ENG 108

The Nature of Narrative I (Fiction) Introduction

Lecture and Seminar schedule
Monday Lecture • Sections 181, 191, 201 • 8-10 EPH 204 Seminars: • Section 181 – Wed. 10-11 VIC 305 • Section 191 – Fri. 12-1 VIC 305 • Section 201 – Wed. 11-12 POD 361

Lecture and Seminar schedule
Wednesday Lecture • Sections 081, 091, 101 • 8-10 KHW 061 Seminars: • Section 081 – Mon. 9-10 VIC 210 • Section 091 – Fri. 11-12 VIC 106 • Section 101 – Mon. 10-11 VIC 300

Lecture and Seminar schedule
Friday Lecture • Sections 111, 121, 131, 141 • 8-10 RCC 201 Seminars: • Section 111 • Section 121 • Section 131 • Section 141 – – – – Tues. 11-12 VIC 200 Mon. 9-10 VIC 305 Thurs. 12-1 KHE 125 Mon. 12-1 VIC 508

Required Reading
• William Shakespeare. Hamlet • Mary Shelley. Frankenstein. • Anne Carson. Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse. • DVD: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead
– (Library or rental)

• Course package available for purchase at the Ryerson Bookstore.

Evaluation/Assignments
1. Reading quizzes in lecture 10% 2. Seminar attendance & participation 10% 3. Essay I (Week 4 in Seminar) 10% 4. Edited Essay I (Week 7 in Seminar) 10% 5. Essay II (5 pages, Week 11) 30%

1. Reading Quizzes
• • • • In lecture Multiple, ongoing Not announced ahead of time Cannot be written at a later date 

2. Seminar attendance & participation
• Consistent, constructive contributions to the class • including completion of assigned homework, quizzes, and tutorials

3. Essay I
• written in seminar in Week 4 • topic handed out ahead of time

4. Edited Essay I
• edited at home • submitted to Blackboard in Week 7 • photocopy of original Essay I should be resubmitted to the TA during the seminar

5. Essay II
• • • • 5 pages must include secondary sources questions provided by professor Due in Week 11

6. Final Exam
• comparative essay • short answer questions (vocabulary definitions) • Sight poem with 3 questions • December final exam period = Dec. 4-15

The Nature of Narrative
• What is the importance of narrative (in our case, fictional narrative)? • Why study it?

Course Description
• Life without stories? Inconceivable. The moment we ask, “Who am I?” or “Where did I come from?” narrative steps in, giving shape to our identity and experience. This foundational course introduces students to fictional forms across a variety of historical periods and media in order to examine the underlying mechanisms of storytelling: narrative’s goals, inner structures, strategies, and rhetorical effects. Texts include stories, novels,

Course Description
• Life without stories? Inconceivable. The moment we ask, “Who am I?” or “Where did I come from?” narrative steps in, giving shape to our identity and experience.

Detailed Course Description
• This introductory course examines the many ways that narrative defines and structures our sense of who we are, our interaction with each other, and our perception of the world around us.

The Nature of Narrative
“The self is given content, is delineated and embodied, primarily in narrative constructions or stories.”
Anthony Paul Kerby, Narrative and Self

The Nature of Narrative
“What, for example, is the relation between language and the self, or between one’s life story and the subject of that story?”
Anthony Paul Kerby, Narrative and Self

The Nature of Narrative
“I’m in words, made of words, others’ words”
Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable

The Nature of Narrative
“The truth about stories is that’s all we are. ‘You can’t understand the world without telling a story,’ the Anishnabe writer Gerald Vizenor tells us. ‘There isn’t any centre to the world but a story.’”
Thomas King, The Truth About Stories

The Nature of Narrative
“The truth about stories is that’s all we are. The Nigerian storyteller Ben Okri says that ‘In a fractured age, when cynicism is god, here is a possible heresy: we live by stories, we also live in them. One way or another we are living the stories planted in us early or along the way, or we are also living the stories we planted – knowingly or unknowingly – in ourselves. We live stories that either give our lives meaning or negate it with meaninglessness. If we change the stories we live by, quite possibly we change our lives.’”
Thomas King, The Truth About Stories

The Nature of Narrative
“Our own existence cannot be separated from the account we can give of ourselves. It is in telling our stories that we give ourselves an identity. We recognize ourselves in the stories that we tell about ourselves. It makes very little difference whether these stories are true or false, fiction as well as verifiable history provides us with an identity”
Paul Ricoeur, “History as Narrative and

The Nature of Narrative
“We find ourselves, collectively and individually, embedded in an ongoing history.”
Anthony Paul Kerby, Narrative and Self

The Nature of Narrative
“Our lives are ceaselessly intertwined with narrative, with the stories that we tell and hear told, those we dream or imagine or would like to tell, all of which are reworked in that story of our own lives that we narrate to ourselves in an episodic, sometimes semiconscious, but virtually uninterrupted monologue.”
Peter Brooks, Reading for the Plot

The Nature of Narrative
“To raise the question of the nature of narrative is to invite reflection on the very nature of culture and, possibly, even on the nature of humanity itself.”
Hayden White, “The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality.”

Narrative Modes
• Despite differences such as genre, medium, historical context, narratives depend on a dialogic community • Community
= = = = storyteller + listener narrator + narratee writer + reader writer/director/actors + audience

Narrative Modes
• This community constitutes part of the context of the narrative. • What was its original intended community or audience?
– What was the narrative’s original, historical context?

• What is its current community/context? • How do we read a 17th-century text in the 21st century? Same? Different? Both?

Narrative Modes
Genre • Latin genus (kind, sort) • Shared genetic features • Classification of texts

Narrative Modes
Genre • Not static
– Northrop Frye: history of Western literatures from mythic to increasingly realistic genres – New and evolving genres • The romance, the frame tale, and “The Rise of the Novel” • Film Noir and neo-Noir, suburban-Noir • Epic and mock epic – hybrid forms (eg. Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse)

Narrative Modes
Genre
• Not just a method of classification but a mode of production and reception, interpretation • “As changes occur in the ways that societies perceive and understand the world around them, corresponding changes take place in the genres employed by writers: literary kinds are connected with ‘kinds of knowledge and experience.’”

Narrative Modes
Genre
• “historically conditioned and subject to change” (Frans de Bruyn, “Genre Criticism”) • Ideologically loaded • Traditional genres = historical, ideological products of patriarchal society (Sandra Gilbert
and Susan Gubar)

• Consider Anne Carson’s subversive approach to genre

Narrative Modes
Genre
• “offers the writer a set of interpretations, frames, or fixes on the world” (Rosalie Colie,
The Resources of Kind)

• does genre offer the reader these same resources?

Narrative Modes
Genre
• Baggage of expectation • Example: Fairy tale • If I tell you that we will begin the course by reading a collection of fairy tales, what are your expectations of the texts based on that generic classification?

Narrative Modes
Genre
• “Generic assumptions play a key role in establishing this ‘horizon of expectations.’ The concept of genre is built up through the reception of a succession of related texts, each of which varies, corrects, alters, or simply reproduces the existing literary and generic expectations of its audience.”
(Frans de Bruyn, “Genre Criticism”)

Narrative Modes
Genre
• We will examine a succession of Little Red Riding Hood narratives “each of which varies, corrects, alters, or simply reproduces the existing literary and generic expectations of its audience.”

Narrative Modes
Why begin with Fairy Tales? • Opportunity to deal with familiar narrative (and not-so-familiar versions of it) • To highlight the intersection of oral and written/print narrative traditions • Other?

Folk Tales, Fairy Tales, and Little Red Riding Hood
• Folk tradition and oral tradition • Oral narrative rendered as a written narrative • Folklore vs. “literature” • Folk tales vs. Fairy tales

Folk Tales, Fairy Tales, and Little Red Riding Hood
Folk tales
• Popular, familiar • Oral origin • Anonymous – lack of a single, identifiable author • Told and retold, “handed down” • Not “fixed” (in oral form)
– open to alterations in the individual telling – can be “tailored” according to audience

Folk Tales, Fairy Tales, and Little Red Riding Hood
Folk tales
• Repetitive structure
– Recurring elements, phrases, epithets

• Performed, communal or “public” narrative • Product of a specific culture, though its appeal may cross cultural boundaries • Often didactic (moral)

Folk Tales, Fairy Tales, and Little Red Riding Hood
Fairy tales
• Some overlap with Folk culture
– Fairy tales are often the product of folk culture but fairy tales are not folk tales

• Chief distinguishing features:
1.Single, identifiable author in their written form; i.e., not anonymous folk tales 2.“synthetic, artificial, and elaborate in comparison to the indigenous formation of the folk tale that emanates from communities and tends to be simple and anonymous”

Folk Tales, Fairy Tales, and Little Red Riding Hood
Fairy tales
Also: “the literary fairy tale is not an independent genre but can only be understood and defined by its relationship to the oral tales as well as to the legend, novella, novel, and other literary fairy tales that it uses, adapts, and remodels during the narrative conception of the author.“
Jack Zipes, "Introduction: Towards the Definition of the Literary Fairy Tale." The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales.

Folk Tales, Fairy Tales, and Little Red Riding Hood
Fairy tales • From the French “contes des fées” • Common emphasis on magic and the fantastic:
– Fairy godmothers, elves, witches, giants, trolls, ogres, dragons and other monsters, talking mirrors, talking wolves, etc.

• But these are not universally stories about fairies • intended audience: children (?) • Purpose? Many possible:
– satire, adventure, morality, fantasy, etc.
(According to J. R. R. Tolkien, “On Fairy Stories”)

• “happily ever after” a recent addition

Folk Tales, Fairy Tales, and Little Red Riding Hood
"My own definition of fairy tale goes something like this: A fairy tale is a story-literary or folkthat has a sense of the numinous, the feeling or sensation of the supernatural or the mysterious. But, and this is crucial, it is a story that happens in the past tense, and a story that is not tied to any specifics. If it happens "at the beginning of the world," then it is a myth. A story that names a specific "real" person is a legend (even if it contains a magical occurrence). A story that happens in the future is a fantasy. Fairy tales are sometimes spiritual, but never religious.“
Marcia Lane, Picturing a Rose: A Way of Looking at Fairy Tales.

Folk Tales, Fairy Tales, and Little Red Riding Hood
Fairy tales • Note that even when the oral is rendered into written form, that written “literary” text can be reappropriated by oral tradition, and be circulated as an oral narrative

Folk Tales, Fairy Tales, and Little Red Riding Hood
• Concerted effort in the 17th century to capture/fix/write down traditional oral narratives in European cultures • Consequences?

• Consequences of transforming oral narratives to written narratives? • “For Native storytellers, there is generally a proper place and time to tell a story. Some stories can be told any time. Some are only told in winter when snow is on the ground or during certain ceremonies or at specific moments in a season. Others can only be told by particular individuals or families. So when Native stories began appearing in print, concern arose that the context in which these stories had existed was in danger of being destroyed and the stories themselves were being compromised. The printed word, after all, once set on a page, has no master, no voice, no sense of time or place.” (Thomas King, The Truth About Stories). • Oral = public; written= private

Folk Tales, Fairy Tales, and Little Red Riding Hood
• Are oral narratives de-contextualized completely when rendered as written narratives? • Consider “The Story of Grandmother” • Do Thomas King’s comments apply here? • What is the importance of historical context to reading, interpretation, analysis? • Consider the idea of community or dialogue between texts.

Folk Tales, Fairy Tales, and Little Red Riding Hood
• How does the literary fairy tale appropriate, regulate, and even do violence to the oral folk tale? (Jack Zipes) • What is revealed by the shifts in the story that take place over time? • What is significant about Perrault’s or the Grimm Brothers’ retelling of the older narrative? Or Carter’s? What do these retellings reveal? • What is significant about the fact that in some versions, the “wolf” is not a wolf?

Folk Tales, Fairy Tales, and Little Red Riding Hood
• How are the quotes at the beginning of this introductory presentation (regarding the role of stories in our understanding of ourselves, others, and the world we live in) relevant here in a discussion of Little Red Riding Hood?

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