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The Cambridge Companion to Narrative


  • 4 b/w illus.
  • Page extent: 328 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.52 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521673662)


The Cambridge Companion to Narrative provides a unique and valuable overview of current approaches to narrative study. An international team of experts explores ideas of storytelling and methods of narrative analysis as they have emerged across diverse traditions of inquiry and in connection with a variety of media, from film and television, to storytelling in the “real-life” contexts of face-to-face interaction, to literary fiction. Each chapter presents a survey of scholarly approaches to topics such as character, dialogue, genre, or language, shows how those approaches can be brought to bear on a relatively well-known illustrative example, and indicates directions for further research. Featuring a chapter reviewing definitions of narrative, a glossary of key terms, and a comprehensive index, this is an essential resource both for students and for specialists in the many fields concerned with narrative, including language and literature, composition and rhetoric, creative writing, jurisprudence, communication and media studies, and the social sciences.

DAVID HERMAN is Professor of English at Ohio State University. He is the author, editor, or co-editor of a number of books on narrative, including Universal Grammar and Narrative Form (1995), Narratologies (1999), Story Logic (2002), Narrative Theory and the Cognitive Sciences (2003), and the  Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory (2005, co-edited with Manfred Jahn and Marie-Laure Ryan).







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Information on this title:

© Cambridge University Press 2007

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,
no reproduction of any part may take place without
the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2007

Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge

A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library

Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data

The Cambridge companion to narrative / edited by David Herman.
p. cm. -- (Cambridge companions to literature)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 13: 978-0-521-85696-6 (hbk)
ISBN 10: 0-521-85696-5 (hbk)
ISBN 13: 978-0-521-67366-2 (pbk)
ISBN 10: 0-521-67366-6 (pbk)
1. Narration (Rhetoric) I. Herman, David, 1962- II. Title. III. Series.
PN212.C36 2007
808 – dc22 2006038545

ISBN 978-0-521-85696-6 hardback
ISBN 978-0-521-67366-2 paperback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for
external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication, and does not
guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.


  List of illustrations page vii
  Notes on contributors viii
  Acknowledgments xii
1   Introduction 3
2   Toward a definition of narrative 22
3   Story, plot, and narration 39
4   Time and space 52
5   Character 66
6   Dialogue 80
7   Focalization 94
8   Genre 109
9   Conversational storytelling 127
10   Drama and narrative 142
11   Film and television narrative 156
12   Narrative and digital media 172
13   Gender 189
14   Rhetoric/ethics 203
15   Ideology 217
16   Language 231
17   Cognition, emotion, and consciousness 245
18   Identity/alterity 260
  Glossary 274
  Further reading 283
  Index 293


Chapter 11, “Film and television narrative,” contains the following illustrations:
Illustrations 1 and 2 from The Wizard of Oz ©1939 Warner Brothers Pictures 158
Illustrations 3 and 4 from Lost, “Walkabout” ©2004 Touchstone Television 169

Notes on contributors

H. PORTER ABBOTT is a Research Professor in the English Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His central research and teaching interests include narrative, autobiography, modernism, literature and theories of cognition and evolution, and nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature. He is the author of The Fiction of Samuel Beckett (1973); Diary Fiction: Writing as Action (1984); Beckett Writing Beckett: The Author in the Autograph (1996); and The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative (2002). In addition, he edited a special issue of the journal Sub-Stance titled On the Origin of Fictions: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (2001).

TERESA BRIDGEMAN is Honorary Research Fellow in French at the University of Bristol. She has published on stylistics and the pragmatics of narrative and is the author of Negotiating the New in the French Novel, as well as many other studies in the linguistics of literature, narratology, discourse analysis, and twentieth-century novels. She is currently working on cognitive aspects of reading contemporary French narratives, including graphic storytelling in bande dessinée, with a special focus on the construction of place and space.

MONIKA Fludernik is Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Freiburg, Germany. She is the author of many studies of narrative, including The Fictions of Language and the Languages of Fiction: The Linguistic Representation of Speech and Consciousness (1993) and Towards a “ Natural Narratology” (1996), which was awarded the Perkins Prize (“most significant contribution to narrative studies”) for books published in 1996. She has also written Echoes and Mirrorings: Gabriel Josipovici’s Creative uvre (2000), and edited Diaspora and Multiculturalism: Common Traditions and New Developments (2003).

DAVID HERMAN teaches in the English Department at Ohio State University, where he currently serves as Director of Project Narrative (http://projectnarrative., a new interdisciplinary initiative designed to promote state-of-the-art scholarship and teaching in the field of narrative studies. His research focuses on linguistic and cognitive approaches to narratives of all sorts, from stories exchanged in everyday communicative interaction to innovative modern and postmodern literary texts. He is the author, editor, or co-editor of a number of books relevant to these areas of enquiry, including Universal Grammar and Narrative Form (1995), Narratologies (1999), Story Logic (2002), Narrative Theory and the Cognitive Sciences (2003), and (with Manfred Jahn and Marie-Laure Ryan) the Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory (2005). He also serves as editor of the Frontiers of Narrative book series published by the University of Nebraska Press.

LUC HERMAN is a Professor at the University of Antwerp in Belgium, where he teaches American Literature and Narrative Theory. He is the author of Concepts of Realism (1996) and co-author (with Bart Vervaeck) of the 2005 English translation of Handbook of Narrative Analysis, which first appeared in Dutch in 2001. He has guest-edited a collection of essays on Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow for Pynchon Notes (1998) and published many essays on the author. His current projects include essays on the typescript of Pynchon’s V. and on the post-war encyclopedic novel in the United States.

MANFRED JAHN completed studies of English and German Literature at the University of Cologne and SUNY-Buffalo. Based at the University of Cologne in Germany, he has published many articles on focalization, represented speech and thought, and cognitive narratology in such venues as the Journal of Pragmatics, New Literary History, Poetics Today, and Style. A co-editor (with David Herman and Marie-Laure Ryan) of the Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory (2005), he has also authored a widely used online guide to narratology and narrative theory, freely available at

URI MARGOLIN is a pioneering figure in the field of narrative studies, and has just completed many years of service as Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Alberta in Canada. Publications include close to sixty essays in numerous collective volumes, as well as in scholarly journals, such as Language and Literature, Poetics Today, and Style. Professor Margolin is regarded as an expert on the concept of character. The co-editor (with Monika Fludernik) of a special double issue of the journal Style devoted to “German Narratology,” he has recently published several studies developing a cognitive approach to narrative.

JASON MITTELL teaches American Studies and Film and Media Culture at Middlebury College. He is the author of Genre and Television: From Cop Shows to Cartoons in American Culture (2004) and Television and American Culture (forthcoming). He is working on a book about narrative complexity in contemporary American television, examining how storytelling has changed in the wake of recent industrial, technological, and cultural transformations.

NICK MONTFORT is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Computer and Information Science at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is developing new approaches to natural language generation by exploring areas of intersection among narratology, computational linguistics, and the study of interactive fiction. He is the author of Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction (2003), the first book-length history of interactive fiction of the text adventure sort, and the co-editor (with Noah Wardrip-Fruin) of The New Media Reader (2003), a book and CD anthologizing essays and other writing of historical importance to new media.

NEAL R. NORRICK holds the chair of English Philology (Linguistics) at Saarland University in Saarbrücken, Germany. His research specializations in linguistics include conversation, verbal humor, pragmatics, semantics, and poetics. In recent years, Professor Norrick has focused his research on spoken language, with particular interests in the role of repetition in discourse and verbal humor. He is the author of Conversational Narrative: Storytelling in Everyday Talk (2000) and Conversational Joking: Humor in Everyday Talk (1993), among many other publications on conversational storytelling and related topics.

RUTH PAGE is Senior Lecturer in the School of English at the University of Central England. The author of studies published in Discourse and Society, Discourse Studies, Language and Literature, and TEXT, she was recently awarded a grant by the Arts and Humanities Research Council that culminated in the publication of her book Literary and Linguistic Approaches to Feminist Narratology (2006). Her ongoing research interests include, in addition to feminist narratology, sociolinguistics, cross-cultural storytelling, critical discourse analysis, and narratives in new media.

JAMES PHELAN is Humanities Distinguished Professor in the Department of English at Ohio State University. A recipient of OSU’s Distinguished Scholar Award (2004), he has written about style in Worlds from Words (1981), about character and narrative progression in Reading People, Reading Plots (1989), about technique, ethics, and audiences in Narrative as Rhetoric (1996), and about character-narrators in Living to Tell about It (2005). He is the editor of the journal Narrative and, with Peter J. Rabinowitz, the co-editor of the Ohio State University Press series on the Theory and Interpretation of Narrative. He has also edited Reading Narrative (1989) and, with Peter J. Rabinowitz, Understanding Narrative (1994) and The Blackwell Companion to Narrative Theory (2005).

HETA PYRHöNEN is the author of many studies exploring aspects of narrative and narrative theory, including Murder from an Academic Angle: An Introduction to the Study of Detective Narrative (1994) and Mayhem & Murder: Narrative & Moral Issues in the Detective Story (1999). She is a Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Helsinki in Finland, and is currently at work on a book-length study titled Writing a Way Out: The Female Author in Bluebeard’s Castle.

BRIAN RICHARDSON is Professor of English at the University of Maryland. His primary areas of interest are narrative theory, the poetics of drama, and twentieth-century literature. He is the author of Unlikely Stories: Causality and the Nature of Modern Narrative (1997) and Unnatural Voices: Extreme Narration in Modern and Contemporary Fiction (2006). He is also editor of Narrative Dynamics: Essays on Plot, Time, Closure, and Frames (2002), and has guest-edited a special issue of the journal Style devoted to “Concepts of Narrative” (2000). Currently, he is finishing a book on modernism and the reader and editing a collection of essays on narrative beginnings.

MARIE-LAURE RYAN is an independent scholar based in the U.S. who has published widely in the areas of narrative theory, electronic textuality, and media studies. She is the author of Possible Worlds, Narrative Theory, and Artificial Intelligence (1991), Narrative as Virtual Reality: Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media (2001), and Avatars of Story (2006). A co-editor (with David Herman and Manfred Jahn) of the Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory (2005), she is also the editor of Cyberspace Textuality: Computer Technology and Literary Theory (1999) and Narrative across Media: The Languages of Storytelling (2004).

BRONWEN THOMAS is Senior Lecturer in Linguistics and Literature at the Bournemouth Media School at Bournemouth University in the U.K. She is the author of a number of studies of fictional dialogue, published in journals that include Language and Literature and Poetics Today. Currently she is at work on a book-length study titled Fictional Dialogue: Speech and Conversation in the Modern and Postmodern Novel.

MICHAEL TOOLAN is Professor of Applied English Linguistics at the University of Birmingham in the U.K. He is the author of Total Speech (1996), Language in Literature (1998), and Narrative: A Critical Linguistic Introduction (2nd edition, 2001). He has also edited a four-volume anthology of essays on Critical Discourse Analysis (2002). The editor of the Journal of Literary Semantics, Professor Toolan’s research focuses on the linguistic features of narratives and other kinds of texts; his current work explores patterns of coherence and expectation in the reading of narrative fiction.

BART VERVAECK teaches literary theory and Dutch literature at the Free University in Brussels, Belgium. He has published a book on postmodern Dutch literature and has just completed a comparative study of literary descents into the underworld. He also co-authored (with Luc Herman) the Handbook of Narrative Analysis (2005).


Many people made this volume possible, and I can single out for explicit acknowledgment only some of the people who have supported the project and helped facilitate its completion. I am grateful to Ray Ryan at Cambridge University Press for believing that this was a book worth publishing and for early discussions that led to my assuming the role of editor. Later, as the project was just getting off the ground, Heta Pyrhönen proactively finished a draft of her chapter on “Genre” and graciously allowed it to be used as a template for the other contributors. Maartje Scheltens, also at Cambridge, provided constant and reliable advice regarding content, formatting, and a host of other issues, and I thank her for her patience in the face of all my many questions regarding the project. During the production process, others at the press, including the copy-editor, Sally McCann, and Liz Davey, have helped make this volume a much better book than it would have been without their assistance and expertise, and I am grateful for all their work.

I owe all the contributors a debt of gratitude for their dedication and patience, and especially for their shared commitment to making this  Companion a resource for narrative scholars at all levels. The volume aims to be a helpful tool for experts in the field no less than for readers using the book to explore approaches to narrative inquiry for the first time. If the book has met that goal, then this is due to the contributors’ deep knowledge of narrative – a knowledge that has enabled them to write about complex ideas in an accessible manner but without in any way “dumbing down” the concepts in question. I should also note how gratifying it has been to work with an international team of experts in the field. With contributors from Belgium, Canada, Finland, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S., the volume itself demonstrates how scholarly interest in narrative cuts across national borders as well as academic disciplines.

Work on this volume began while I was in Raleigh, North Carolina, and was completed in Plain City, Ohio. I am grateful to faculty and students both at North Carolina State University and at Ohio State University for their support and collegiality during this time of transition. My particular thanks go to Barbara Baines, Aman Garcha, Jared Gardner, Esther Gottlieb, Teemu Ikonen, Steve Kern, Kim Kovarik, Valerie Lee, Leila May, Brian McHale, Betty Menaghan, Debra Moddelmog, Don Palmer, Jim Phelan, Laura Severin, Raeanne Woodman, Mary Helen Thuente, Walt Wolfram, and Chris Zacher. I am grateful, too, to have had the opportunity to exchange ideas with many colleagues at workshops and conferences held in recent months. Especially helpful were conversations during meetings at the University of California-Santa Barbara, the University of Louisville, MIT, the Interdisciplinary Centre for Narratology at the University of Hamburg, the University of Helsinki, the University of Connecticut-Storrs, and Georgetown University.

Most of all I thank the family members – in Denver, Colorado; Knoxville, Tennessee; Sanibel Island, Florida; and Johannesburg, South Africa – who have been so supportive, in so many ways, during the time I worked on this volume. My most special thanks go, as always, to Susan Moss, lovely owner of The Golden Beet, and to Tinker, farm cat extraordinaire.

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