Tense and Narrativity

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Tense and Narrativity

From Medieval Performance to Modern Fiction

By Suzanne Fleischman

Fleischman brings together theory and methodology from various quarters to shed important new light on the linguistic structure of narrative, a primary and universal device for translating our experiences into language.



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6 x 9 | 459 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-292-73726-6

In this pathfinding study, Suzanne Fleischman brings together theory and methodology from various quarters to shed important new light on the linguistic structure of narrative, a primary and universal device for translating our experiences into language.

Fleischman sees linguistics as laying the foundation for all narratological study, since it offers insight into how narratives are constructed in their most primary context: everyday speech. She uses a linguistic model designed for "natural" narrative to explicate the organizational structure of "artificial" narrative texts, primarily from the Middle Ages and the postmodern period, whose seemingly idiosyncratic use of tenses has long perplexed those who study them. Fleischman develops a functional theory of tense and aspect in narrative that accounts for the wide variety of functions—pragmatic as well as grammatical—that these two categories of grammar are called upon to perform in the linguistic economy of a narration.

Chapter 1. Working Definitions and Operational Preliminaries
1.1. Tense
1.2. Aspect
1.3. Situation types
1.4. Grammar, discourse, and the meaning of tense-aspect categories
1.5. Tenses of the past system
1.6. Tenses of the present system
1.7. Tense-aspect in early Romance
Chapter 2. A Theory of Tense-Aspect in Narrative Based on Markedness
2.1. The concept of markedness
2.2. Markedness and tense-aspect categories in narrative
Chapter 3. “Ungrammatical” Tenses: Background of the Question
3.1. Scope of the phenomenon
3.2. Diegetic and mimetic discourse
3.3. Grammatical “freedom” of the early vernaculars
3.4. Tense alternation as a mark of “literary” écritures
3.5. Prosodic considerations
3.6. Aspectual hypotheses and “situation types”
3.7. The HISTORICAL PRESENT: The “past-more-vivid”
3.9. Participant tracking
3.10. From oral performance to écriture: Oral residue in written texts
3.11. Performed stories: Medieval and modern, natural and artificial
Chapter 4. Narrative Discourse: Typological Considerations
4.1. Verbal representations of experience: Story structure and reality structure
4.2. Differentia specifica of narrative textuality
4.3. Stories, narratives, and other verbalizations of experience
4.4. Narrative fiction
4.5. Modes of discourse: “Storytelling” and “communication”
4.6. Linguistic marks of storytelling
4.7. Tense and aspect as metalinguistic signals of narrative genres
Chapter 5. The Linguistic Structure of Narrative
Part I. Temporal Structure
5.1. Speaker-now and story-now
5.2. Retrospective discourse and prospective time
5.3. Iconic sequence and the narrative norm
Part II. Text Structure
5.4. The global structure of narrative
5.5. Evaluation
5.6. Adapting the natural narrative model to complex narrations
5.7. The clausal structure of narrative
5.8. Conclusion
Chapter 6. Textual Functions
Part I. Grounding: The “Texture” of the Text
6.1. The foreground-background contrast
6.2. Toward a theory of grounding
6.3. Grounding and parataxis
6.4. Tense-aspect and grounding
6.5. Creating cohesion: The chansons de geste
Part II. Boundary Marking: The “Space” of the Text
6.6. Tense switching and the segmentation of narrative texts
Part III. Information Blocking: The “Tempo” of the Text
6.7. “Co-subordinate” nexus
6.8. Pacing the discourse
Chapter 7. Expressive Functions
7.1. Point of view and focalization
7.2. The Speaker and the experiencer
7.3. Free indirect discourse
7.4. Interior monologue
7.5. Tense, temporality, and focalization
7.6. Time, tense, and memory in Proust
7.7. Point of view and the PERFECT
7.8. Tense-aspect and point of view in natural narration
7.9. Conclusion
Chapter 8. Metalinguistic Functions: Storytelling in the PRESENT
8.1. Epic storytelling: Narration without time
8.2. Romancero: The fragmenting of narrative
8.3. The HISTORICAL PRESENT and beyond
8.4. Transformations of narration in the nouveau roman
8.5. PRESENT-tense fiction: Where is it moving?
Appendix 1. Coding Conventions
Appendix 2. Texts
I. Texts Cited
II. Critical Works
Concept and Name Index
Index of Texts Cited

"...Fleischman’s book takes the study of medieval literature to new hermeneutic horizons.... Furthermore, through the use of sociolinguistics she connects the modern and medieval worlds in a way that will make the medieval world less alien to us, and thus her perspective gives us another means by which we can make medieval literature more relevant to our students."
Studies in the Age of Chaucer