Towards a Poetics of Fiction: 1) An Approach through Structure

Author(s): Malcolm Bradbury
Source: NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Autumn, 1967), pp. 45-52
Published by: Duke University Press
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Towards a Poetics of Fiction
1)
An
Approach through
Structure
MALCOLM BRADBURY
The
study
of the novel has
emerged
as one of the
great growth-industries
of mod-
em criticism. Fiction-and
particularly
modern fiction-has taken on a
compara-
tively
new
importance
in
literary study.
Indeed it is
effectively only
over the last
twenty years
or so that
many
of the familiar
reputations
in the modern novel-
Joyce, Lawrence, Forster, Conrad, Proust, Mann, Svevo, Faulkner, Hemingway,
and so on-have
really
been secured. At the same time there has
emerged
a
clearer critical consensus about the
great
novelists of the
past,
and there has tended
to
emerge something
like an
implicit
aesthetics for the
description
and assessment
of novels. Much of this has been founded on earlier work, but it has
betrayed
its
own obsessions and interests, and the
starting point
of the
argument
that follows
-an
argument designed
to start an
argument
and not conclude one-is a sense of
considerable dissatisfaction with the
present
state of debate about the nature of the
novel and the
general practice
of novel-criticism as it flourishes in the learned
trade-journals.
One
important
feature of the
present
wealth of critical
activity
is
the
comparative
slowness with which it has
developed.
There was, as the modern
period began,
an abundance of
sophisticated
debate about fiction
produced by
practitioners
of the novel-Flaubert,
James,
Howells, Conrad, Joyce,
and others
-of
quite
as
good
an order as the new self-consciousness in
poetry,
and
involving
similar aesthetic radicalism. But, for reasons hard to see,
the new aesthetics in
poe-
try
penetrated
into the academies with much
greater speed
than the
corresponding
movement in fiction. The
consequences
of this for novel-criticism have been con-
siderable, and do much to account for its
present disarray.
For the aesthetics based
on
poetry
made
literary language,
its
symbol-making
and
tension-making power,
the main new
point
of attention. It
characteristically
saw works of art as total
sym-
bolic objects, single
concrete wholes which could not be
changed
in
any
detail
without
changing
total
meaning.
This view of literature was best ascertained if the
object
of demonstration was a short or
lyric poem.
As one obvious result, many
of
the most
pressing
of modern critical
assumptions
are founded on the mode of
working
of that
exemplary object.
The
consequent orthodoxy
about literature that
developed
is familiar
enough
and still influential
enough
not to
require
extensive discussion. But a number of
central
points
need
disentangling
if we are to
approach
the
present impasse
in fic-
tional criticism. The first
point
is that the New
Criticism, as we call it, has been
easiest with
intensely
concentrated works, lacking directly represented
characters
or
anything resembling
a narrative line. The second is that this criticism has tended
to
regard
works of literature as closed
systems;
it is anti-causal or
solipsistic.
It
tends to concern itself
primarily
with a
single
unit of art-the
poem-and
to see
this
existing independently
of its creator or reader in its
only
ascertainable form:
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NOVELIFALL 1967
words on a
page.
This
primary
unit is
usually
studied in terms of methods for at-
taining
verbal
coherence-processes
of
repetition
and contrast in the use of lan-
guage (hence "imagery," "theme," "tone," "tension," "paradox").
These elements
are
usually
taken as
parts of a whole whose character is
normally
defined
by
maxi-
mum use of
poetic language-a language
of concrete instances transformed
by
the
interplay
of verbal resonances into
something
universal. This does not mean that
the work imitates
types
in
general nature; the
theory
is not neo-classic. Nor does it
mean that it is the
product
of intense awarenesses within the creative
power
itself
about the vital
springs
in
things;
it is not romantic. Rather the view is
linguistic
and
neo-symbolist;
it holds that
language
itself has the inherent
power
to
project
wide
possibilities
which can take the form of a concrete universal. Works of art are thus
verbal constructs in which all the material
necessary
for their
appreciation
and
elucidation is contained; they
are distilled
thought-feeling complexes
in which the
verbal
procedures
for
creating progression
derive from the
properties of height-
ened, literary,
non-discursive
language (hence
their essential features are best de-
fined
by grammatical terms, like
paradox, antithesis, metaphor, symbol,
not
by
mimetic terms like
character, description
or
plot).
The main
assumptions of this
aesthetic for
my
purposes
are these:
1)
that works of art are autotelic
discourse,
concrete
representations
in
heightened language
of an
experience
which can
only
be
abstracted
by
criticism from the
complete work, 2)
that because a work of art exists
in this
way,
we should be less interested in its structure than in its overall texture
and its verbal modes of
unity,
and
3)
that
literary language
is the distinctive fea-
ture of such works, and the
procedures
which
distinguish
that
language
from other
forms of language
are a crucial
part
of the critical
accounting.
In
consequence,
the critical
approach
derived from this view is not conceived as
a means of reference to
objects
imitated
by literature; it finds no inherent univer-
sals in the external
world-only
those in the
metaphoric
or
symbolizing
function
of
language
itself. Thus "content" must be subsumed into "form" and be seen
usually
as a
species of verbal or thematic recurrence. The
general
inference is,
therefore, that when we confront human
experience
and
relationships
in
literature,
we do so within a broad framework of composition
which creates a sense of uni-
versality through
the
given powers of language
itself.
Hence,
inevitably,
this
kind of criticism concerns itself more and more with devices of
presentation,
rather
than
representation,
and in
doing
so has claimed
superior
critical
logicality.
This
logicality
has
rightly enough
been
applied
to the criticism of
fiction,
as of longer
poems,
and it has in
many respects proved profitable. Though
New Critics often
tend to
distinguish poetic
from
prose language categorically,
it has become more
and more familiar to
suppose
that there are close
analogies
between the modes. In-
deed, in a recent excellent book
(Language
of
Fiction, 1966),
David
Lodge
has ar-
gued
that most of the attributes the New Criticism
applies
to
poetic language apply
quite precisely
to
prose language
in fiction as well. Hence, he
argues,
it is
only logi-
cal to
regard
novels as
pieces
of autotelic discourse; if
they
differ from
poems by
virtue of their dimension and their
prose form, they
do not differ
radically
and we
must therefore
apply
the same kind of
stylistic analysis
to them as we have to
poe-
try. In fact, many of the
assumptions
about the
unitary
nature of the work of
art,
the relation of form to content, and
parts
to wholes, have been
long adopted
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BRADBURY STRUCTURE
into the
study
of fiction. The two main
consequences
of this fact have been that
a)
much of the criticism of fiction has had a
submerged symbolist
aesthetic behind
it,
and
b)
a
large
amount of fictional criticism has devoted itself to
finding stylistic
or
verbal unities in
literary
matter
inherently
more discursive than most
poetry.
But since novels do have an enhanced referential
dimension,
and since
any
dis-
cussion of
linguistic unity
is
likely
to leave that dimension
unsubsumed,
so there
is,
in criticism of this
sympathy,
a
tendency
to see a kind of subtext of
representation
beneath the
process
of
presentation.
The
compositional
scale must be one
appro-
priate
to the
complexity
of
life; technique
must be
discovery.
Hence the effort of
such
essays
as Mark Schorer's
justly
influential
"Technique
as
Discovery"
to
capture
as much for rhetoric and
composition
as can be
got
without
sacrificing
some mimetic or
representational
dimension
altogether.
But the
presence
of an un-
reconciled element-the element of
empiricism,
of attention to
workaday reality,
that we associate with the
novelty
of the
novel,
for instance-makes the case seem
incomplete
and leaves us divided between two
divergent poetics. However, the
compensatory emphasis provided by
critics who stress the referential
quality
of fic-
tion,
its
capacity
to
particularize,
its closeness to life, seems often
equally
mislead-
ing.
Ian
Watt,
in The Rise
of
the Novel
(1957),
advances an
argument
of this
kind,
finding
the distinctive nature of the novel in its
empirical disregard
of traditional
conventions and structures. Other critics have intensified the
possibilities
of this
approach by suggesting
that what most
typifies
the form is what
Henry James
would call its "illustrative" nature-its
singular
attentiveness to life, its
empirical
curiosity,
its instinct for the luminous
rendering
of the
particular.
But whether this
emphasis
moves toward Barbara
Hardy's
view
(in
The
Appropriate Form, 1964)
that the ideal form for the novel is like that of Anna Karenina-"an assertion of
dogma
in an
undogmatic form,
the last
pulse
of a slow and
irregular rhythm
which
is a faithful record of the
abrupt,
the difficult, the inconclusive"-or whether it
moves toward F. R. Leavis's view
(in
The Great
Tradition, 1948)
that "an unu-
sually developed
interest in
life,"
a humane and moral
concern, constitutes fineness
in a
novel,
such
arguments
tend to be weakened first
by
the fact that there are
many
novels which have other ends in view
(so
Ian Watt stumbles with
Fielding,
Leavis
with late
James
and
Joyce)
and second
by
the fact that lifelikeness is
only
one as-
pect
of
mimesis,
and hence is conditioned
by larger purposes operative
in the
novel.
Further, by attributing
the
capacity
to render life to some moral
quality
in
the
author,
Leavis tends to see the novel as a
literary
situation in which the author
transfers
sincerity
or
maturity by
direct
correspondence
to the reader. The
ontolog-
ical
argument,
on the other
hand,
tends to divest itself
entirely
of
questions
about
the
way
in which fiction affects
us,
and also
ignores questions
about the imitative
function of
literature,
its relation to that which
inherently
it must imitate.
These two
views,
the two most familiar views of the novel we
have, thus
diverge
in a
variety
of
respects.
But
they
are alike in their
unwillingness
to describe the
novel
formally,
and to determine the
disposition
of elements other than verbal
structure or the incremental addition of scene to scene. The
neo-symbolist view,
which sees all literature as verbal
procedure,
finds
difficulty
in
suggesting any
fea-
tures which make novels
recognizably novels; and the realistic view, which
typi-
fies novels
by
their
special degree
of interest in life, tends to
classify
them as an
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NOVELJFALL
1967
a-generic genre.
Yet a full
description
of the novel is not
really possible if we con-
centrate
only
on those characteristics which create an effect of verbal
unity,
nor if
we concentrate
only
on those which make for lifelikeness and
solidity
of
specifica-
tion,
or
regard
the novel as an undefinable because
empirical species.
At the same
time both of these views have an
implicit poetics-one symbolist,
the other realist
-which can
only
lead to
radically
different critical
emphases
and
preferences;
and
this in itself must create the desire for a more inclusive
typology.
What
surely
is needed is an
approach
to fiction which concerns itself with the
special complexities
of novels and the distinctive kinds of artifice and imitation
employed
in their creation. We can
only
achieve this
by recognizing
that the novel
is not a traditional
literary genre,
like
tragedy
or
comedy,
but a
general
form like
poetry
or drama; a form
recognizable, moreover, to writers when
they
write one
and to readers when
they
read one, but subject
to broad and narrow uses and not
to be defined even as
clearly
as
poetry
and drama. There is no
generic theory
which
will enable us to define
closely
the kind of matter it is
likely
to imitate or the kind
of effect it seeks to
produce;
nor can we define it
clearly by
its diction or mode of
presentation,
as we can define
poetry
and drama.
Though
we can
say
that novels
are
usually presented
to us in
prose,
as bound books for private reading, and are
fictive and hence autotelic, this will
give
us little
guide
to the matter
presented in
them, to the kind of action
they
will contain or the kind of effect
they
will
pro-
duce. The result is that
any attempt
at
generic
classification is
likely
to end
up
with some
monstrosity
of definition, like
Henry Fielding's
"comic
epic poem
in
prose."
On the other hand, if we deduce from this that novels are
intrinsically
a-generic, typified
by
their
revolutionary nature, their freedom from
convention,
and their stress on the novel and the individual in human
experience,
as some
critics have, we are
apt
to define them rather
by
their
place
in
history,
in a
history
of
style
or the evolution of modes. So we can, following
Ian Watt's lead, identify
them
socially
with the middle class, see them as
literary
vehicles of
burgher indi-
vidualism, and characterize them further
by
a
complex of realism founded in
philosophic empiricism,
fascination with material environment, and a new kind
of
demanding
intercourse between the individual and
society.
We can thus find a
place
for them in
history
and the social world, see their method of depiction as
low mimetic, and their
prevailing obsession, the
unveiling of illusion and
hypoc-
risy.
But from the
point of view of a
poetics,
a more
profitable approach
is to
recog-
nize that while the novel has no
typical action, certain
compositional problems and
features do exist, distinctively and
inherently,
in
novels,
in their fictive
nature,
their character as
prose,
and their
magnitude
or
epic
dimension.
A novel is a fictional
prose
discourse that is, in the Aristotelian formulation,
"necessarily
of a certain
magnitude."
The
problems of the
magnitude
and hence of
the
necessary range of the novel-the
problems
that derive from "our
inability
to
possess
a novel as a
picture
or a
lyric
can be
possessed,"
as E. K. Brown
puts
it-
seem fundamental, since
they
determine the essential conditions of our
engage-
ment with the medium, whether we are readers or writers.
They oblige
the critic
to
possess larger
terms than
many
have for
talking
about the
spatial
and
temporal
extension of novels and the full worlds
they explore. Equally they
commit the
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BRADBURY STRUCTURE
writer to a certain scale of
attention,
an
epical
dimension whose
action,
as
Henry
Fielding
describes
it,
is "more extended and
comprehensive"
than that of
tragedy,
contains "a much
larger
circle of incidents," and introduces "a
greater variety
of
characters." The fact that the novel is written in
prose
also
significantly
determines
its matter.
Prose,
as
compared
with
poetry,
has an accentuated referential dimen-
sion: it is our normal instrument of discursive
communication,
is associated with
our
ways
of
verifying factuality,
and is
thereby subject
to a
complex
of social uses
not
imposed
on verse. In
compositional terms,
an extended
piece
of
prose
will in-
evitably
use forms of discursiveness and
persuasion
not
normally
available to
poe-
try,
will have a different tonal and structural
engagement
with the
reader,
and so
will
emerge
as a different
species
of
persuasion, usually involving extremely
varied
use of
language (ranging
from
reportage
to extreme
poetic effects)
and
large-scale
rhetorical
strategies
of the kind
explored
so well in
Wayne
Booth's Rhetoric
of
Fiction
(1961).
As for the fictive nature of
novels,
this can indeed be seen as a fea-
ture common to all forms of invented
discourse, but it can also be
distinguished
as that matter for invention
appropriate
to this scale and this mode of
discourse,
so
that a writer will choose to
develop
it
through prose
fiction and no other form: and
that matter is
typically
characters and
events, presented
to us
by
verbal means and
shown in extended interaction. Thus the novel is a
complex
structure
by
virtue of
its
scale,
prose-character,
and
matter, being
more extended than most
poems,
deal-
ing
with a wider
range
of
life, appealing
to the reader
through
a broader
variety
of
approaches, having
a different
relationship
to
working language,
and above all
stating
its
character, intentions and conventions with less immediate
clarity
and a
greater degree
of
gradual,
worked
persuasion.
It will
tend, then, to be more dis-
cursive than
poetry,
and its
stronger
referential dimension will be shown not
only
by
attentiveness to
people
as
they
talk and think and
act,
and
places
as
they
look
and institutions as
they work,
but also to
large processes
of human interaction as
they
take
place
over a
long chronological span,
or
spatially
over a
large
area of
ground
or a
large
sector of
society.
The structural
principles deriving
from these features are various and cannot be
closely
defined in terms of a
subject-matter.
There is no
necessary
kind of hero,
though
there is
usually
a
hero;
and there is no
necessary
kind of
action, either in
substance or
shape,
as in
tragedy
or
comedy;
but
frequently
there are structures
like those of classical
comedy,
in that the diction tends to be
mean, the
range of
characters wide in classes and social
types,
and the social and moral worlds dis-
cordant, though moving
toward harmonious resolution.
Still, if there is no neces-
sary structure,
almost
any
fictional structure must
necessarily
consist of certain
things-primarily
a chain of interlinked events unified
by
persuasive discourse and
by
those materials in life
which,
transliterated as
discourse, take on for the author
a character of interconnectedness. We cannot
provide
a total
typology
of such a
structure,
but we
can,
and need
to,
seek
empirical
means for
describing
what is
inevitably present
in a novel. Now it seems to me that
any
effective account of such
structures,
which are not
prior typologies
but
compositional constructs deriving
from rhetorical and mimetic
sources, must be concerned both with
discourse, in
this
particular form,
and that which in life determines and
organizes
an author's
interest in such discourse. For if we
say
that the character of a work of fiction is
pri-
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NOVELIFALL 1967
marily verbal, is a
linguistic effect, we will tend to be committed to
questions
about
the role of
language,
and find the order and
unity
of the work
lying
in that; and if
we
say
that the nature of the novel is
primarily
to render, to make vivid, to
give
a
sense of life as lived, we
may
primarily
be involved in
judgments
about life and
society,
and find order and
unity lying
in some
typology
in the world. But if we
say
that the novel is determined
by
conditions within the medium itself and outside it
in life, then we
may
move
freely
between
language
and life, and find order and
unity
in the kind of
working
that a novel has to have, and that
any given
novel has
had, in
achieving
its
persuasive ends; and we
may
further allow, by
this
approach,
for the book's referential dimension as an account of life, its rhetorical dimension
as a
species
of
language,
its
sociological
dimension as an
exploration
and
crystalli-
zation of a cultural situation, and its
psychological
or
mythic
dimension as an ex-
ploration
of
personal
or social
psychic experience.
Let me now make it clear that I have no wish to
disparage
or
reject stylistic ques-
tions, or the
analysis
of verbal and rhetorical procedures. I believe that
they
have
done much to
enlarge
our sense of the
workings
of fiction, and to
dissipate many
traditional
illogicalities
in the criticism of literature.
My
gratitude
is
only tempered
by
the fact that
they have made us suspicious of
talking
about the referential di-
mensions of literature at all. There is a
quiver
of unease that comes over us when
we sit down to talk about a novel and use mimetic words like "plot," "character"
or "incident"-a fear that we are
imposing
unwarranted demands
upon
what is,
after all, essentially
a block of words. We are therefore inclined to assume that if
we can show that the
imagery
of cash and
legality
runs
through
a Jane Austen
novel, or that a whiteness-blackness
opposition
runs
through Moby-Dick,
we can
show more about the real
being
of the book than
by showing
that it deals with a
society,
with
dispositions of character and relationship,
so as to create a coherent
moral and social world and an attitude toward it, steadily
worked from
page
to
page,
which condition our responses.
We
may
be interested in such
things,
but we
will be
tempted
to
regard
them as more diffuse versions of the essential
linguistic
relationship
which words create between writer and reader. It is
perhaps not unfair
to claim, at this
point,
that there are
very few writers who
appear
to have felt that
it is
only through language
that
they
communicate.
They are, I would
suppose,
al-
ways
conscious that
they
are
mediating verbally
a devised succession of events;
and that the
organization
of those events, their relations one to another, their selec-
tion and their
disposition
are
primary
to their task as writers and are
utterly
cru-
cial to the effect of their work. Most writers would consider, I think, that
they
are
making
verbal
approaches
to the reader which
engage
him with a shared
reality,
and which create in him
expectations
and values, sympathies
and
repulsions, ap-
propriate
to the
comprehension of that
reality.
We
may
then take the writer's lan-
guage
in this essential
activity
as an
enabling feature, one of a
variety of elements
which the writer must
dispose
of in
producing
a work. If we take this
position,
we
will find the author's
signature
not
simply
in
stylistics,
as
neo-symbolists do, but
in his
urging upon us, through
verbal means, a
particular complex of matter for
persuasion.
To
provide
an
adequate
account of the structure of fiction, then, we must honor
the fundamental
recognition
of modern criticism that all
things
in a novel are me-
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BRADBURY
I
STRUCTURE
diated
through words, yet acknowledge
that certain
things
are
logically prior
to
those
words,
a matter which
they
mediate. We
cannot,
I
think,
isolate these
things
as a
species
of
prior
content
seeking
an
appropriate form,
since
they
will include
ideas, insights
and
compositional
commitments not definable as content. Rather we
are concerned with the
process
of
inventing
or
making
a
world,
with the
dynamics
by
which that world is shown and evaluated
by
forms of
rendering
and
distancing,
ordering
and
urging,
which are the
larger
blocks of fictional
persuasion.
The trou-
ble with such matters for
enquiry
is
that, though
we
may accept
them as a neces-
sary
condition of
literary creation,
there is no
really satisfactory
method of ascer-
taining
what
they
are
except through
the words which
finally express
them. On
the other
hand,
our successful
reading
of those words is
surely
a kind of
process by
which we
hypothesize
the sort of decisions of relevance made in order to
put
this
material to us in this
way.
What we are concerned with, then, is not the
projection
of some matter or action
prior
to the
writing
which has
produced it,
but a
steady
appreciation
of the
way
in which a writer has
shaped
and been
shaped by
his un-
dertaking.
We
might project
the situation back in Aristotelian
terms,
or neo-Aris-
totelian
terms,
in the form of a
prior working
out of the action in the mind of the
writer,
which the
compositional process
then
imitates;
but it is
only meaningful
to do this if we
say
that the action imitated exists
simultaneously
as that which
has to be written
(that
which motivates and directs the
compositional process)
and that which is
worked, achieved,
realized in the
writing.
For
any
novelist will
admit that the
prefigured
novel is not the same as the novel
achieved,
but that none-
theless it is the interaction between what is
prefigured
and the
obligations
of
achieving
it that "create" a novel. A novel is
inevitably
determined
by prior
inten-
tions and choices
(the
most
significant being
the choice of the novel as the
right
narrative
form),
but the crucial
selection,
and
rejection,
lies in
finding
a means for
persuasion compatible
with the author's
prior
interests and the conditions of the
novel-form itself as a
species
of
working
and
persuading.
Hence we will not want
to define the structure of a novel as a
prior typology,
but on the other hand we will
not want to
say,
I
believe,
that it is formed
only by
the aesthetic
logic
of the
literary
structure
alone,
which is the
neo-symbolist tendency.
But
if, therefore,
we avoid
looking
for a
prior action,
a
story
to be told, we can
still derive from a novel a causative
hypothesis,
a
unifying purposefulness
which
sets the aesthetic
logic
into action and which
perpetually shapes
it. In this
way
we
may
discover how the novelist
limits, by formalizing it, the total environment of-
fered
by life, how he creates a conditioned world with its own laws and
probabili-
ties,
a world in which
experience
can
only
assume certain
shapes
and characters
only
assume certain
dimensions,
in order that "structure"
may
have its existence.
By
this view structure would be that devised chain of events that, presented by
narration, conditions the successive
choices, made sentence
by sentence, paragraph
by paragraph, chapter by chapter,
and constitutes not
only
an entire narrative but
an attitude toward
it; it is thus the substantive
myth that we can derive from the
novel without
regarding
it as
something independent
of it. It is therefore a
compo-
sitional
achievement, this action
existing
in that social and moral environment and
in that context of rhetorical effects
designed
to control and
represent
that world for
us. These effects thus exist less in the realm of
style per
se than in the realm of
per-
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NOVELIFALL 1967
suasion, to the end of producing
a
logic
or a
response
in readers which is the
proper
outcome of the
ordering
and
selecting process,
those decisions about
technique
and
stylistic
base and
pattern about which criticism is
capable
of
talking
so well
(e.g.,
Booth).
Now in novels this
synthesizing process
will
normally, though
not
always, emerge
as a
dynamic
action about
persons
in a
society (frequently
one we
recognize
as
analogous
to our
own) and will
usually
advance
through unfolding
events to which we are
continually being given
an attitude, a
response (so
that
they
are never
neutrally events).
And since each novel
is, for reasons
already given,
a
unique conjunction of variables, not having
a definable
generic nature, we
must be
particularly
attentive and
responsive if we are to
project
our sense of what
this structure
might
be.
In
any
novel of more than incidental interest, then, we must assimilate and re-
spond
to a world with its own defined conditions and conventions
(however life-
like these
may seem),
and at the same time
judge,
estimate and evaluate what is be-
ing urged
to us. In a
complex
way,
we must
dispose and relate
parts
and elements
in order to form a
growing hypothesis
about the total action, and we must
group
blocks of
experience according
to standards of
judgment
whose aesthetic and
evaluative terms are
given by
the text. We are
guided
in this
process by
a narrative
pattern
which both
places
and conceals elements in the action. So we are encour-
aged
to make all sorts of provisional assessments, and
provisional classifications;
so we assemble characters in
groups and classes, estimate the status of particular
values in relation to other values, and
acquire
a conditioned sense of moral
appro-
priateness,
a conditioned sense of choice. In
doing all this we are not, I think, en-
gaged
with life as such, nor committed
only
to tests of realization, by
which
pas-
sages
or scenes
may
be
analyzed
for lifelike texture. Nor, I think, are we
engaged
only
with
something
that can be described
simply
as discourse and
analyzed only
as an
image-system
or a rhetoric
independent of writers and readers.
My
case is
that, while there is no
single dynamic
that is
generically
characteristic of the
novel,
its main structural characteristic lies in a
developing
action about characters and
events conducted in a closed-that is to
say,
an
authorially conditioned-world
containing principles,
values and attitudes
by
which we
may
evaluate those events.
To talk about this structural dimension, we need to be able to
open up
that closed
world
by asking questions
about causation and effect, a
procedure
that does not
seem at all fallacious if we raise the
questions and answer them from cruxes within
the work. To do this is to elevate into
prominence
those conscious or intuitive
choices which
every
writer must
perpetually make, and to
regard
not
only
the dis-
course but the structure-which can be
distinguished
from the discourse as a
spe-
cies of imitation-as
part
of the matter to be
persuaded. It also means that, while
we
regard
novels as verbal constructs, we must see the nature of what is con-
structed not as a
self-sustaining entity
but a
species of persuasion, the writer
handling
material for the reader so as to
engage
him
properly
with the world of
this
single
work. And one
point
now needs firm restatement: it is
only
if we have
some such
theory
of structure, however
empirical,
that we are
likely
to
acquire
a
meaningful descriptive poetics
of fiction; and the absence of that, the current weak-
ness of critical terminology, is a central cause of the
inadequacy
of much of the
present
wealth of novel criticism.
52
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