorial novel. Instead, Stanzel's hypothesis concerns the imaginative evocation of novelistic space and the reader's ability to visualize the setting in precise and empirically validatable terms. Stanzel's practical test consists in readers trying to draw a map of the space depicted in the descriptive passage. As it so happens, his two examples are both of interiors (although he could have chosen gardens or landscapes); his thesis is not in principle restricted to the inside of houses.

Let us look at the passage cited by Stanzel as an example of aperspectival description. It comes from Trollope's Barchester Towers (1857) and delineates the shocking experience of Dr. Grantly and Mr. Harding when they first visit the new bishop, Dr. Proudie, in his office:

His lordship was at home, and the two visitors were shown through the accustomed hall into the well-known room where the good old bishop used to sit. The furniture had been bought at a valuation, and every chair and table, every bookshelf against the wall, and every square in the carpet was as well known to each of them as their own bedrooms. Nevertheless they at once felt that they were strangers there. The furniture was for the most part the same, yet the place had been metamorphosed. A new sofa had been introduced, a horrid chintz affair, most unprelatical and almost irreligious; such a sofa as never yet stood in the study of any decent High Church clergyman of the Church of England. The old curtains had also given way. They had, to be sure, become dingy, and that which had been originally a rich and goodly ruby had degenerated into a reddish brown. Mr. Harding, however, thought the old reddish-brown much preferable to the gaudy buff-coloured trumpery moreen which Mrs. Proudie had deemed good enough for her husband's own room in the provincial city of Barchester.

Our friends found Dr. Proudie sitting on the old bishop's chair, looking very nice in his new apron; they found, too, Mr. Slope standing on the hearth-rug, persuasive and eager, just as the archdeacon used to stand; but on the sofa they also found Mrs. Proudie, an innovation for which a precedent might in vain be sought in all the annals of the Barchester bishopric! (Barchester Towers, v; Trollope 33-4; qtd. in Stanzel, A Theory 120; my emphasis)

The passage is of course an ironic comment on the traditionalism of the rural clergy, who expect everything to remain exactly the same, down to the furnishings of the bishop's chambers. It also registers (perhaps less ironically so) the Victorian male affront at the female intrusion into the male preserve of clerical business, at the domestic sphere transgressing into the public domain. Mrs. Proudie has not merely dared to change the curtains (it is, incidentally, rather strange that the color buff, not a flaming red or tasteless pink or peagreen, should receive such derisory notice); she has moreover intruded her sofa and herself into the bishop's official premises, thus annihilating the boundary between private and public space.

As Stanzel correctly notes, one would be hard put to draw a map of the depicted room, since its content is given, but not the relationship of the individual items in their relation to one another. One can imagine the bishop's desk to be on the left, the fireplace with the hearth-rug in the middle, the windows on the right, and the notorious sofa placed in the middle downstage so to speak; but the fireplace could just as well be to the right, the sofa to the left, and the desk in the upstage middle, with two sets of windows to the left and right of it. (4) The narrative does not authorize us to read the sequence of impressions as occurring in a left to right clockwise direction. On the contrary, the passage is structured rhetorically by moving from the familiar to the unfamiliar and scandalous. To this extent, then, Stanzel is perfectly within his rights to characterize the passage as aperspectival.

Why, then, Jahn's students' "doubt and incomprehension" (96)? An explanation might be sought in the implied perspective of the paragraph. What we are confronted with are the impressions registered by the two entering clergymen. They step into a very familiar room and note as a piece de resistance first the sofa, and then the curtains, and finally, horror of horrors, Mrs. Proudie enthroned upon her "chintz affair." The passage therefore could be argued to reflect the newcomers' gaze as it sweeps across the familiar surroundings and gets arrested at what they perceive to be striking incongruities. The narrative is therefore not devoid of perspective, but it veils the precise spatial arrangement of the items noted by the two visitors and overlays the clergymen's impressions and moral outrage by a narratorial medium that filters their consciousness through a highly elaborate rhetorical discourse: "every chair and table, every bookshelf against the wall, and every square in the carpet was as well known to each of them as their own bedrooms." This passage is not likely to be free indirect discourse, though the vocabulary of scandalization mimics the indignation experienced by the two guests. Were one to turn to Uspensky, one could therefore argue that this vignette expresses Grantly's and Harding's perspective ideologically and psychologically but not linguistically or spatially. Hence the impression of Jahn's students that this cannot be totally "aperspectival."

Jahn's essay is less interested in spatial arrangements than in issues of focalization. He proposes to include under the umbrella of focalization the three subareas of (A) affect, (B) perception, and (C) conceptualization, where (B) encompasses all senses and "imaginary perception (recollection, imagination, dream, hallucination, etc.)" (88), and (C) reimports voice into the concept of focalization. It is under (C) that one would place ideology, I suppose. Though I am in great sympathy with Jahn's attempt to breach Genette's separation of who sees and who speaks (compare Fludemik, "New Wine"), and although he allows for two deictic centers in texts of what he calls "ambient focalization" (104), the summary alignment of all aspects of focalization (Uspensky's perspective) appears to me to be counterintuitive, given the prevalence of narratives in which the object of perception is rendered from a distinct spatial perspective while the affectual and ideological stances do not correlate with the character's point of view; also Jahn's inclusion of deixis among the conceptualization category (C) (89) seems to undermine its close connection with spatial perspective.

When one turns back to Stanzel's major thesis, however, focusing on the inability to draw a map of the setting, the passage's aperspectivism immediately emerges as an important quality of the extract and opens our eyes to a major historical fact of novelistic narrative, namely the dearth of spatial perspectivism in literary descriptions before the end of the nineteenth century. That is, not only are there few descriptive sections in narratives before the nineteenth century: descriptions, when they do occur, are in fact very rarely perspectival. The essays collected in this special issue largely corroborate Stanzel's thesis (see the contributions by Miller and Keen). Actually, as Sternberg ("Ordering") illustrates in reference to a Dickens passage from chapter eight of Bleak House, spatial mimeticism may often be deceptive. In the sequence "Beyond the flower-garden was a kitchen-garden, and then a paddock, and then a snug little rick-yard, and then a dear little farmyard" (Dickens, Bleak House 143), the text "gives the impression of an actual movement from one spatial point to another," yet "neither portrayal coheres in purely objective (chronological to the exclusion of perspectival) terms" (Sternberg, "Ordering" 87). (5)

2. Linguistic Approaches to Perspective in Descriptions

Though narratology has often resorted to linguistics for its inspiration regarding concepts and terminology, in recent decades narratological studies of description have not turned to available linguistic models that characterize the text type description or analyze typical subtypes of description in their pragmatics.

In this essay I would like to look at one model that has become standard in linguistics, Taylor and Tversky's tripartite distinction between (a) the survey perspective, (b) the gaze perspective, and (c) the route perspective. Basically, (a) correlates with a bird's eye or up-and-above-looking-down perspective, characterized by the avoidance of deictics (which would root the point of vision in a particular place) and the use of non-deictic, universal orientational vocabulary (i.e. east, west, north, south). Such a perspective is neutral with respect to human subjective positions, but of course not really universal: imagine locating the spectator on the moon. In other words, (a) can be aligned with a conventionalized viewpoint of objectivity. By contrast, (b) and (c) locate the observer within the described space, either as a stationary viewpoint or as a moving focal point. Thus, as we have seen, in the passage cited by Stanzel, Grantly and Harding enter the study and we are introduced to what they see (gaze perspective); on the other hand, a passage like the following has the viewer move with the boat and hence focuses on impressions that keep changing as the observer changes position: "Finally the riverboat left; and the two banks, crowded with warehouses, boat yards, and factories, slipped by like two broad, unwinding ribbons" (Flaubert, L'education sentimentale, 1869; qtd. in Mosher 434).

This tripartite distinction has been developed from an originally dual one proposed in Linde and Labov, in which only the survey and route perspectives had been contrasted dichotomously as employing nondeictic vs. deictic referents. As Taylor and Tversky demonstrate, survey perspectives are extremely rare in conversational language and occur most often in scientific prose or in texts adopting a geographical, map-related stance (6). Nor is the prevalence of gaze-tour perspectives in delineating views and of route perspectives when giving direction to an interlocutor really surprising. What comes as a bit of unexpected news are the facts that, in stationary depictions of spaces, both gaze and route perspectives can be found, and that these two modes of conceptualizing space--as a rule--interact and combine, leaving 'pure' gaze or route perspectives in the minority (Tversky et al.).

My concerns here are, first, to what extent the distinction between these three perspectives is or is not applicable to the literary analysis of descriptive passages; and, second, whether it could be theoretically useful and might be integrated into narratological models of perspective or focalization. It has to be noted at the outset that the selected linguistic model focuses exclusively on visual perspective. Since orientational contexts have been chosen, affect, ideology, or psychology do not play any role in Taylor and Tversky's (or Labov and Linde's) analyses. Although this restriction may initially suggest that the merely visual emphasis in the model presents a disadvantage for the literary critic, the assumption does not, I believe, hold true. Precisely owing to its exclusively spatial slant, Taylor and Tversky's model provides a tool for the analysis of literary spatiality that conveniently serves to extend the predominantly literary angles employed hitherto in the narratological and critical study of description.

As a survey of articles on description easily demonstrates, narratologists are obsessed with description's relationship to narrative report (see Ronen's fine article "Description, Narrative, and Representation" on that score). At the same time, literary critics have understandably been more interested in issues of structure and coherence--a cognitively very exciting area since the ordering of the chaos of observed reality into a logical succession of concepts deserves extensive attention (see Sternberg, "Ordering"). They have also focused on the stylistic and symbolic strategies utilized by individual authors and specific texts. Most of all, literary critics have been fascinated with the functions of descriptive passages: as expressions of a character's impressions, preoccupations, or moods or as an instance of narratorial slant. Clearly, in everyday instructions on how to find one's way to, say, the station, there is only one function: that of providing optimal orientation (assuming the prevalence of the Gricean cooperative principle). It is precisely the bareness of ulterior motives or elaborations that makes the linguistic toolbox useful. As I would contend, the three perspectives outlined by Taylor and Tversky can help literary critics to disentangle themselves from issues of focalization, evaluative and symbolic overload, and a focus on adjectives and lexical ingenuity in order to concentrate simply on spatiality per se.

With the chosen linguistic model at hand, we can, for instance, note that many novels start with a survey perspective of the region in which they have set their story. Observe, for instance, the following passage from Quentin Durward (1823):

It was upon a delicious summer morning, before the sun had assumed its scorching power, and while the dews yet cooled and perfumed the air, that a youth, coming from the northeastward approached the ford of a small river, or rather a large brook, tributary to the Cher, near to the royal Castle of Plessis les Tours, whose dark and multiplied battlements rose in the background over the extensive forest with which they were surrounded. These woodlands comprised a noble chase, or royal park, fenced by an enclosure, termed, in the Latin of the middle ages, Plexitium, which gives the name of Plessis to so many villages in France. The castle and village of which we particularly speak, was called Plessis les Tours, to distinguish it from others, and was built about two miles to the southward of the fair town of that name, the capital of ancient Touraine, whose rich plain has been termed the Garden of France.

On the bank of the above mentioned brook, opposite to that which the traveller was approaching, two men, who appeared in deep conversation, seemed, from time to time, to watch his motions; for, as their station was much more elevated, they could remark him at considerable distance. (Scott 47)

Note the use of the referents "northeastward" and "southward," which place the point of observation above the landscape. This bird's-eye perspective is soon compromised by a zoom in on the traveler, necessitating a viewpoint in the landscape, which logically leads to his encounter with the two travelers, thus perspectivally modulating authorial perspective into the story-internal viewpoint of the characters themselves. It therefore appears that the up-and-above position of the authorial narrator--usually taken to be a metaphor--can in fact be demonstrated literally by pointing to the use of adeictic spatial coordinates in similar opening passages.

A good example of a gaze perspective can be observed in the following extract from Jane Eyre (1847):
   The hall was not dark, nor yet was it lit, only by the high-hung
   bronze lamp; a warm glow suffused both it and the lower steps of
   the oak staircase. This ruddy shine issued from the great
   dining-room, whose two-leaved door stood open, and showed a genial
   fire in the grate, glancing on marble hearth and brass fire-irons,
   and revealing purple draperies and polished furniture, in the most
   pleasant radiance. It revealed, too, a group near the mantelpiece:
   I had scarcely caught it, and scarcely become aware of a cheerful
   mingling of voices, amongst which I seemed to distinguish the tones
   of Adele, when the door closed. (148)

Here Jane's perspective in her role as experiencing self is not merely visual but also focalized in the full narratological sense of the word; as regards her visual and aural impressions, they are linked to a stationary viewpoint and delineate a succession of observations as they crowd into her mind. Although the gaze tour is not circular, registering everything in anti-/clockwise direction, but traces a front-to-back trajectory, the spatial perspective is that of a mobile gaze anchored in a static observer position.

Chapter IV of Nicholas Nickleby (1838-9), by contrast, combines a survey perspective (with a deliberate moralizing and didactic slant) with a route perspective, creating a virtual tour of the premises of the depicted inn, the Saracen's Head:

There, at the very core of London, in the heart of its business and animation, in the midst of a whirl of noise and motion: stemming as it were the giant currents of life that flow ceaselessly on from different quarters, and meet beneath its walls: stands Newgate; and in that crowded street on which it frowns so darkly--within a few feet of the squalid tottering houses--upon the very spot on which the vendors of soup and fish and damaged fruit are now plying their trades--scores of human beings, amidst a roar of sounds to which even the tumult of a great city is as nothing, four, six, or eight strong men at a time, have been hurried violently and swiftly from the world, when the scene has been rendered frightful with excess of human life; when curious eyes have glared from casement and house-top, and wall and pillar; and when, in the mass of white and upturned faces, the dying wretch, in his all-comprehensive look of agony, has met not one--not one--that bore the impress of pity or compassion.

Near to the jail, and by consequence near to Smithfield also, and the Compter, and the bustle and noise of the city; and just on that particular part of Snow Hill where omnibus horses going eastward seriously think of falling down on purpose, and where horses in hackney cabriolets going westward not unfrequently fall by accident, is the coach-yard of the Saracen's Head Inn [...]. [Tjhere they are, frowning upon you from each side of the gateway. The inn itself garnished with another Saracen's Head, frowns upon you from the top of the yard; while from the door of the hind boot of all the red coaches that are standing therein, there glares a small Saracen's Head, with a twin expression to the large Saracens' Heads below, so that the general appearance of the pile is decidedly of the Saracenic order. When you walk up this yard, you will see the booking-office on your left, and the tower of St Sepulchre's church, darting abruptly up into the sky, on your right, and a gallery of bedrooms on both sides. Just before you, you will observe a long window with the words 'coffee-room' legibly painted above it; and looking out of that window, you would have seen in addition, if you had gone at the right time, Mr Wackford Squeers with his hands in his pockets. (Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby 29-30)

This passage makes its beginnings in an authorial disquisition on the meaning of "Snow Hill," the destination printed on coaches completing their journey at the Saracen's Head. It invokes strangers' fantasies about the beauties of a place associated with white and innocent snow and a rural setting, fantasies which the second paragraph here quoted then shows to be delusory. Seen from an undefined perspective, the Saracen's Head is located in an area of bustle and squalid dilapidation, with Newgate figuring as the core of the precinct. Newgate, whether by contrast or synecdoche, is then equated with executions and the execrations directed against the condemned. Note the typically 'omniscient' role of the survey perspective that encompasses not merely an area view of London but a temporal panorama exceeding the present moment. The authorial surveying takes a specifically literary turn in synecdochically establishing death and the lack of compassion for one's fellow mortals as characteristic of London's heart of capitalism--foreshadowing Ralph Nickleby's heartlessness as well as (by way of the Newgate executions) his suicide by hanging and the criminal city business practices to which he owes allegiance. Although the perspective outlined in this paragraph belongs to an area view, it lacks the prototypical north-south-east-west referents. One can argue that the purpose of the passage is to disorient rather than to orient the reader, focusing on a specific patch of the London map but foregrounding the disorderliness and indiscriminate and frightening jumbling together of objects, streets, and people in their arrivals and macabre departures.

The following paragraph, still perspectivally unfocused, takes us to the Saracen's Head as contiguous to the jail, with the cut-off heads of Saracens echoing those of the executed felons. Only then does the narrative drop down to the position of the entry into the inn, adopting the visitor's perspective and taking him through the establishment all the way to where Mr. Squeers (a jailbird in character, as we will find out) is positioned. By using the second-person pronoun for this virtual tour (note the conditional tense), the passage addresses the narratee and enhances the reader's adoption of a text-internal imaginary perspective in a very detailed (right, left) spatial delineation of the setting.

What the linguistic terminology here can help to profile is the way in which spatial perspective shifts and how it combines with focalization, by which I mean the location of the perspective within a character's affective and reflecting mind. The cited examples, however, also demonstrate that a linguistic model like Taylor and Tversky's is insufficient, in and by itself, to account for literary descriptions in their fullest range. The shift from external to quasi-internal focalization in this last passage cannot do justice to the symbolic significance of the description; it also has no instrumentarium to analyze the ironies of this extract.

Taylor and Tversky would be even more at sea in handling extremely metaphoric passages such as the following from Chapter xx of Little Dorrit (1855-7):
   They [Amy and Fanny] walked on with him [Frederick Dorrit] until
   they came to a dirty shop window in a dirty street, which was made
   almost opaque by the steam of hot meats, vegetables, and puddings.
   But glimpses were to be caught of a roast leg of pork bursting into
   tears of sage and onion in a metal reservoir full of gravy, of an
   unctuous piece of roast beef and blisterous Yorkshire pudding,
   bubbling hot in a similar receptacle, of a stuffed fillet of veal
   in rapid cut, of a ham in a perspiration with the pace it was going
   at, of a shallow tank of baked potatoes glued together by their own
   richness, of a truss or two of boiled greens, and other substantial
   delicacies. Within, were a few wooden partitions, behind which such
   customers as found it more convenient to take away their dinners in
   stomachs than in their hands, packed their purchases in solitude.

   (237; my emphasis)

Although one could argue that this is an example of a gaze perspective, such a finding concerning the spatial quality of the description appears of negligible importance; it fails to do justice to the crucial foregrounding of the 'unnatural' or magic in the depiction of the scene, a feature whose ascription remains indeterminate. Is this a rendering of what Amy Dorrit, Fanny, and her uncle see when they look into the shop window, or is this a purely authorial stylistic tour deforce? In any case, the obtrusive stylistic defamiliarization that becomes operative in this extract sidelines spatial perspective and requires a literary approach that can point out its intertextual allusion to fairy tales, discuss its metaphoric exuberance and interpret the transgressions between human and non-human attributes in the passage. (7)

3. Theoretical and Historical Conclusions

In the previous two sections, we have first, looked at Stanzel's aperspectivism thesis for spatial descriptions before the end of the nineteenth century and, secondly, applied Taylor and Tversky's model of three types of spatial perspective to a range of early nineteenth-century texts. As we saw, Stanzel's thesis, if applied to spatiality and not confounded with focalization (as in Jahn's critique of it in what is, after all, a study of focalization), correctly highlights a feature of pre-modernist narrative descriptions, namely their prevalent tendency to focus on a few foregrounded items in the room without producing an exhaustive and perspectivally oriented reproduction of the visual field. Only in tour perspective descriptions is complete information of a visual order forthcoming, and tour perspectives can be found predominantly in modernist--that is to say, internally focalized--narratives (though not exclusively so, as the passage from Nicholas Nickleby demonstrates). Within the framework of Stanzel's model, pre-twentieth-century perspectival visual presentation is the exception to the rule but may occasionally be encountered in guided tours (e.g. in the work of Celia Fiennes and Defoe; see Fludemik, "Perspective and Focalization"). What is interesting to note, though, is that Stanzel's perspectivism--the delineation of objects in reproducible relation to one another--does not seem to be a quality current in gaze perspectives (Trollope's Barchester Towers).

My analysis of texts has also suggested that focalization--if conceived of not merely as visual orientation but as subsuming psychological, linguistic, and ideological aspects--need not correlate with spatial parameters. A particular descriptive passage may, as is the case with the Trollope example, convey a visual (in this case, gaze) perspective and an ideological, evaluative stance anchored in the same observer, but it may at the same time be linguistically authorial (though containing a few loan words from characters' discourse) and convey the characters' consciousness only indirectly (not in the mode of free indirect discourse; the Trollope passage cannot even be argued to consist of consonant psychonarration). Since most scholars see internal focalization or the presence of reflector mode narrative as the key paradigm for focalization in the meaning of limited perspective, it is imperative to distinguish between (full) focalization on the one hand and the combination of various types of perspectivization on the other.

As a consequence, Stanzel's thesis does indeed make a useful prediction about a comparative scarcity of visually perspectival descriptions in English literature before the onset of fully focalized narratives in the canon of Modernism. Even more interesting is the realization that spatial perspectives exist in literature that do not allow for a full reconstruction of settings.

The rarity of spatial perspectivism that does correlate with a distinct gaze perspective is all the more notable because it suggests a cultural and hence diachronically inflected manifestation of visual attention. Unlike many situations in everyday linguistic exchange--in which information and complete reliability are expected by convention in fictional narratives--, descriptions serve a variety of discrete and overlapping functions, but these functions do not include providing full orientation in the imaginary world. On the contrary, readers want to be able to imaginatively project their own visions and are therefore fully satisfied with receiving only functionally relevant information. Exhaustive description, except for aesthetic display or for symbolic purposes, may even generate suspicion, in some cases deservedly so. (8)

What I am saying is that Stanzel correctly identifies fictional vagueness respecting descriptive passages but that the surprising development is not perhaps the overwhelming lack of perspectivism (in his sense) before Modernism. Orientational perspectivism could be qualified as a feature of exact realism, of a Modernist 'counting the streaks of the tulip' (excoriated in Samuel Johnson's Rasselas) or of observing the "halo" of reality in everyday objects in Virginia Woolf's theories of fiction. (9) This kind of exactitude is being ridiculed and parodied in postmodernist nouveau-roman prose on the lines of Alain Robbe-Grillet's La Jalousie or Michel Butor's La Modification. The unexpected benefits of Stanzel's insights therefore lie in the historical diagnosis they allow us to perform and in the interesting questions they allow us to ask about developments after Modernism.

Turning to the linguistic model, the main question is to what extent the three types of perspective proposed by Taylor and Tversky are a useful complement to our literary analyses of descriptions. From one point of view, they are extremely serviceable since they help us distinguish how particular passages--for instance, the one from Nicholas Nickleby quoted above--modulate from one kind of perspective to the other. I would also contend that an analysis of authorial practices of description can be usefully enhanced by recourse to the concepts supplied by Taylor and Tversky.

On the other hand, Taylor and Tversky's tripartite model leaves much to be desired in terms of satisfactorily accounting for the novelistic textual evidence. In literary descriptions, the prototypical perspectives they propose occur only rarely in singular manifestations. The most common type of description--instanced by Stanzel's Trollope example--does not consist in a mixture of gaze and route perspective, as is the case in non-fictional descriptions (Tversky et al.), but in a combination of perspective and stylistic effect. Thus, the virtual viewer may be positioned at a distinct point in relation to the observed processes or objects (gaze perspective), but this is flanked by a use of spatial descriptors that are either non-deictic or indeterminate; moreover, the ordering of perceived items in the text does not always follow a spatial sequence or along spatial coordinates of contiguity but frequently operates in terms of salience, affect, size, color, etc.--or, put differently, in subjectively inflected rather than logically prescribed terms.

One might dismiss this criticism as irrelevant to a linguistic model, which after all was set up to account for everyday instructional contexts. However, Taylor and Tversky's paradigm in fact sketches three cognitively distinct frames of spatial perception: (a) observer situated above and using neutral adeictic referential expressions; (b) viewer situated in the field of observation, immobile and using deictic expressions of reference; and (c) observer situated in the field of observation and moving along a path, again with deictic referential expressions. This triad does not contain (d) an observer situated above the described landscape or town and employing indeterminate referential expressions that impede precise localization, or (e) a situation-internal description static or mobile which avoids deictic expressions and features salient objects not necessarily positioned contiguously.

One could argue that (d) and (e) share one aspect of the survey perspective, namely its globalizing view on the observed situation, which therefore is characterized as a whole before any of its parts are mentioned. Both (d) and (e) could be labeled 'impressionistic' since they do not aim at a systematic representation of visual experience or of the observed setting but at a subjective selection of characteristics noted in the given space. The subjectivity may be the authorial narrator's or a character's (or group of characters'). In the first instance, it need not be objective or aloof but can be downright quirky and odd:

The City stood, a set of mislaid dentures, somewhere near the middle of nothing. There was no discernible reason why it should have been built there rather than anywhere else, no great river, no range of protective mountains, not so much as an inflection in the ground. Some pioneer or other must have dropped his knapsack there out of weariness, or else a horse had died, and the city had grown from this negligible seed like a tree, or a disease.

(Ustinov, Krumnagel 5; qtd. in Jahn 91)

Though the foregrounding of metaphor and of idiosyncratic perceptions belongs to the literature after the 1840s, an emphasis on personal predilection and affective saliency or simply pragmatic relevance is notable already in Moll Flanders' accounts of the places from which she steals (or tries to steal) or in the depiction of Fanny's room in Mansfield Park.

What I am suggesting is that a cognitively oriented model needs to integrate also more subjective types of perspective. It might then be useful to utilize such an expanded linguistic model when accounting for spatiality in fiction rather than the traditional terminology of focalization, which--despite its metaphoric origins in visuality and perception--in fact tends to incorporate issues of psychology, ideology, and even voice (register) when applied to particular passages in novels. Hence, my proposal is to distinguish between (A) a global survey and (B) a restricted gaze perspective and to further subdivide these into (A1) adeictic objectivity and (A2) indefinite global viewpoint, (B1) a sub-global survey of a restricted area, (B2) a deictic gaze perspective, (B3) a non-deictic subjective gaze perspective, and (B4) a dynamic tour perspective, which is usually deictic, but may also operate on individually subjective principles.

Further studies of texts will show whether this is or is not a useful extension of Taylor and Tversky. What is very important for narratologists, though, is the fact that authorial narrative can take a viewpoint both above and within fiction; descriptions of an authorial cast do not need to remain on the extradiegetic level, so to speak. A description can be perspectivally sub-global and not linked to the subjective evaluative stance of a character but foreground views in correlation to the narrator's selectional criteria of saliency. Thus, focalization and (a)perspectivism need not coincide. There as elsewhere, Sternberg's Proteus principle of there not being any package deals applies ("Proteus in Quotation-Land"): no inherent correlation seems to pertain between deixis and perspective.

Monika Fludernik

University of Freiburg, Germany


(1) Research for this article was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) in the context of the Graduate School "Factual and Fictional Narration" (GRK 1767).

(2) Sternberg ("Ordering" 71) characterizes the "typical" structure of "continuous blocks of description" as "formal parataxis cum semantic contiguity" in which the collocation of items "serves to bring out the affinity--ranging from complex analogy to precise homology--between sequential microcosm and descriptive macrocosm" (original emphasis).

(3) See also Fludernik, Towards, Chapter 2.

(4) I know too little of Victorian interior design to assume that the fireplace would, for instance, generally tend to be placed between the windows.

(5) He also discusses a passage from Madame Bovary.

(6) See also the essay by Tversky, Lee, and Mainwaring.

(7) This is not to say that in other respects linguistics per se could not be extremely helpful in elucidating this passage. For instance, the curious inversion of characterizing take-away food being consumed on the premises as being packed away in one's stomach not only raises very interesting cognitive questions but can be handled more easily by resorting to linguistic terminology, though not to the Taylor/Tversky model.

(8) In a manuscript that Robert Clark has kindly allowed me to see, he demonstrates, for instance, that Crusoe's painstakingly detailed measurements regarding the fence around his cave are completely wrong.

(9) The reference is to Chapter x of Johnson's novel (Johnson 352) and to Woolf's "Modern Fiction" (184-95).

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Date:Dec 22, 2014
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