Printer Friendly

Neo-Aristotelian rhetorical narrative study: need for integrating style, context and intertext.

Along with the "narrative turn" in the past several decades, the critical field has been marked by the thriving development of narrative theory and criticism. Of the numerous approaches to fictional narrative, the rhetorical (since the 1960s), the feminist (since the 1980s), and the cognitive (since the 1990s) have been the most influential. In terms of the rhetorical approach which has been shedding significant light on the relation among the implied author, narrator, character, and audience, Wayne C. Booth (1921-2005) and James Phelan (1951-) have successively figured as leaders of its two stages of development, first from the 1960s to the 1980s, and then from the 1990s up to the present. Booth and Phelan are respectively representatives of the second and third generations of the neo-Aristotelian Chicago School of criticism. Although the latter generations of the neo-Aristotelians differ from the first in significant ways, such as moving from the concern primarily with the poetic (the text) to a concern with the rhetorical (author-audience communication) or with the rhetorical-poetic (Phelan, Experiencing 79-94), in some important aspects they bear the imprint of the first generation as represented by R. S. Crane (1886-1967).

The early neo-Aristotelians, on one hand, marked off their approach from other branches of criticism and, on the other, advocated pluralism or the coexistence of different approaches. The disciplinary boundary has enabled the Chicago School to take on its own characteristics and contribute to the study of literature in its unique ways. But the boundary has also brought certain limitations. There are two self-imposed preclusions that have very much persisted up to the present in the rhetorical study of fictional narrative: first, the preclusion of style or language, and second, the preclusion of the context of creation. This essay argues that, in order to get closer to the implied author's norms and better account for the relation among author, narrator, character and audience, it is necessary to integrate style, context of creation, and intertextual comparison into rhetorical criticism.

Inclusion instead of Exclusion of Style

Continuous Exclusion of Style or Language

The first generation of Chicago critics followed Aristotle in subordinating literary language to the larger structure of the work in a given genre. Indeed, neglecting style or language enabled them to focus on the "architecture" of literary works, or more specifically, to concentrate on "how fully a given poem exemplifies the common structural principles of the genre to which it has been assigned" (Crane, "Introduction" 1-2). Moreover, the early Chicago critics engaged in a fierce polemic against New Critics whose exclusive concern with language and irony they found excessively limiting (see Phelan, Experiencing 79-87). The antagonism of the Chicago School towards the language-oriented New Criticism added to the preclusion of style.

This tendency was inherited by contemporary rhetorical critics. In the afterword to the second edition of The Rhetoric of Fiction (1983), Booth very much insists on his underplaying language or style in the first edition because of "the non-verbal basis of fictional effects" (461). To him, the earlier Chicago critics' development of Aristotle's method provides "the most helpful, least limiting view of character and event--those tough realities that have never submitted happily to merely verbal analysis" (460). He subscribes to Joseph E. Baker's view that the "aesthetic surface" of fiction is found, not in words, but in the "world" of character, event, and value "concretely represented and temporally arranged" (Baker 100, qtd. in Booth 480).

The preclusion of language is reinforced through rhetorical critics' drawing on structuralist narratology. Many rhetorical critics today have adopted the narratological distinction between story and discourse (see Shen "Story-Discourse," "Defense"). "Discourse" is defined in narratology as "the signifier" (Genette 27) or "the expression, the means by which the content is communicated" (Chatman, Story 19), which seems to form the whole level of presentation. But in effect narratology's "discourse" only covers structural techniques, to the exclusion of style or verbal techniques. The picture will become clearer if we compare narratology with stylistics. The narratological distinction between "story" and "discourse" is one between "what" is told and "how" to transmit the story (Chatman, Story 9), and the stylistic distinction between "content" and "style" is one between "what one has to say" and "how one says it" (Leech and Short 30). The two distinctions seem to match perfectly with each other, with "discourse" and "style" appearing to be very much interchangeable. But actually the "discourse" in narratology is to a large extent different from the "style" in stylistics. There is an implicit boundary separating the two, with a limited amount of overlap in between (see Shen, "What" and "How" for detailed discussion). Let us compare the following two observations made by Michael Toolan in his Narrative (2001) and Language in Literature (1998) respectively:

(1) That is to say, if we think of histoire/story as level I of analysis, then within discourse we have two further levels of organization, those of text and of narration. At the level of text, the teller decides upon and creates a particular sequencing of events, the time/space spent presenting them, the sense of (changing) rhythm and pace in the discourse. Additionally, choices are made as to just how (in what detail, and in what order) the particularity of the various characters is to be presented ... At the level of narration, the [structural] relations between the posited narrator and the narrative she tells are probed. (Narrative 11-12)

(2) So one of the crucial things attempted by Stylistics is to put the discussion of textual effects and techniques on a public, shared, footing.... The other chief feature of Stylistics is that it persists in the attempt to understand technique, or the craft of writing. If we agree that Hemingway's short story "Indian Camp," and Yeats's poem "Sailing to Bazantium," are both extraordinary literary achievements, what are some of the linguistic components of that excellence? Why these word-choices, clause-patterns, rhythms, and intonations, contextual implications [of conversation], cohesive links [among sentences[, choices of voice and perspective and transitivity [of clause structure], etc. etc., and not any of the others imaginable? (Language in Literature ix)

It is not hard to find that narratology's "techniques" (structural choices) in the first quotation are drastically different from stylistics's "techniques" (verbal choices) in the second. (1) Although the term "rhythm" appears in both quotations, it means entirely different things in the two different contexts. In the stylistic context, "rhythm" means verbal movement resulting from the features of words and their combination (e.g. poetic meter, sentence length, or the use of punctuation), whereas in the narratological context, "rhythm" refers to the structural relations between textual duration and event duration (such as detailed scenic presentation versus brief summary or ellipsis of events).

The boundary between "discourse" and "style" is in part a result of the different ways in which narratology and stylistics relate to poetic analysis. The stylistic analysis of prose fiction is not much different from the stylistic analysis of poetry. Both focus on the use of language, a use manifested in different forms. By contrast, narratological analysis of prose fiction has departed from the poetic analytical tradition, focusing on the relation between story events and their rearrangement. Another fundamental reason for the boundary between "discourse" and "style" is that narratology and stylistics have established different relations to linguistics. While stylistics makes literal use of linguistics, narratology uses linguistics only metaphorically. For instance, in Narrative Discourse (33-160), Gerard Genette adopts the linguistic term "tense" to cover the narrative temporal movements "order," "duration," and "frequency." As we know, verbal tense normally goes with the natural temporal facts, but Genette's "anachrony" concerns instead how the discourse deviates from the natural sequence of events. And absolutely no real similarity can be perceived between verbal tense and narrative "duration" (scene, summary, descriptive pause etc.) or "frequency" (how frequently a happening is narrated). Such metaphorical usage has facilitated narratology's turning attention away from style or verbal techniques. (2)

In Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film, Seymour Chatman, who was once a famous stylistician, observes, "My primary object is narrative form rather than the form of the surface of narratives--verbal nuance, graphic design, balletic movements. 'Style' in this sense, the properties of the texture of the medium, is fascinating, and those who have read my work know that I have spent many hours on it. Here, however, I am concerned with stylistic details only insofar as they participate in or reveal the broader, more abstract narrative movements" (10-11). This preclusion of style is carried over into his more rhetorical Coming to Terms: The Rhetoric of Narrative in Fiction and Film (1990). (3)

In his ongoing effort to offer a comprehensive account of the rhetorical theory of narrative, James Phelan has published five books (1981, 1989, 1996, 2005, 2007). The first Worlds From Words: A Theory of Language in Fiction presents a brilliant and admirable analysis of fictional style, but the author's basic position is that "language, though it varies in importance from one work to the next, will always remain subordinate to character and action, which he views as essentially nonlinguistic elements of fiction." (4) Not surprisingly, Phelan's second book is entitled "Reading People, Reading Plots: Character, Progression, and the Interpretation of Narrative." Though being highly competent in the analysis of style, Phelan, like other rhetorical critics, is usually not concerned with language details unless, in Chatman's words, "they participate in or reveal the broader, more abstract narrative movements" in author-audience communication.

Why should Style be Integrated into Rhetorical Criticism?

As distinct from cognitive criticism that aims at accounting for the interpretation of actual readers or generic audience, (5) the most important task of rhetorical criticism is to try to carry out authorial reading--to try to enter the position of the "authorial audience" so as to investigate the communication between the implied author and her ideal, hypothetical addressee. (6) The degree of the success of this effort depends on how accurately the critic can infer the implied author's norms, in The Rhetoric of Fiction, Booth says,
   "Style" is sometimes broadly used to cover whatever it is that
   gives us a sense, from word to word and line to line, that the
   [implied] author sees more deeply and judges more profoundly than
   his presented characters. But, though style is one of our main
   sources of insight into the author's norms, in carrying such strong
   overtones of the merely verbal the word style excludes our sense of
   the author's skill in his choice of character and episode and scene
   and idea. (74, italics added)

Although Booth sees style as an important channel to get access to the implied author's norms, he leaves it out because "merely verbal" analysis does not allow us to gain a good understanding of character and event. I fully agree with Booth and other critics that an exclusive concern with style or language is highly limiting. But why not pay attention to both aspects? Starting from the early neo-Aristotelians, there has appeared a self-imposed unhappy choice: either paying attention to character and event while neglecting style or paying attention to style while neglecting character and event. Making either choice may lead to a partial or distorted picture of the implied author's norms since, as pointed out by Booth, the norms are to be inferred from the "artistic whole" or "the sum" of the implied author's choices (Rhetoric 73-75). Booth observes,
   If everyone used "technique" as Mark Schorer does, covering with it
   almost the entire range of choices made by the author, then it
   might very well serve our purposes. But it is usually taken for a
   much narrower matter, and consequently it will not do. (74)

Booth's "it will not do" applies to the exclusion of style, a very important aspect of technique. Character, event, "discourse" and style are all the implied author's choices, constituting four "main sources of insight into the author's norms." Indeed, if examining style can bring out that "the author sees more deeply and judges more profoundly than his presented characters," neglecting style may easily result in a misunderstanding of the implied author's norms. Style often functions to shape character and event in significant ways, thus changing to a certain extent the nature of the communication between the implied author and the authorial audience. In such cases, only by integrating style into rhetorical criticism can we more successfully enter the position of the authorial audience. (7)

As regards the four basic components--character, event, "discourse" and style, the investigation of the former three in rhetorical criticism, as in narrative studies in general, focuses on structural relations and techniques. To argue for the integration of style is essentially to argue for the investigation of the joint functioning of structure and style, or in other words, for a comprehensive structure-style analysis.

In my own investigation of fictional narratives, a comprehensive structure-style analysis has enabled me to discern a deeper large meaning structure in various texts and thus to come to a better understanding of the implied author's norms. The deeper-level meaning stands in two different kinds of relation to the surface meaning: subversive or supplementary. As regards the subversive category, in Stephan Crane's "An Episode of War," a comprehensive structure-style analysis uncovers, behind the realistic surface, the implied author's overall satirical strategy to emasculate the army men and render war meaningless (see Shen, "Overall" 153-64 for a detailed analysis). The perception of the deeper satirical meaning significantly alters the view of the implied author's norms. Various textual details now appear in a different light and the characters are no longer seen as ordinary army men but as a butt of authorial satire (who also invite readers' sympathy as victims of war). In Katherine Mansfield's "Revelations," to give another example, a comprehensive structure-style analysis helps to descry, behind the scathing surface irony against the female protagonist, a subtext that ingeniously shows how patriarchal forces reduce the female protagonist to a mere "doll" of man and deprive her of all her worth except youth and beauty that she no longer possesses as a 33-year old woman. This largely accounts for her suffering from her nerves and other weaknesses. The subtext doubles the object of authorial irony: both the protagonist's "feminine" weaknesses and the Western hegemonic structure of patriarchy or masculinist domination, the latter forming the most important reason underlying the former (see Shen, "Subverting" 192-204 for a detailed discussion). In such cases, only by discerning the subtext through a comprehensive structure-style analysis can we gain a more accurate understanding of the rhetorical purposes of the implied author and of the relation among author, narrator, character, and reader.

In terms of the supplementary category, a comprehensive structure-style analysis of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" can help us to see, behind the overt plot development centering on the protagonist's killing the old man and the exposure of his crime, an overall dramatic irony focusing on the protagonist-narrator's unconscious self-condemnation: he continuously takes delight in his own dissemblance during the process of murdering the old man and burying the corpse, and he finally projects his own dissemblance onto the policemen; most ironically, he condemns the projected dissemblance as being immoral and finds it extremely unbearable which leads to the exposure of his crime (see Shen "Edgar" 327-39 for a detailed discussion). In contrast with the subversive category, the perception of the deeper meaning here does not alter the perception of the textual details associated with the surface meaning, but it does alter the ethos of the whole narrative since the text is now seen as having deeper thematic import and greater aesthetic ingenuity.

A comprehensive structure-style analysis may enable us to go one step further, to see that the uncovered authorial norms are in themselves problematic and unacceptable. In Kate Chopin's "Desiree's Baby," a comprehensive structure-style analysis reveals that, behind its anti-racist appearance, there exists a racist subtext presenting a fictional world where all (really) white characters never perpetrate racial discrimination and oppression, and where, in contrast, (really) black characters are guilty of racial discrimination and it is only the black planter who oppresses black people in a cruel manner. The subversive subtext unobtrusively attributes the sufferings of the blacks to the black blood and turns the narrative into a covert mythologization of the Southern racist system (see Shen, "Implied" 288-301 for a detailed analysis). This narrative may be regarded as a case of what Peter J. Rabinowitz calls "rhetorical passing" ("Betraying"), a racist text passing off as an anti-racist text. For the anti-racist rhetorical critic, two tasks need to be carried out: to find out the implied author's true norms, and, moreover, to "look at the work critically from some perspective other than the one called for by the author" (Rabinowitz, Before 32). The success of the second task rests with the success of the first (ibid. 31-32). Due to the subversiveness of the subtext, its discovery characteristically leads to a drastic change in our perception of various textual details and in our emotional and ethical reaction to the characters now seen as serving different or opposite rhetorical ends.

No matter which category is involved, integrating style into rhetorical narrative study enables us to see more comprehensively the interaction between presentational techniques and story elements, and thus to understand better the communication among author, narrator, character and reader/critic. Nevertheless, it is not sufficient just to integrate style, in order to make rhetorical criticism more powerful, persuasive, and shareable, it is also necessary to integrate relevant contextual and intertextual matters.

Inclusion instead of Exclusion of Context

Continuous Exclusion of Context of Creation

Up to now, the rhetorical study of fictional narrative, with some exceptions, (8) is marked by the preclusion of the sociohistorical context of creation, especially the biographical information of the real author. This preclusion can be traced back to the first generation of Chicago critics, who unequivocally precluded sociohistorical context in the neo-Aristotelian tradition seeing literary works as imitations, in his landmark essay "History versus Criticism in the Study of Literature," Crane, after pointing out the limitations of the historical approach on the aesthetic side, privileges literary criticism as "reasoned" discourse "about the works themselves and appropriate to their character as productions of art" (11). Despite the drastically different views on how literary criticism should be conducted, the early Chicago critics and their cotemporary New Critics shared a firm belief in the centrality of the text in literary study.

If the first generation of Chicago critics, like other formalist schools in the early 20th century, ruled out sociohistorical context as a reaction against long-term prevalent and privileged historical approach to literature, the second generation started working at a time when formalist criticism had already gained the upper hand and hence the preclusion of context was more or less taken for granted. In the preface to The Rhetoric of Fiction (1961), Booth asserts right away, "My subject is the technique of non-didactic fiction, viewed as the art of communicating with readers." There is apparently no more need to argue for the exclusive concern with technique and Booth unequivocally claims, "in pursuing the author's means of controlling his reader I have arbitrarily isolated technique from all of the social and psychological forces that affect authors and readers." Indeed, when Booth was writing, the centrality of the text was so firmly established that it was even difficult to talk about the communication between the author and the reader--not only sociohistorical context but also authorial intention had been precluded. Faced with the formalist climate, the rhetorical Booth puts forward the concept of the "implied author," which on the one hand makes the author text-based and on the other enables the rhetorical critic to talk about the means the author uses to persuade the reader. Although the implied author (the second self) is connected with the real author (the first self) in various ways, Booth, with his neo-Aristotelian orientation and in that extremely formalist climate, emphasized the importance of paying sole attention to the implied author to the exclusion of the real author in historical context.

When the second edition of The Rhetoric of Fiction was published in 1983, the academic climate had shifted from the formalist to the sociohistorical and political, and the book's ahistorical position had been subject to much critique. In the afterword to the second edition, Booth takes a partially defensive and partially concessive stance. He insists on his "transhistorical" (not antihistorical) position in studying the rhetoric of fiction versus studying its political history (413), but he praises Bakhtin for his ideological and historical criticism of literary works (414-15). Subscribing to Rabinowitz's distinction among the "authorial audience" (the implied author's ideal or hypothetical audience), the "narrative audience" (who believe that the events of the story are real), and the actual readers, Booth on one hand emphasizes shared response among "the relatively stable [authorial] audience postulated by the implied author--the readers the text asks us to become" (420), and on the other acknowledges that different actual readers with different critical presuppositions--such as male versus female readers--tend to come up with different readings.

If the contexts of literature basically fall into two kinds--that of creation and that of reception, the latter, as Booth's 1983 afterword indicates, has found its way into rhetorical criticism through the distinction between the authorial audience and actual readers. Under the influence of contextualist approaches and in order to account for the difficulties actual readers have in entering the authorial audience, many rhetorical critics have investigated how flesh-and-blood readers' different experiences, knowledge, and sociohistorical positioning lead to divergent readings.

As regards the context of creation, some rhetorical critics have paid certain attention to the historical development of techniques or genres, or to the sociocultural norms the text reflects, follows, or transgresses for certain effects (see, for instance, Booth, Rhetoric 414-15, Rabinowitz, Before 68-74, Chatman, Coming 198-99; Phelan, Experiencing 89-90). But such investigation is scanty, and what has remained absent from rhetorical criticism in general is attention to the biographical information of the real author. This persistent preclusion has to do with reasons both internal and external to rhetorical criticism.

Externally, contextualist narrative studies have somewhat neglected the biographical information of the real author because of, among other things, disciplinary orientation and/or the long-term impact of the "intentional fallacy" argument. Cultural studies have focused on the relation between literature and various aspects of culture, such as politics, law, business, or other arts. Within the field of narratology, cognitive narratologists, when paying attention to context, have concentrated on the context of reading. Feminist narratologists, though paying much attention to the sociocultural conditions and literary conventions in a certain historical period, also tend to overlook the personal experience of the real author. Similarly, Bakhtinian critics, when paying attention to context, have focused on the influence of social discourses or cultural forces on the text. Since the contextualization in rhetorical criticism is very much a result of the influence of contextualist approaches (especially reader-oriented ones), the latter's leaving out the biographical information of the real author has lent to the former's preclusion in this aspect.

Internally, rhetorical criticism's preclusion of the real author has much to do with Booth's concept of the "implied author." From the first edition of The Rhetoric of Fiction to the recent essay "Resurrection of the Implied Author" (2005). Booth draws a sharp distinction between the implied author and the real author, and he stresses that only the former is relevant to rhetorical criticism. No matter in what sense the "implied author" is understood, rhetorical critics have confined the consideration of author-audience communication to the text-based implied author on one hand and various kinds of audience on the other. Even in his recent attempt to historicize the narrative communication diagram, Harry Shaw still leaves out the real author and argues only for the historicization of the narrator.

Why should Context of Creation be Integrated into Rhetorical Criticism?

To successfully enter the authorial audience, we need to infer as accurately as possible the stance and purpose of the implied author. In this respect, a consideration of the varied contexts of reading cannot help since it can only shed light on what factors stand in the way to enter the authorial audience. But a consideration of the real author (the first self) may help us gain a better understanding of the implied author (the second self). As I discussed in detail elsewhere (Shen "What"), in the encoding process the implied author is no other than the person "who writes in this manner" (Booth, Rhetoric 71). Insofar as the encoding process is concerned, the difference between the "real author" and the "implied author" is that between the person in daily life and the same person in the process of writing with a particular stance. Although the text is always primary for inferring the implied author's stance and we need to respect the text fully (see below), and although the implied author in the process of writing may assume a stance contrastive or even opposed to that the real author takes in daily life, it is often worthwhile taking into consideration the biographical information about the real author since one's family background and personal experience do often exert influence on one's stance in composing a fictional narrative. That is to say, we need to pay attention not only to the difference but also to the connection between the implied author and the real author.

To take "Desiree's Baby" for an example, previous critics have put this narrative in the anti-slavery tradition of Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (see, instance, Arner 145). But various biographical sources (Seyersted, Rankin, Taylor) tell us that before and after her marriage, Chopin showed firm and continuous support for the Confederate cause and strong objection to the abolition of slavery. Her husband was a racist, her father-in-law a harsh slave owner, and her half brother fought for the Confederate army. This forms a sharp contrast with the background and experience of Stowe, who. growing up in Connecticut, was influenced by the antislavery sentiment prevailing at her father's school, and who, upon moving to Maine in 1850, was stirred more than ever by antislavery discussion which prompted her to write Uncle Tom's Cabin (Hart 642). In the case of Chopin's "Desiree's Baby," the biographical information can shed much light on the purpose of the implied author in creating the racist subtext. Moreover, since the biographical information functions to back up the discovery of the racist subtext through a comprehensive structure-style analysis (see Shen, "Implied" for a detailed discussion of the subtext), it can increase the sharability of the intratextual findings.

It is worth mentioning that, as an exceptional case in the Chicago School, Ralph W. Rader has directed attention to the relation between the text and the historical author's experiences (see his "Exodus" and "The Logic"). Rader focuses on various autobiographical elements in the text, or more specifically, on how characters' experiences resemble those of the historical author's. As regards Kate Chopin's "Desiree's Baby," the connection between text and biography goes paradoxically in the opposite direction. While Chopin's father-in-law was a very harsh master in real life, Desiree's father-in-law is depicted as a benevolent white master treating his slaves in an easy-going and indulgent manner. While Louisiana's racial caste system forbad inter-racial marriage by law, in "Desiree's Baby" the white master bearing the oldest and proudest name in Louisiana marries a black woman (though in Paris) and Desiree's white foster mother not only readily provides a home for the "colored" Desiree but kindly claims the "mulatto" to be her own daughter. These are some of the means the implied author uses to mythologize the Southern racist system, a mythologization that is closely associated with the historical author's personal experiences.

Even if we cannot find any connection between the experiences of the fictional characters and those of the historical author, the thematic import of the text may sometimes be connected with the real author's life. For instance, a consideration of the historical Crane's experiences functions to cast light on why Crane's later works are much more satirical towards war than his earlier works. In 1897 Crane went to Greece to report on the Greco-Turkish war, and in 1898 to Cuba on the Spanish-American war. These experiences allowed him to see the true nature of war and he became an ardent anti-imperialist unmasking war as it is, both in his reporting and in his fictional works like the explicitly satirical "War is Kind" (1899) or "The Kicking Twelfth" (1900), and the implicitly satirical "An Episode of War" (not published until 1899).

A part from biographical information, it is of course also important to consider the relevant sociocultural circumstances. In Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart," the first-person narrator continuously insists on his sanity, a textual phenomenon that has received various interpretations but none appears convincing. By going beyond the text into the sociohistorical context and by considering Poe's related works, we can find that the narrator's insistence on his sanity actually embodies Poe's response to the contemporary controversy over the "insanity defense" (trying to get legal exemption on the grounds of the offender's being insane). The murderous narrator's sustained assertion in that cultural context that he is sane amounts to an unconscious self-conviction, adding to the overall dramatic irony (see Shen, "Edgar" for a detailed discussion). This case points to the fact that contextual information not only can test or back up the findings of the intratextual analysis but also may shed new light on certain textual phenomena (see also Rader, "Tom Jones").

However, in investigating the relation between text and context for inferring more accurately the implied author's norms, we must keep in mind that the text is always primary and we need to respect the text fully. The primacy of the text can be seen in the following aspects:

First, if one fails to respect the text fully, the emphasis on cultural context may lead to severe distortions of textual facts, in analyzing "Desiree's Baby," Margaret Bauer has carried out an admirable historical research about the communal violent racism surrounding a free mulatto's growing up process in antebellum Louisiana. She then fits the mulatto protagonist Armand into the historical reality and interprets his behavior according to what happened to free mulattos in that cultural context. But fiction is not to be mixed up with reality. Although Bauer's research into history is very helpful for us to understand the relevant social conditions, when the real world is imposed on or mixed up with the fictional world, a distortion of the latter is unavoidable (see Shen, "Implied" 307-9 for a detailed critique of Bauer's imposition of context on text).

Second, acquiring information about the real author is not sufficient for an adequate understanding of the implied author's textual choices. Some critics have a good knowledge about the racist family background and personal experience of the historical Chopin (see, for instance, Seyersted, Taylor), but without examining the structure and style of "Desiree's Baby" itself in a very careful and overall way, they still have overlooked the implied author's implicit mythologization of the "white-dominated" racial system.

Third, as pointed out by Booth in expounding the concept of the implied author, "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 the writer sets himself out with a different air depending on the needs of particular works" (Rhetoric 71). Although bearing the same name, the different implied authors of different narratives may take divergent stances towards the same issue due to different thematic designs. This can be clearly seen from the different stances the different Chopin narratives hold towards marriage. In her "Wiser Than a God" (1889), the implied Chopin is in full support of the female protagonist seeking her self-fulfillment by freeing herself from the fetters of marriage. The narrative ends happily with the female protagonist's great success in her career. In Chopin's "Regret" (1894), however, we see a drastically different authorial stance. The narrative begins with a masculine image of the fifty-year old female protagonist as a planter, who has never considered marriage. One day she is entrusted by her neighbor with the task of taking care of four young children, and she undergoes a process from treating the children merely as a matter of duty to feeling much attached to them. When the mother returns to fetch her children, the protagonist experiences a deep sense of loss. The narrative ends with the following words:
   She gave one slow glance through the room, into which the evening
   shadows were creeping and deepening around her solitary figure. She
   let her head fall down upon her bended arm, and began to cry. Oh,
   but she cried! Not softly, as women often do. She cried like a man,
   with sobs that seemed to tear her very soul. She did not notice
   Ponto licking her hand. (378)

Here the implied author invites us to feel the protagonist's acute sense of loneliness and helplessness that form an ironic contrast with the initial confident and determined masculine image. Her remaining masculinity--her crying "like a man"--becomes a butt of authorial irony. The last sentence of the narrative indicates that no animals, including the dog with a name, can take the place of family in providing companionship. The implied Chopin of this narrative is very ironical towards a woman who maintains independence by not marrying. Given such differences in authorial stance among the narratives bearing the same person's name, to understand the implied author's norms in a particular narrative, we must fully respect the text itself and only take the contextual information as supplementary.

Integration of Intertextual Comparison

In order to infer the implied author's norms more accurately, we also need to integrate into rhetorical criticism the consideration of relevant intertextual matters. It should be noted that, following Aristotle's emphasis on genre, neo-Aristotelian rhetorical critics have paid much attention to the function of generic conventions, norms, and deviations. In The Rhetoric of Fiction, Booth says,

When we read even the least conventional story, we bring to bear on it a vast repertory of expectations and inference patterns derived from our experience with other stories. And our reconstruction of each story would be impossible if we could not work with hunches about how it resembles and differs from stories of other kinds (432; see also Rabinowitz Before 70-75, Phelan Experiencing 4)

But apart from generic issues, there are other intertextual matters that need to be taken into account in inferring the implied author's norms of a specific text. What I see as especially important to rhetorical criticism is the detailed comparison of structure-style features between the text under investigation and other related texts. The relations between the two basically fall into two kinds: intertextual contrast and intertextual similarity.

Intertextual Contrast

An intertextual comparison between Crane's "An Episode of War" and his "The Mystery of Heroism" (1895) may shed significant light on the satirically emasculating strategy in the former, in both narratives, there is a description of a wounded lieutenant, and the following diagram may clearly indicate the difference in verbal choices in the description:
"A Mystery of Heroism" (260)

   in direct grapple with an enemy
   smiled grimly; carefully;
   sober; the officer's face
   was grimy and perspiring

   as if this arm ... belonged to another man

"An Episode of War" (268-69)

   [as if the wound were] a case of personal
   This wounded officer engaged in a desperate
   struggle with [his own] sword

   his helplessness; tenderly; sadly;
   the victim of a terrible disease

   as if the wounded arm was made of
   brittle glass;
   the weight of a linger upon him
   might ... hurl him at once into
   the dim, gray unknown

The description in "A Mystery of Heroism" conveys a manly picture of the wounded lieutenant, which brings into relief the corresponding emasculated picture in "An Episode of War." Such intertextual comparison helps us perceive the hidden satirical strategy in "An Episode of War," and to discover that the implied authors of the two narratives, which have been put on a par by previous critics (see, for instance, M. Shaw 29), actually hold contrastive ethical stances towards, and invite readers' different judgments on, war and traditional heroism.

Intertextual Similarity

Not only intertextual contrast but also intertextual similarity can shed light on the text under investigation. To take Mansfield's "Revelations" for an example, this narrative has been taken by many critics as being marked by scathing authorial irony at the female protagonist Monica herself (see, for instance, Berkman 121). But, as mentioned above, a comprehensive structure-style analysis reveals that patriarchal forces are largely responsible for Monica's weaknesses. Significantly, Mansfield's depiction in "Prelude" of Beryl's conscious awareness of the opposition between her false self and her real self can cast much light on how patriarchy imposes a false self on Monica in "Revelations." Here is a relevant passage taken from "Prelude": "[Beryl] cried, 'I am so miserable--so frightfully miserable. I know that I'm silly and spiteful and vain; I'm always acting a part. I'm never my real self for a moment.' ... it was only because she was so miserable--so miserable. If she had been happy and leading her own life, her false life would cease to be" (58-59). As an upper-middle class woman in that patriarchal society, Beryl's only option in life is to ingratiate herself in a "silly and spiteful and vain" manner with her brother-in-law (who provides for her present life), as well as with male guests (one of whom may become her husband and future provider). Compare Monica's self-reflection in "Revelations": "What had she been doing ever since that dinner party months ago, when he had seen her home and asked if he might come and 'see again that slow Arabian smile'? Oh, what nonsense--what utter nonsense.... Oh, to be free of Princes' at one-thirty, of being the tiny kitten in the swansdown basket, of being the Arabian, and the grave, delighted child and the little wild creature ..., 'Never again,' she cried aloud, clenching her small fist" (192-93). Besides, there are striking parallels between Mansfield's "Revelations" and Ibsen's A Doll House in terms of patriarchy's reducing the female protagonist to a "doll" of man. While Monica's doll role is shown by her self reflection, the doll role of Nora in Ibsen's play is revealed through dialogue: Nora acting for her man as a "squirrel" (562), a "sweet little lark" (563), a "little songbird" (589), and "a Neapolitan peasant girl" (576) with exotic flavor.

Such intertextual similarities and contrasts, like biographical/contextual information, can not only help us to infer more accurately the norms of the implied author, but also function to increase the sharability of the intratextual findings. While being fully aware that for some fictional narratives, authorial reading is very difficult or even impossible to arrive at and that no reading of a literary narrative is definitive, I hold the rhetorical assumption that one significant value of reading narrative is to share readings (see, for instance, Phelan, Experiencing). In contrast with reader-response, constructivist, and deconstructive approaches, underlying the rhetorical critics' efforts to arrive at authorial reading is the belief that different readers are willing to accept the implied author's invitation and will often more or less succeed in entering the authorial audience, thus able to share readings. (9) Despite the fact that literary texts often contain gaps, ambiguity, or indeterminacy, (10) and that actual readers' different interpretive frames often stand in the way of entering the authorial audience, an integrating rhetorical approach, through helping us interpret more accurately, persuasively or convincingly the norms and purposes of the text/ author, may effectively increase the shareability of the reading experience.

For the past eighty years or so, generations of neo-Aristotelians consciously precluded, to different extents, style/language and context of creation in order to be better critics of the text or better rhetorical critics of author-audience communication. But in many fictional narratives, style constitutes, in Booth's own words, "one of our main sources of insight into the author's norms," and by paying attention to style we can come to a better understanding of the authorial stance and rhetorical purpose. The neo-Aristotelian preclusion of style is based on the self-imposed division of labor that one can only pay attention either to "the merely verbal" or to character and event. So long as we break free from this self-imposed limitation and pay attention to both character/event and stylistic/structural techniques of presentation, we can gain a more comprehensive picture of the functioning of narrative form and come to a more accurate understanding of author-audience communication. While it is helpful to distinguish the implied author from the real author (see Shen, "What" 93-95), a consideration of the latter's experience and social context may shed significant light on the former's textual choices and rhetorical purposes. Further, a careful comparison between the narrative under investigation and related narratives may also help us to see character/event in the present narrative in a clearer light. It should have become clear that integrating style, context of creation, and intertextual comparison into rhetorical criticism can help us become better critics of the text and better rhetorical critics of the relation among author, narrator, character and reader.

Works Cited

Arner, Robert D. "Pride and Prejudice: Kate Chopin's 'Desiree's Baby'." Critical Essays on Kate Chopin. Ed. Alice Hall Petry. London: Prentice Hall, 1996. 139-46. Print.

Baker, Joseph E. "Aesthetic Surface in the Novel." The Trollopian 2 (1947): 91-106. Print.

Bauer, Margaret D. "Armand Aubigny, Still Passing After All These Years." Critical Essays on Kate Chopin. Ed. Alice Hall Petry. London: Prentice Hall. 161-83. Print.

Berkman, Sylvia. Katherine Mansfield: A Critical Stud)'. New Haven: Yale UP, 1951. Print.

Booth, Wayne C. The Rhetoric of Fiction. 2nd ed. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1983 [1961]. Print.

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

Chatman, Seymour. Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1978. Print.

--. Coming to Terms: The Rhetoric of Narrative in Fiction and Film. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1990. Print.

Chopin, Kate. "Desiree's Baby." The Complete Works of Kate Chopin. Ed. Per Seyersted. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1969. 240-45. Print.

--. "Wiser Than a God." The Complete Works of Kate Chopin. Ed. Per Seyersted. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1969. 39-47. Print.

--. "Regret." The Complete Works of Kate Chopin. Ed. Per Seyersted. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1969. 375-78. Print.

Crane, R. S. "Introduction." Critics' and Criticism Ancient and Modern. Ed. R. S.

Crane. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1952. 1-24. Print.

--. "History versus Criticism in the Study of Literature." 1935. Idea of the Humanities and Other Essays." Critical and Historical. Ed. R. S. Crane. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1967. 3-24. Print.

Crane, Stephan. "A Mystery of Heroism." Great Short Works of Stephen Crane. New York: Harper & Row, 1965. 259-68. Print.

--. "An Episode of War." Great Short Works of Stephen Crane. New York: Harper & Row, 1965. 268-72. Print.

Genette, Gerard. Narrative Discourse. Trans. Jane E. Lewin. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1980. Print.

Hart, James D. The Oxford Companion to American Literature. 6th ed. New York: Oxford UP, 1983. Print.

Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll House. Trans. Rolf Fjelde. The Bedford Introduction to Drama. Ed. Lee A. Jacobus. 2nd ed. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, 1993. Print.

Leech, Geoffrey N. and Michael H. Short. Style in Fiction. London: Longman 1981. Print.

Mansfield, Katherine. "Prelude." Collected Stories of Katherine Mansfield. 1945. London: Constable, reprinted 1980, 11-60. Print.

--. "Revelations." 1945. Collected Stories of Katherine Mansfield. 1980. London: Constable, 190-96. Print.

Phelan, James. Worlds From Words: A Theory of Language in Fiction. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1981. Print.

--. Reading People, Reading Plots: Character, Progression, and the Interpretation of Narrative. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1989. Print.

--. Narrative as Rhetoric: Technique, Audiences, Ethics, Ideology. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1996. Print.

--. Living to Tell about It: A Rhetoric and Ethics of Character Narration. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2005. Print.

--. Experiencing Fiction: Judgments, Progressions, and the Rhetorical Theory of Narrative. Columbus: The Ohio State UP, 2007. Print.

--. "The Implied Author, Deficient Narration, and Nonfiction Narrative: Or, What's Off-Kilter in The Year of Magical Thinking and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly." Style 45.1 (2011): 119-37. Print.

Rabinowitz, Peter J. "Truth in Fiction: A Reexamination of Audiences." Critical Inquiry 4 (1977): 121-41. Print.

--. Before Reading: Narrative Conventions and the Politics of Interpretation. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1987. Print.

--. "Betraying the Sender': The Rhetoric and Ethics &Fragile Texts." Narrative 2.3 (1994): 201-13. Print.

Rader, Ralph. "Exodus and Return: Joyce's Ulysses and the Fiction of the Actual" University of Toronto Quarterly 48:2 (1978/79): 149-71. Print.

--. "The Logic of Ulysses, or Why Molly Had to Live in Gibraltar." Critical Inquiry 10 (1984): 567-78. Print.

--. "Tom Jones: The Form in History." Ideology and Form in Eighteenth-Century Literature. Ed. David H. Richter. Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech UP, 1999. 47-74. Print.

Rankin, Daniel S. Kate Chopin and Her Creole Stories. Philodelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1932. Print.

Saussure, Ferdinand de. Course in General Linguistics. Trans. Wade Baskin. London: Peter Owen Limited, 1960. Print.

Seyersted, Per. Kate Chopin: A Critical Biography. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1969. Print.

Shaw, Mary. "Stephen Crane's 'An Episode of War': A Demythologized Dramatization of Heroism' ." Studies in Contemporary Satire 15 (1991-1992): 26-34. Print.

Shaw, Harry E. "Why Won't Our Terms Stay Put? The Narrative Communication Diagram Scrutinized and Historicized." A Companion to Narrative Theory. Ed. James Phelan and Peter Rabinowitz. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005.299-311. Print.

Shen, Dan. "Story-Discourse Distinction." The Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory. Ed. David Herman et. al. London: Routldege, 2005. 566-67. Print.

--. "Defense and Challenge: Reflections on the Relation Between Story and Discourse." Narrative 10 (2002): 422-43. Print.

--. "What Narratology and Stylistics Can Do for Each Other." A Companion to Narrative Theory. Ed. James Phelan and Peter Rabinowitz. Oxford: Blackwell, 2005. 136-49. Print.

--. How Stylisticians Draw on Narratology: Approaches, Advantages, and Disadvantages." Style 39.4 (2005): 381-95. Print.

--. "Why Contextual and Formal Narratologies Need Each Other." JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory 35.2 (2005): 141-71. Print.

--. "Subverting Surface and Doubling Irony: Subtexts of Mansfield's 'Revelations' and Others." English Studies 87 (2006): 191-209. Print.

--. "Edgar Allan Poe's Aesthetic Theory, the Insanity Debate, and Ethically Oriented Dynamics of 'The Tell-Tale Heart'." Nineteenth-Century Literature 63.3 (2008): 321-45. Print.

--. "'Overall-Extended Close Reading' and Subtexts of Short Stories." English Studies 91.2 (2010): 150-69. Print.

--. "Implied Author, Overall Consideration, and Subtext of 'Desiree's Baby'." Poetics Today 31.2 (2010): 285-312. Print.

--. "What is the Implied Author?" Style 45 (2011): 80-98. Print.

Taylor, Helen. Gender, Race, and Region in the Writings of Grace King, Ruth McEnery Stuart, and Kate Chopin. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1989. Print.

Toolan, Michael. J. Narrative: A Critical Linguistic Introduction. 2nd edition. London: Routledge, 2001. Print.

--. Language in Literature: An Introduction to Stylistics. London: Arnold, 1998. Print.

Dan Shen

Peking [Beijing] University


I would like to thank James Phelan and Peter J. Rabinowitz for encouraging me to work on this topic and for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper. I am also grateful to an anonymous reader for Style for his helpful comments.

(1) See Shen, "What Narratology and Stylistics Can Do for Each Other" for a detailed comparison between Narrative Discourse by Genette and Style in Fiction by Leech and Short, which also clearly shows that narratology's "discourse" and stylistics' "style" only respectively cover part of the techniques on the level of presentation.

(2) There are, however, some overlapping areas between narratology's "discourse" and stylistics' "style," especially modes of speech presentation and point of view or focalization. These areas concern variation in narrative distance, hence attracting attention from narratologists. Although focalization in itself, as distinct from modes of speech, is not a matter of verbal choice, changes in focalization are also indicated by linguistic clues, hence also presenting interest to stylisticians.

(3) In contrast with Chatman, some narratologists like Monika Fludernik and David Herman, who started their careers doing both stylistics and narratology, still consider style while investigating discourse in their narratological works.

(4) This point is highlighted by being printed on the front and back flaps of the book. However, Phelan offers a critique in this book of Elder Olson's attack on William Empson. As editors, Phelan and Rabinowitz fully endorsed my essay published in A Companion to Narrative Theory (2005), an essay that calls for combining narratology's concern ("discourse"--structural techniques) with stylistics' concern ("style"--verbal/language techniques) in investigating narrative form. In Living to Tell about It (2005) and Experiencing Fiction (2007), Phelan at least theoretically pays more attention to style/language since he mentions "style" (or words, language) together with "narrative discourse," which forms a contrast with his Narrative as Rhetoric (1996) where he mentions "narrative discourse" alone (see, for instance, p.19).

(5) Cognitive criticism is often concerned with what I call "generic audience" (see Shen, "Why Contextual" 155-57). In terms of narratives, the "generic audience" share interpretation through sharing the same narrative conventions as typically embodied by stereotypic assumptions, expectations, frames, scripts, plans, schemata, or mental models in narrative comprehension.

(6) For the distinction among the different reading positions: "authorial audience," "narrative audience," and "actual audience," see Rabinowitz's "Truth in Fiction" and Before Reading.

(7) I use the comparative "more" to indicate 1) the helpfulness of the integrating approach, and 2) the research findings, though being more persuasive than those of previous investigations, are not definitive and are open to future challenges.

(8) The most notable exception is Ralph Rader, who has directed attention to the relation between text and historical context ("Tom Jones"), and to the relation between characters and the historical author ("Exodus," "The Logic"). in recent years, James Phelan has become increasingly receptive to the consideration of context and real-author influences (see, for instance, Phelan "Implied").

(9) Basically, there are three kinds of shared reading. In the first kind, different readers interpret the text in similar ways; in the second, different readers find an interpretation sharable although they have not read the text before; and in the third kind, different readers find an interpretation more persuasive than their own and they come to share the new reading. If a rhetorical approach can make a comprehensive structure-style analysis, backed up by convincing contextual and intertextual investigations, it may come up with a new reading that will be accepted as persuasive and sharable.

(10) Linguistic meaning, however, is not as indeterminable as many critics hold. Saussure's theory of the sign has been widely taken as lending to the indeterminacy of meaning. But in effect Saussure puts emphasis on the conventional "union of meanings and sound-images" that is "the only essential thing" in "a system of signs" (Saussure 15), where "[a]lthough both the signified and the signifier are purely differential and negative when considered separately, their combination is a positive fact" (Saussure 120-21, italics added). In discussing linguistic value, Saussure stresses the conventional nature of the link between the signifier and the signified: "The arbitrary nature of the sign explains in turn why the social fact alone can create a linguistic system. The community is necessary if values that owe their existence solely to usage and general acceptance are to be set up; by himself the individual is incapable of fixing a single value" (113). In the English language "community" (needless to say, any linguistic convention only obtains in relation to a given language community), "sun" (/sAn/) can function as a sign not only because of its difference from other signs in sound or "sound-image," but also because of the conventional union between the sound-image "sun" and the signified concept. Given, for instance, the following sound-images "lun" (/lun/), "sul" (/sul/) and"qun" (/kwun/), although each can be identified by its difference from the others, none of them can function as a sign, because there is no conventional link between the signifier and the signified.
COPYRIGHT 2011 Northern Illinois University
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Shen, Dan
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 22, 2011
Previous Article:Enlarged perspectives: a rejoinder to the responses.
Next Article:Point of view in first-person narratives: a deictic analysis of David Copperfield.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters