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The Art of Time, Theory to Practice
A vicious circle shapes much work on the problem of time in postmodern culture. Jean-François Lyotard, Fredric Jameson, David Harvey, and others trace a bad reciprocity between crisis in time and cultural crisis more generally: if postmodernity puts time in crisis, there can be no change, progress, or thinking otherwise; postmodernity redoubles, making more trouble for time. Lyotard, for example, defines “time today” as “controlled time” destructive to thought itself and therefore beyond rethinking, beyond repair (76). When Jameson notes that “the subject has lost its capacity actively to extend its pro-tensions and re-tensions across the temporal manifold and to organize past and future into coherent experience,” he too means to locate a certain cultural incoherence beyond our capacities to resolve it (25). The “time-space compression” that defines but obscures postmodernity for Harvey largely has the same effect, which might be said to extend across the ages as well, with origins as early as what Richard Terdiman has called the “memory crisis” of post-revolutionary France and recent iterations as various as Antonio Negri’s critique of “totality without contradiction” (53), Richard Sennett’s account of “short-termism” (9), and James Gleick’s complaint against “the epoch of the nanosecond” and “the consequences of haste in our culture” (6, 13). These time-crisis theorists share the view that time is essentially a diversity of forms fatally vulnerable to the singularities of modernity. Human temporality ought to distinguish strongly but flexibly among past, present, and future, to pattern out all possible durations—to serve as a fully open and varied field of opportunity; but “time today” collapses the temporal manifold, sets only a given pace, and thereby limits possibility. Because it destroys any basis for real recourse—due, that is, to the reciprocity between time-crisis and crises in thought, memory, and experience—timecrisis theory tends to suggest that there is nothing to be done about it. Compare narrative theory: it reverses this vicious circle, arguing all the while that narrative engagement creates human time even as (or just because) modernity would destroy it. As early as Gotthold Lessing’s classification of literature as the “art of time,”
Jesse Matz is Associate Professor of English at Kenyon College. His article in this issue of Narrative is part of a larger project on the practice of narrative temporality. NARRATIVE, Vol 19, No. 3 (October 2011) Copyright 2011 by the Ohio State University
Frank Kermode. and. Such a practice has also been the object of a host of texts for which time is a pragmatic project.” he has learned to perform the temporal diversity modern capitalism would destroy (69). certain texts go further. Ricoeur’s Time and Narrative mainly theorizes the temporal ontology implicit in narrative configuration rather than its practical use. Dickens’ ghosts dramatize the form of redress proposed by the Victorian novel and its vigorous extensions into past and future. an agent of styles of temporal reckoning even de Man implies “we” might cultivate. 21. “The self seen in its authentically temporal predicament” becomes an object of insight. When Scrooge finally vows to “live in the Past. Virginia Woolf. human time is a product of narrative’s temporal dynamics. deliberate performance. is a parable of the temporal instruction to be had through narrative engagement.” begins to account for the claim made by those texts that would contribute to a practice of temporal answerability (67). Mark Currie and others have attributed human temporality to the “healthy circle” of narrative construction. for example.” he looks beyond the ontology of narrative time to what “we. in his discussion of “the rhetoric of temporality. 323).” saying “the Spirits of all Three shall strive within me” and that he will “not shut out the lessons they teach. and the Future. Other texts well-known for showing the truth about time—texts by Thomas Mann.” after our refusals. by ready implication. Mann. Even postmodern narratives have this special intentionality. When Peter Brooks calls plot the “structuring operation peculiar to those messages that are developed through temporal succession” and “cannot otherwise be created or understood. in turn. the Present. Peter Brooks. Theory often implies practice. noting that “the temporal structure of the postmodern novel . Unlikely to endorse any practice of temporal integration. Even Paul de Man implies something similar. but his chapters on Woolf. Paul Ricoeur. .” that “the prevalence of allegory always corresponds to the unveiling of an authentically temporal destiny” (206). who. however. as Ricoeur suggests. according to Ursula Heise.” when he concludes that narrative plot is “the product of our refusal to allow temporality to be meaningless. practical demands for “temporal integration” (46).274 Jesse Matz reciprocalities of time and narrative have been essential to our sense of the nature and value of narrative form. de Man does note. A Christmas Carol. Mikhail Bakhtin. Ricoeur is not alone in raising this question of practice. And they have also implied something more practical. But what exactly does it mean to “deal aesthetically” with time crisis? Is aesthetic dealing real solving? Do these texts offer a way to create time. Marcel Proust and others—also model ways to reinvent it aesthetically. and Proust show people innovating narrative temporalities for real human uses—temporalities that “transform human action” (2:160). suggesting that we consider human time a matter of active. actually do with it (10. then. Frank Kermode’s The Sense of An Ending says narrative meets temporal “needs”—that its structures fit it for existential demands that are also. in spite of what Lyotard might reply? . geared to restore or even innovate temporal possibilities. . making a compelling practical argument: read narrative forms to cultivate or restore real-world temporalities. In theory. is a way of dealing aesthetically with an altered culture of time. Whereas many texts address the problem of time or experiment with ways to mimic it. not just a hermeneutical given but an achievement of collaborative human action or perhaps even an individual accomplishment.
In other words. which. the forms of duration that convert presence into a field of difference. it might instead be understood as a framework for interpreting those texts that make the argument themselves: whether or not the temporal dynamics special to narrative form do reverse the vicious cycle of time crisis. and future and brings variety to the relationships among them. and poststructural variations. the larger public culture of temporal cultivation within which the “art of time” might play a leading role. this essay risks focus on the possibility that narrative texts are phenomenological instruments through which to transform temporal realities. Even arguments that discover potentially salvific temporalities in narrative forms stop short of the implications of applying them. and results? Answers to these questions will focus on the possibility that narrative devices redress time crisis—that time’s failures provoke narrative forms. “Narrative temporality” here is not limited to the chronological linearity for which it is often mistaken but understood to include the many temporalities narrative actually brings into play. But because phenomenology links time-consciousness to aesthetic form and to social life. why. and other time-schemes. in response to narratological analysis. and understanding those texts requires that we know how. ethics. Further confusing the issue are the endless complications that have also subjected the phenomenology of time to ontological. Deliberately utopian for the sake of argument.The Art of Time.1 And the essay will link this practice to the broader culture of time-work to which it would contribute. and what would be its instruments. If the definition of temporality is therefore an open question here. its performance of durations. and with what effect they ask us to address realworld time-crisis through a practice of narrative engagement. and with what effect they make that claim. pragmatic opportunities that make time more truly an open question. objectives. ready the tools through which we reconstruct everyday temporal opportunities. and psychology. the collocation of time-frames entailed even in linear narrative action. central to this essay’s goals. the complexity so amply recognized in narrative theory and readily apparent despite the common-sense habit of equating narrativity with sequence. inevitably diverse in its considerations. the essay poses some of the key questions raised by any such use for narrative temporality: What justifies reading Ricoeur (and the critical tradition he represents) for these practical implications? What suggests that temporalities modeled in narrative forms might transfer into real opportunities? How would this practice actually work. present. any practice of narrative temporality must only fail to simplify time’s notoriously complex definitions. temporality is defined in phenomenological terms as the perspectival. If this argument sounds too utopian in scope or advocacy. nonlinear complexity involved even in the simplest narrative utterance.2 By contrast. horizonal range—the diversity—that produces the manifold of past. existential. key texts propose that they do. politics. The term here refers to the prodigious. the essay will argue that narrative’s temporal dynamics. might constitute an “art of time” through which to practice temporal diversity. Theory to Practice 275 This essay asks what happens when narrative texts answer Lyotard with Ricoeur in the spirit of Dickens—how. the confusion is essential—indeed. why. frequencies. Studies of time in literature have tended to presume that texts pose ontological questions or that they represent time in such a way as to get at the truth of our experience of it. Similarly. And a public one: to say that narrative forms constitute a public prac- . speeds.
so that productive discordances remain true to time’s aporetics. TIME AND NARRATIVE: FROM RICOEUR TO COGNITIVE PSYCHOLOGY For Ricoeur. narrative. it is sequence. however. and our practical reconfigurations need explanation at another level of inquiry. The difference will become clearer as we turn now to the crux through which the art of time might go from theory to practice: the phenomenological hermeneutics of Paul Ricoeur’s Time and Narrative. A doubleness also distinguishes the time of the telling from the time of the told. it remains to apply his approach to what we might call the . narrated time becomes a kind of matrix adequate to time’s discordances while yet a structure. keeping out the contingencies of ordinary social life.276 Jesse Matz tice of time is to say that these forms often invite application to an array of potential shared endeavors rather than only to reflect subjective realities or ideal ontologies. thus doubled and trebled. both as eternity and as change. But Ricoeur’s treatment of “the means by which we reconfigure our confused. Narrative engagement uniquely enables temporal speculation through its threefold mimesis: temporal preunderstanding proceeds through narrative configuration to readerly reconfiguration. so uniquely that “there can be no thought of time without narrated time. and human time emerges. Ricoeur notes. Narrative is concordant discordance. But we might ask: Organized by whom—meaningful to whom? Is this reciprocity of time and narrative a purely essential one.” or. somehow. and at the limit mute temporal experience” does raise the question of real performance (xi). and its discordances are primordially baffling unless narrative intervenes. only a “deep kinship. and. also in the spirit of concordant discordance. it replies to the aporetics of time by structuring discordance and converting its paradoxes into a “living dialectic” (1:66– 67). Endlessly it presents us with these aporias. for practical purposes (xi)? What actually provokes reciprocation here. it is experiential but cosmological and truest. Even if Ricoeur does attend amply to history and to praxis. in turn. Cornelius Castoriadis has undertaken the effort to expand Ricoeur’s argument by making the social-historical its starting point. As these critics suggest. unformed. social practice should be seen always already to intervene here and must be recognized as a decisive temporal agent. For phenomenological hermeneutics keeps Ricoeur only to a certain ideal level of practice. present. and yet it is duration. Peter Osborne notes that Ricoeur’s account of narrative’s beneficially “imperfect mediation” fails to account for the “regulatory practices of a common social life”. It raises that question somewhat mutely. “time becomes human time to the extent that it is organized after a narrative. productive tensions. Blocked conflicts become positive. to quote a phrase that hardly needs quoting.” or do real people actually practice these portrayals. prompting time’s narrative organization (on the one hand) and narrative’s adoption of temporal features? Phenomenological hermeneutics does not dwell on situated practice: Time and Narrative is not a handbook. and future. is meaningful to the extent that it portrays the features of temporal experience” (3). the problem of time is its discordance: it splits into past.
perception of temporal events. automatically tune to our environment.6 Tuning is an array of diverse. instead. not time. . Lately. theorists note that “the topic has never been high on the cognitive science agenda” because “the various sorts of investigations into time-related issues” have not coalesced (Van Gelder 250–51). only as a collection of essentially unrelated processes that entertain only superficial relations to each other” (Michon and Jackson 298). Cognitive psychologists have studied every aspect of temporal cognition—scalar timing. duration discrimination. Indeed. temporal ordering—but these areas of study have not come together into any general account of temporal understanding. too.” the set of automatic processes through which low-level. The relationship between human time and narrative organization becomes an actual collaboration between acts of temporal understanding and the particulars of narrative form.4 In a moment we will consider an example of the way this transposition might reframe engagement with a text Ricoeur himself discusses (Proust’s A la recherche).The Art of Time. No “general process model” explains how these aspects of cognition emerge into temporal awareness. reflexive behavior keys itself to progressive events in the environment. . That is. however. The narratorial dynamics that give actual minds diverse forms of temporal facility are equally but differently essential—part of a temporal practice that could bring Ricoeur’s analysis to the level of timely cultural engagement. Leading cognitive psychologists now say that time in the mind is naturally incoherent and must defer to surrogates to emerge into temporal understanding.” These catch-phrases stress the fact that “time is a conceptual structure .5 Cognitive psychologist John Michon divides temporal cognition into two moments. let us find proof that Ricoeur’s time-narrative reciprocity does indeed circle through practical understanding—that temporal cognition.” belonging to “the declarative domain of knowledge” (42).” “a construction a posteriori. incoherence itself has become central. memory of every kind. First. however. precognitive and. or. that is designed specifically to represent and solve problems whenever the tuning process fails” (41–42). “a burning question . . pursuing Ricoeur’s analysis through the happenstances of social and cognitive activity proves even more emphatically that “there can be no thought of time without narrated time. For the most part. . Theory to Practice 277 happenstance of narrative temporality—the actual occasions on which the circle of time and narrative comes around to contingent social action and individual human understanding. it is unconscious and cognitively impenetrable. often unrelated processes. This dependence has lately been the interest of cognitive psychologists whose work shows that temporal cognition transfers from narrative form because that is where it mainly occurs. but when something disrupts the process—when there is conflict among bedrock .3 Adding this contingency to the circle makes its practical contours emerge. First is what he calls “tuning. may be treated as manifestations of a coherent set of processes. . this incoherence has discouraged inquiry into temporal cognition. We implicitly.” by proving that narrating time also enables individual understanding and creates new social resources. . is whether the many and varied phenomena . It emerges through explicit attention to tuning and is a “derived entity. therefore. depends upon narrative construction. Time is “the conscious experiential product of the tuning process” (Michon 40). Michon sums up the difference by calling tuning “timing your mind” and calling temporal cognition what happens when you are “minding your time.
It seems that cognition would naturally overwrite past realities and make them available for retrieval only insofar as they served some semantic purpose.9 These cognitive gaps can enable us to understand the reasons for specific narrative temporal forms. Time. and at their most elaborate they become “formal” representational structures. Narrative temporality.7 “Time is the conscious experiential product of the processes that allow the (human) organism to adaptively organize itself so that its behavior remains tuned to the sequential (i. “seems to reside mostly in the level of abstraction that is required to match a representation with the temporal structure of the concrete episode that it represents” (42).” giving children the very capacity to conceive of the conflict between “was” and “is” by presenting them in the same field of attention (264.” Michon writes. for practical time locates itself in the narrative forms that supplement failed efforts to tune to a natural environment. because it responds to precognitive circumstances).” Narrative actually creates the past as such. from literal patterns to metaphorical ones. . in which specific events vanish into the general knowledge base—is developed in children through narrative elaboration: “protoepisodic fragments and scripts” only become “full memories when elaborated into narratives through talk with parents. “The difference. the two generate each other reciprocally around cognitive gaps—what Ellen Spolsky has called “gaps in nature”—and they do so as social and cultural provisions. Cognitive psychology is useful to justification of a narrative practice of time not just for the theoretical evidence it provides but for its potential to articulate exactly the “tunings” that specific forms of narrative engagement remediate. Time does not come naturally to us.278 Jesse Matz temporal processes. . Episodic memory—recall of specific events.8 Time is not deterministically the property of the brain. Time’s remedial representations range from simple to complex. is a kind of cognitive supplement. however. and also its supplementarity (40). a remedial representation (though not entirely an arbitrary construction. nor is narrative. then. Narrative serves here as a “cognitive artifact. order) relations in its environment:” Michon’s summary definition of time lays stress on the conscious production of time. “[making] possible the maintenance of conflicting simultaneous representations of reality. rather. and true to the diversity other representations would resolve away. Here. or automatic processes are inadequate to the demands of new environmental conditions—we become conscious of the process and time results.” one of what David Herman and others have called the “tools for thinking” distributed outside the individual mind. time needs patterns flexibly attuned. Katherine Nelson’s work on “episodic memory” can help us pinpoint the precise ways in which certain narrative languages propose innovative temporalities. 278). as opposed to semantic memory. enables cognition to preserve the past in the form of episodic . Time is the purposive reparation of broken adherence to natural temporality. but instead defers to representational constructions. For example.. provisionally generated. Here is narrative’s opportunity—the place for Ricoeur’s “discordant concordance”—for here is the need for representations at once formally removed from natural temporal occurrence and keyed to the failed “tunings” they would remediate. a construction of language users” (“Memory” 279). in and through socio-cultural representations. the deliberacy of the process. Nelson argues that “the idea of a specific past in which previous experiences took place is .e. It is not natural to cognition.
“presentist” time-frames extend into possible futures. and although Gilbert describes it as a matter of human sociability (information on possible future feelings from other people feeling them in the present). Through collaborative explanation.10 Once again we see time-narrative reciprocity enabling cognition through the social artifact. or presuming they match projections of past experience. and a social narrativization once again creates temporal landscapes unavailable to the individual mind. the temporal manifold—depends on the way in which narrative enables transcendence of a single-minded point of view. we should look for the forms of narrative engagement that remediate our cognitive “tunings. cognitive psychology now affirms that Ricoeur’s association of time and narrative does indeed occur at the level of situated understanding and can therefore become a matter of practical. Narratology details the narrative dynamics through which temporal cognition emerges into temporal agency. as I have claimed. in that it happens apart from any aesthetic intention. Like Michon. what Martha Nussbaum has argued about the slow recognition patterned out only in narrative forms (261–285). thereby failing to reckon with future possibilities at all. its terminology names the functions that supplement temporal cognition and key it to new possibilities. and offering up ways to meet the challenges of “time today”—modeling the enhancement of temporal possibility in tune with the kind of opportunities now presented worldwide. or what .” Gilbert argues that true openness to the future naturally fails because of a certain “presentism”: the mind ordinarily attributes present conditions to future possibilities. Some “surrogacy” is necessary. NARRATIVE TECHNIQUE AS COGNITIVE TUNING: PROUST AND THE PSEUDO-ITERATIVE But what would it take to make it so? Is narrative’s temporal surrogacy something still effectively natural. his account of the surrogacy process sets up the same narratorial constructions at work in temporal cognition as Michon and Nelson describe it. Nelson concludes that narrative is therefore necessary to the full range of temporal recognition we might otherwise presume to be built into the mind. The work necessary to imagine futurity happens by other means. Further such evidence comes from Daniel Gilbert’s work on “affective forecasting. or is it available to the kind of initiative necessary to make it a purposeful textual practice? Here we need to identify the “artifacts” in narrative responsive to the “gaps” time emerges to fill. Not only the past but the future—indeed. This is to repeat what many critics and theorists have said about certain aspects of the relationship between narrative forms and temporal awareness—for example.The Art of Time. that those devices remediate the cognitive functions Michon and others describe. critical personal and social engagement. Nelson’s findings match Michon’s: “The child’s knowledge of time concepts is knowledge mediated through language and cultural artifacts” (Language 288). Theory to Practice 279 memory by introducing the very sense of the past.” where would we find them? One possibility—the one this essay will pursue—is that they correspond to the narrative devices named in narratology. In other words. Nelson shows how cultural supplementation enables temporal possibility— and how its specific forms depend upon specific forms of narrative action. If.
Genette shows Proust to be replete with just the creative dynamics through which narrative forms meet temporal opportunity. duration. The terms in question have been articulated most comprehensively in Gérard Genette’s Narrative Discourse.11 But a sharper narratological focus. that he used to have lunch an hour late every Saturday—but then describe allegedly regular occurrences in singular detail. one of Genette’s more durable narratological chestnuts: “pseudo-iteration. and imparfait complicate this absolute distinction between an event located to a particular past moment and one with more extensive temporal range—but Genette’s theory of Proustian iteration nevertheless identifies a view of the past that accounts for much of what makes the Recherche unique. and frequency. They would be a practical crux here.” Such scenes develop from iterative pretexts to singular descriptions. It contrasts with “singulative” narration. contribute to larger cultures of time. for example. “Iterative” narration makes single reference to something that happened frequently.280 Jesse Matz Gary Saul Morson has argued about “tempics.” an extreme literalization . They are those categories of order. with broader implications—an instance of what David Herman calls postclassical narratology—closes tighter links in a longer chain. passé compose. whereas their richness and precision of detail ensure that no reader can seriously believe they occur and reoccur in that manner. For example. and. specifying precisely the practical dynamics that would link individual mental action through narrative to the temporal cultures of the contemporary world (“Scripts” 1048). we would find that Proust’s experimental temporal dynamics respond to (and propose critical redress of) temporal challenges incipient to those that preoccupy time-crisis theorists today. however. the points at which specific narrative structures remediate cognitive action. because they are the measure of any text’s practical temporality. without any variation. Were we to restore these experiments to their fuller pragmatic contexts. conversations that took place between Léonie and Françoise “every Sunday” at Combray will quickly develop one Sunday’s contents. by extension. The iterative tends to take the imperfect verb form—so.” French verb tenses of course inflect these distinctions somewhat differently— passé simple (aorist).” Pseudo-iteration is Genette’s term for a peculiar habit of anachrony in Proust. for example. the different narrative speeds and modes of anachrony Genette has used to explain exactly how Proust modeled breakthrough temporal postures. the benefits of narratorial “side-shadowing” to our recognition of alternative life possibilities (6). particularly by their wording in the imperfect. Sometimes Proust will narrate in the iterative aspect—writing. “In Proust the singulative scene itself is not immune to a sort of contamination by the iterative:” Proustian narration tends toward an unusual combination of the two (121). duration. several times. without any change in narrative aspect.” as opposed to the singulative “I saw him there once. more specifically.” and. concern himself with the cultural sources of Proust’s experiments or their potential cultural effects. Genette writes of “scenes presented. which makes single reference to a past event that occurred only once.” or “I saw him there a lot. Genette does not. as iterative. and frequency leave no traditional narrative temporalities intact. “I used to see him there. Genette claims that this conflation indicates a “sort of intoxication with the iterative. The full complexity of Proust’s temporal experiment—beyond that which makes him the classic example of modernist culture’s assault on clock time and the prophet of memory—is laid out in Genette’s recognition that Proustian order.
but in pseudo-iteration they are yoked together. The temporal proficiencies of narrative texts would become those of the mind and of minds thinking and acting together—the forms of imagination necessary to rethink . A singular event is episodic. we might explain Proust’s “intoxication with the iterative” as a deliberate effort to restore continuity between the episodic and semantic pasts. It is simply to say that the Proustian pseudo-iterative might be read pragmatically as a way deliberately to widen the backing of momentary experiences. a lesser link to the past as such. to critical thinking about time crisis? Could such critical thinking amount to a temporal practice. By contrast Proust’s modern present is singular in its experiences. Proust “forgets the distinction of aspects”—but why? For what reasons. or even to argue that the distinction between episodic and semantic memory has much to do with Proust’s theory of time. Proust’s efforts might be instructive. in turn. this is not to try for any major contribution to the theory of Proustian memory. many of which are aesthetic motivations or textual prerogatives perhaps not really amenable to practical forms of analysis. is there a chance for preservation in the narration of episodes into semantic continuity? Might the obsolescence of pastness be counteracted through this expanded form of narratological inquiry? These questions bring us to the main ones: can we transfer the temporal understanding embedded in narrative forms to conscious action. OTHER PRACTICES: FROM DEATHBED PROPHECY TO BOOMERANG ANACHRONY The implicit hope is to cultivate this and other critical temporalities. an event that has entered semantic memory has an iterative significance to the present. To put it crudely: Combray was a world of iteration—one in which the past always had full explanatory bearing upon the present. of course. The two orientations toward the past event are incompatible. in the face of early-twentieth-century challenges to what might have once seemed to be their natural “tuning. Even so. since past and present experiences increasingly fail to match. extracting them from their textual sources and applying them to public temporal enhancements.The Art of Time. and with what result? What causes Proust’s aspectual conflation? Many things. Proust tries to recover lost time. Theory to Practice 281 of what is normally just a suggestive figure of rhetoric. a way to respond to “time today. one meant to contravene modern time-schemes that isolate events and prevent their general relevance. a conflation of episodic and semantic pastness. Proustian narration integrates them perhaps to close a gap between a modernist sense of dislocation and the continuities lost with the culture Proust recalls. This is not to say that time in Proust mainly works this way. the backing of regular experience. and.” Insofar as those challenges are now greater. These are commonplace observations: the modern moment was one in which traditional experience lost relevance. noting its historical provocation and cognitive ingenuity. could it be possible also to practice it—to try for this temporality in everyday life? If indeed modernity yet endangers the semantic past. Reading the Proustian pseudo-iterative. And yet we might note that the pseudo-iterative corresponds to a certain temporal chiasmus.” an explicit motive for narrative engagement? OTHER TECHNIQUES.
this transcendent view singles out past moments in which love lost its chance to assert its better judgment. Cruz betrays his ideals and those of his nation. this retrospective agency slowly but surely constructs its alternative to the consequences of the will. The story of Artemio Cruz is a familiar one. For Artemio Cruz asks us to see the present as a future past and. But here he also gets a chance at redemption. exploiting death’s finality to determine life’s real meaning. When.282 Jesse Matz the singularities of time today and to subject its totalities to the diversity of narrative’s provisional designs. Artemio Cruz is born.” he has derived a critical practice from a narratorial technique much the way we might derive one from Proustian pseudo-iteration (3). to test apparent anomalies for iteration and thereby narrow the gap between tradition and modernity.12 What follows here are some samples. This form of narration aims less to represent the temporal reality of the dying mind than to give our ongoing lives the benefit of their ending in advance. better understand how it fits different possible futures. slowly but surely becoming a loveless symbol of political corruption. Other critical practices could involve any number of other such uses for narrative temporality in which its forms serve less to reflect realities than to propose new possibilities. lets truly human significance carry the day. driving him single-mindedly through a series of dubious achievements. That this reversal has social and political uses is indicated by the way . he is motivated by desire. Past moments leap out of sequence to assert their essential primacy and a new order of events enables enlightening juxtapositions. to invent a time-scheme capable of better insight than what we achieve from one moment to the next. For example. making its incomplete anachronies a constructive form of fragmentation. Free to see beyond the demands of the moment. because the death of the body is the mind’s opportunity to transcend the instrumental will and restore the freedom of desire. In his youth. suggestive only. Deathbed narrators reconstruct their lives from the perspective of its imminent end. Deathbed narration recovers what Walter Benjamin claims storytelling used to borrow from death more generally: death’s delirium loosens the links of linearity and. Sorting those moments into a narrative of increasing opportunities for redress. finally. Or practices not unlike new-historicist techniques for extrapolating anecdotal information: when Stephen Greenblatt defines the “representational technology” of the “representative anecdote. Deathbed narration models a peculiar habit of retrospection. a personal redemption that is also that which Mexico itself might achieve through the virtues of advance retrospection. An innocent young man at the moment of the Revolution. by judging it on that basis. of other ways that practicing the art of time might extrapolate narratological insight. as he ages. disintegrating into putrid disarray. but it has also established itself as a framework through which to remain open to real possibility. deathbed narration has finished its absolution of him. Pseudo-iteration could correspond to artful techniques through which to prepare in advance to draw out the general relevance potential to any momentary experience. The Death of Artemio Cruz: here the dying mind is free to achieve a destiny that had been in reality betrayed by daily ambitions. his will wins out. by letting life’s moments regroup themselves according to alternative priorities. and everything is open to him. Cruz finally gets what he deserves as his body—clearly also the body politic—gives out.
speed is the inventive basis for the contribution of another major proponent of temporal cultivation: Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. enhancing his descriptions with precise and complex reference to the speeds at which things occur (495). The difference turns out to be a product of the novel itself: much like Proust’s Marcel. leaves his origins. and then a “time burst” as things proceed again at a hectic pace. his dying mind splits in two—one part all too closely consumed by the pain and fear of the dying body. by giving his aporias a contingent social cause and a practical form of redress. This posthumous voice is really the novel’s deathbed narrator and it speaks to Cruz in a second-person voice like that of an omniscient narrator offering wisdom to a hapless but redeemable protagonist: “You will be that boy who goes forth to the land. The narrator of Invisible Man is very different from its protagonist. Artemio Cruz innovates its aesthetically complex style for temporal diversity. In such admonitions and more generally in a narrative mode that develops into a unique form of prophecy. and narrative speeds model the timing for interventions against it. When. Existential freedom would demand a certain timelessness while social freedom would come through schemes of progress. Also as in Proust. defined by conflicting temporalities.” a pause. at the start of the novel’s final riot there is a “sudden and brilliant suspension of time. in ironic picaresque “jumping from the pot of absurdity into the fire of the ridiculous. finds his destiny. when death joins origins and destiny and between the two. Ricoeur might also note that Invisible Man achieves its “concordant discordance” by patterning together the two temporalities without falsifying any harmony between them and that it does so through persistent invention of speeds adequate to freedom’s conflicting forms. Racist “history” specifically is the cause of time-crisis. tracing a way back to first principles. The political consciousness Ellison’s protagonist finally achieves and its potential to reshape anti-racist activism correlates to his mastery of the speeds at work in narrative form. gone into a posthumous mode. Ellison goes from theory to practice. his dying mind restores its conscience. fixes the blade of liberty” (272). Ellison’s narrator has developed temporal insight through a novel’s worth of temporal confusion. Ellison stresses a peculiar difference between the disorientation that overwhelms his protagonist and his narrator’s speed control (523). for example. More specifically. The protagonist stumbles blindly through chaos. Its contribution to the art of time is a form of inner self-critique that could speak timeless caution to our pursuit of momentary projects. To be truly free and to be free from social oppression are unfortunately conflicting motivations. This mastery develops in response to a fundamental crisis in time: Ellison dramatizes what Ricoeur would call a basic aporia in his novel’s dramatization of the conflict between existential and social freedoms. but another already transcending it. despite everything. Theory to Practice 283 Artemio Cruz implies it would truly make the nation ready for Revolution: if Cruz’s dying body figures the body politic.” lacking all temporal bearings. finds the land. If The Death of Artemio Cruz aspires to transfer narrative order to temporal practice. But the narrator seems to enjoy superhuman temporal insight.The Art of Time. today. the contrast between the protagonist’s temporal blindness and narratorial insight sets off the tem- . This is the voice the novel would put into our heads—the narratorial language it would teach us to hear. and the style through which he ultimately narrates reflects the gain. however.
what it makes for our use. time never stands still. Time-travel texts sometimes mount a critique of the nostalgia that can motivate them. They are truly forms of “responsibility” because they prepare Ellison’s narrator to articulate the timing necessary to do anti-racist work. Invisible Man proposes one way to stage politics without betraying what it sees as universal human values. The novel’s conflict between existential and social temporalities seems to ruin changes for successful timing. Time proceeds. Sometimes you’re ahead. gives one a slightly different sense of time. Just as soon as characters launch back into some past moment. always subject to change and flux. Invisibility confers specifically temporal advantages: “Invisibility.” When Ellison’s protagonist meets those “men out of time” who have chosen invisibility.” geared toward “negating the world of things as given in favor of a complex of manmade positives” (xvi–xvii). timing is at issue. This awareness explains the occult perceptivity he develops as the novel moves toward its conclusion. time past was always a moment in progress. planning seems absurd when political tactics conflict with the prerogatives of human freedom. He also characterized the novel in terms of fiction’s role as a “form of symbolic action. Instead of the swift and imperceptible flowing of time. The novel’s symbolic action. When time-travel narratives stress this reality. is in large part its sense of timing. down-home voice. This potential practice links jazz aesthetics to politics in such a way as to render them temporally reciprocal and to suggest that this novel’s improvisations extend beyond its terms to pattern further pursuits of political visibility. Once driven underground. let me explain. Ellison said Invisible Man began with “an ironic. that moment gives way to the next one. Throughout the novel. A third and final example here is a form of anachrony that restores the past to the present.” improvisational in the manner of jazz.284 Jesse Matz poral advantages of narrative form: here. it is a way of indicating how narrative redresses the problems it represents. when the improvisations of “invisibility” become a matter of writing. We see that nostalgia has no fixed object but always aims at a moving target. sometimes behind. Ellison’s protagonist begins to write. It only becomes a real advantage. they give us a kind of “boomerang anachrony. you are aware of its nodes. as advocates for racial progress obsess over the right speed for social change. which it posits as a way to ironize the pace of social change—to moderate its immediate ambitions with “invisible” skepticism. By developing a form of timing that could reconcile invisibility and responsibility. from one who only experiences the harrowing disjunctions of speed to one who can convert them into forms of public understanding (568). irreverent but committed (xi). between the free-agency of historical non-existence and the terms of historical inclusion (430). those points where time stands still or from which it leaps ahead” (8). a tendency in time-travel texts that literalizes a tendency in narrative more generally. beginning to write makes him see that “even an invisible man had a socially responsible role to play. too. Their returns to the past are sometimes nostalgic fantasies. but the fantasy is often undercut when it becomes clear that. however. even despite time-travel. you’re never quite on the beat.” which in turn transforms him from protagonist to narrator. Central to the novel’s lesson in speed-control is the chronotope of “invisibility. he develops a useful sense of the stakes of the choice between invisibility and history.” jumping back into the past .
and the twittering of birds. “It was a soft. It most fully converts pastness to presence in such a way as to stress its living provisionality. The intervention matches that of Twain’s medievalism more generally: both lead away from a falsely frozen past into its actual former presence. Genette notes that “the boldest avoidance . 6). there is thematic stress upon the formal anti-nostalgic critique narrative consistently makes when it addresses the past. and there were no people. and as lonesome as Sunday. paying no attention to the point where it rejoins the first narrative” (65–66). But because most texts do not thematically show the tem- . no wagons. but it turns out he is not actually alone. The result is culturally effective as well as psychologically enriching. Theory to Practice 285 only to move forward again. Just as time travelers discover that the past is always leading onward. What Ricoeur theorizes is shown to work in reality. readers find that recollections relocate narrative action not to fixed points but to perpetual process. Often in Proust a recollection will have no clear ending. . this property is perhaps best appreciated in Genette’s account of a Proustian practice related to pseudo-iteration: a tendency to forget the analeptic character of recollection. hovering over the nostalgic moment only long enough to reckon with the fantasy of its permanence. consists of forgetting the analeptic character of a section of narrative and prolonging that section more or less indefinitely on its own account. “for there was a fellow on a horse. as lovely as a dream. A classic filmic moment has the time-traveler appear in the past only to be rushed forward by a crowd or a truck: in such cases.” who then leads him at a comfortable pace into the action of King Arthur’s court (9. In that discovery is a bracing corrective to the stasis that often transfixes the recollective mind. there was no stir of life. which applies not only to the problem thematized by the text but to broader practice. in order to correct the sort of nostalgia that falsely serves present interests. instead continuing onward until it rejoins the present narration. At work in any number of narrative texts. reposeful summer landscape. and the buzzing of insects. . The air was full of the smell of flowers. nothing going on”: Twain’s Connecticut Yankee thusly finds himself at first in a landscape stilled by its pastness. At once thematic and formal. because it modifies the sense of the past that often motivates reactionary attachment to moments that never were. boomerang anachrony happens in different ways. Connecticut Yankee thereby theorizes a practice common to narrative anachrony—thematizing a property special to narrative form much the way A Christmas Carol thematizes the Victorian novel’s power to enhance the temporal manifold.The Art of Time. Narrative combines varieties of pastness that the mind might tend to separate. “eluding the juncture” that would distinguish the past from the present (Genette 65). And it most fully demonstrates the artificiality of this temporality—its unnatural source in the complex narratives that would transform time-schemes naturally available to us. thematic frameworks encourage us to recognize not just the truth of a text’s temporal representation but its potential use. Forgotten analepsis is the boldest version of boomerang anachrony. TEMPORAL REDRESS IN PRACTICE In each of these cases temporal dynamics special to narrative form are presented as practical artifacts.
the Tempo Giusto movement in music) operate with the same effort at the restructured temporality essential to narrative time.” “sequence. For Flaherty’s typology closely matches that of narratology’s temporal dynamics—“duration. and related initiatives that seek to moderate the baseline pace of late-capitalist economies (Japan’s “Sloth Club. What develops through attention to this context of time work is something like what Bourdieu calls “the work of time” in his Logic of Practice. These movements do not simply choose a slower pace or a longer present over those allowed in contemporary life. and be slow when slowness is called for. enrich—these ongoing efforts to cultivate fuller temporal opportunities. Flaherty brings to light a range of “intrapersonal and interpersonal efforts directed toward provoking or preventing various temporal experiences” (11). and narrative temporality might take its place among—and. for example.” the Now Foundation. In psychology. provides enriching terms and helpful specificity for these other forms of time work. “Slow philosophy can be summed up in a single word: balance. Philip Zimbardo promotes the benefits of temporal diversity: his “time-perspective inventory” assesses temporal orientations toward the end of fostering a “‘balanced time orientation. Consider the example of one practice for which time is an essential object of discovery: the therapeutic regime known as “Narrative Therapy. Context for the art of time already exists across a range of contemporary cultural initiatives and activities.” This very popular . future. since the warnings through which Jameson. Even the slow-food movement. It is not just that these widespread efforts at making time provide a context within which to characterize the projects of narrative temporality but that narrative temporality.” which means “Be fast when it makes sense to be fast. and others have dramatized the problem of time in contemporary culture could motivate us to discover the rehumanizing temporalities yet available in narrative forms. or personal and social appraisals” (1272).” and other narratological terms title the chapters of his work—suggesting that collaboration among these fields of temporal endeavor could prove mutually beneficial. resource assessments. Seek to live at what musicians call the tempo giusto—the right speed” (15).” but we might reverse his terms to discover the habitus of these practical efforts to “make time” and to coordinate them with the time-work of narrative (107). That context is largely provided by time-crisis theory. transposed to practice.” Exploring the many forms of “time work” active in contemporary American culture. Sociologist Michael Flaherty describes such efforts at “making time” as part of a larger cultural effort at “temporal agency. the “downshifting” movement. developing a “typology of the agentic practices through which we customize our temporal experience” (136).’ an idealized mental framework that allows individuals to flexibly switch temporal frames among past. And yet that project is already underway. Bourdieu’s focus is “the temporal structure of practice.286 Jesse Matz poral work potential in their narrative forms and because the value of that work must emerge not just where it is embedded but where it will be done. Practical enterprises that may seem to have little to do with literary study involve efforts at temporal redress similar to those enabled by narrative form.” As Carl Honoré puts it. this practice of the art of time needs reference to projects beyond textual critique.” “frequency. and present depending on situational demands. I will argue. They try for “balance. Lyotard.
Texts that imply they should be read pragmatically for their forms of temporal engagement occupy a pedagogical position in relation to the public they would serve. the very peculiarity of the proposition here— that taking the art of time from theory to practice might involve a sort of public narratology project—brings us to the edge of a telling gap in the reciprocity of time and narrative itself. THEORY TO PRACTICE If Narrative Therapy and the Slow Movement are two examples of existing potential sites for time-practice collaborations. or at least the practical version of it. Other contemporary public efforts to cultivate or restore temporal possibilities could likewise benefit from new means of access to the temporal resources housed in narrative forms.” a moment of potential rupture around which the new story might organize (16–17). CONCLUSION: THE ART OF TIME. This collaboration. then. requires the temporal skill embedded in narrative forms. creating a reciprocity that redraws Ricoeur’s “healthy circle” in such a way as to cycle it through new fields of play. whether or not they participate in the larger context of contemporary time work. What Flaherty calls “temporal agency” is a critical goal of the treatment. For the practical version of this reciprocity would seem to require some motivating force. That process is of course not entirely a matter of temporal dynamics—it is as much a matter of interpreting events and their relations to one another. In collaboration with narratology—conjoined to it in a larger practice of time—Narrative Therapy could enrich its power to “re-story” with a host of powerful analytic techniques and a more nuanced set of terms through which to add force and rigor to the constructive (and deconstructive) methods that have made it successful. Theory to Practice 287 approach to psychological counseling aims to help people “re-story” their lives—to revise “problem-saturated” life stories into ones more conducive to happiness and well-being. and that position raises questions not only about their cultural status but about their ideological implications. on the basis of them.The Art of Time. undertaken by the patient. and absent futures responsible for the kind of problems Narrative Therapy treats. in the process of listening. given the status of narrative analysis. and. and. helps construct a new story in which the problem loses its central role.13 The subsequent process of organization. taking in other aspects of narrative dynamics more broadly—but “re-storying” means developing reflexive attention to the temporal perspectives and patterns necessary to get beyond the deterministic past. totalizing present. When the therapist searches a negative story for the positive element upon which to base the “healing” version. he or she helps the patient to pinpoint a “shining moment. that force would seem to be a pedagogical one. But not as fully as it might—and here is the opportunity for fruitful collaboration between the narrative art of time and this public therapeutic practice. the therapist eventually identifies positive elements that do not fit the story. it has little of narratology’s power to describe and account for temporal dynamics. Even if Narrative Therapy shares some of the motivations of narrative texts that propose to cultivate time. would at once bring new narratological acuity to public time-practices and find new public relevance for narratological methods. . A patient who presents with a problem is asked to tell his or her negative story.
If narrative temporality is not a matter of restrictive chronological linearity but instead a free exploration of the possible relationships among aspects of the temporal manifold. it entails a pedagogy that would not distinguish between pure forms of textuality and their uses. and the best way to make that case might be to spell out the specifics of the mode of instruction through which the art of time might get taught. A broader scope would redeem pedagogical intentionality. Possible linkages would range from the sociocultural contexts of “time today” to its thematization in key texts to the temporal dynamics through which narrative proposes its response. Coursework in the art of time would match the reconstructed pedagogy of those texts geared toward temporal invention in its ability to link together texts and contexts. Both would have freedom as their central component—the free play of perceptions long essential to theories of the aesthetic and crucial as well to the practice of narrative temporality defined as a provisional. and their pedagogical character dramatizes most fully the drawbacks and the advantages to heeding them. they presume universal goods—their pedagogical bent would become but another totalizing force for time crisis. But it is equally possible that these texts and theories change the terms of these associations as well. theory and practice. if the forms of temporal diversity and agency toward which these texts work establish temporal norms—if. Precisely because narrative temporality would close gaps between aesthetic invention and public possibility. prospective coordination of cognitive ac- . For it would seem then that “art” is not the word for it.288 Jesse Matz “The lessons that they teach. might take place centrally in the classroom. back through collaborative practices in contemporary culture and the ideological implications of the new temporalities they invent. and. if the practice of narrative temporality occurs through forms of instruction that derogate aesthetic experience to an instrumental status that would contravene the free play of pleasure and sensibility. a holism relocates pedagogy to a key turn in the wider circle through which that reciprocity also comes to take in what people actually do—cognitively. pleasure and possibility. socially—to enact narrative temporalities. the irresponsible gratification essential to the real value of texts like A Christmas Carol. And yet pedagogy as performed in this instance might have different associations. in spite of their critical inventiveness. There might be further reason to take a skeptical. critical view of the intention of texts and theories geared toward temporal pragmatics.14 And yet all this might mean putting too much faith in art and relapsing into the kind of aesthetic ideology already discredited in Dickens’ day.” as Dickens puts it. because its “logic of practice” is one in which practicality is a matter of technical virtuosity. A certain circularity here corresponds to that circle by which time and narrative theoretically engage in reciprocal enrichments. It has the potential to transform some of what sets pedagogy against aesthetic validity and ideological neutrality.” to cite David Carr’s objection to theories that would presume the universality of narrativity (182). It might all come down to the way “narrative temporality” is defined. it might entail naïve ascription to modernist ideology (faith that art might redeem cultures threatened by modernization) and subject the true diversity of cultural forms to demands for “trans-cultural necessity. then the practical application of it to real-world possibilities might entail a form of engagement little different from aesthetic experience itself. Moreover. in turn.
better able to turn time into money? Does A Christmas Carol diversify the temporal manifold. but since the opportunities are more likely to escape us today. The provocation for these presumptions as well as their justification in human forms of understanding and public life are worth knowing for the way they determine the meaning and reception of narrative texts and the impetus of theoretical endeavors in narrative study and beyond. narrative.The Art of Time. And yet this essay has made the case for the practice itself (rather than more neutrally analyze the implications of the texts that make it themselves) because it is the kind of case that rarely gets made. or just a better capitalist. but we can hope for something short of that: insight into the presumptions at work in texts and practices that would achieve temporal interventions. In other words. mitigated utopianism. too. for he. Here is another way aesthetic experience would survive this practice’s practicality: the possibilities here include that of pleasure alone. Surely they characterize Proust’s elusive sense of the way writing relates to time. Kermode. would make use of texts without compromising their aesthetic freedom. . and public culture. Theory to Practice 289 tions. Not merely instrumental. and reformed pedagogy implicit in narrative temporality are finally most essentially useful for their help interpreting those texts that theorize or thematize it. they provide a fresh framework for new insight into the relationships among time. It is interesting to think that we get better at time by analyzing narrative forms (to put the point most baldly). And they characterize narrative theory: not just Ricoeur. the pursuit of forms of gratification enhanced through purchase upon even the most useless of time-schemes. we tend to try to expose them for it. These reflections upon the aesthetic instrumentality. But what if they might do us good? Scrooge’s case is a chance to think about the difference. because it would not necessarily aim at improvement. They correspond nicely to Ellison’s ironies. Its “redemptions” could well be counterproductive. and he too holds out hopes for something short of a better world. and for good reasons. Halfhopes are what the art of time should inspire. Does he really become a better man. or subject it to a more effective routine? The temporality modeled in A Christmas Carol might be studied for its complicities rather than practiced for its opportunities. and Brooks but also much work on the value of narrative form operates with ambivalences generated by these half-hopes for temporal gain. practicing the art of time might be one way to resolve by other means the oppositions that aesthetic experience has been said to mediate. this practice would also avoid any ideological utopianism. Surely these qualities characterize Dickens’ wish to school us without any loss to the raw thrill of the supernatural. When texts would seem to have designs upon us. insofar as they aim not at enhancements to personal or social goods but simply enhancements to the possibilities that temporalities subtend.
where Ricoeur notes that phenomenological hermeneutics undo the opposition between explanation and interpretation. and Forgetting (56–68). It is not therefore insignificant. 9. however. 2. Joseph Tabbi and Elaine Scarry see art stepping in to redress. Aiming to “attend to such shapes. “[providing] a solution for the methodological paradox of the human sciences” and solving the problems that preoccupied Dilthey and other precursors (156). they focus on the way narrative forms reflect the temporalities of their moment: “the profound repercussions of these new ‘shapes’ of time appear in the aesthetic grammars of narratives that emerged in their wake” (238). Spolksy argues that literary forms fill gaps in nature—not that literature gives us insight into the workings of the mind or follows mechanically from them. See From Text to Action: Essays in Hermeneutics. “Temporal dynamics” is a variation on “narrative dynamics. in “queer temporality. for example. “Temporal dynamics” sharpens the focus on narrative time. Praxis concerns Ricoeur throughout his work.” “the beginnings of both the story and the text. “Stories” 170). which reads the novel’s famous lesbian kiss as “the opening to a future that is not yet decided” and therefore. no comprehensive model is able to account for the formation and maintenance of temporal perspective” (31). See also Richard Block’s observation that “At present. I do not mean to discredit this work. Similarly. Other important recent work similarly—and for good reasons—stops just short of narrative’s shaping effects.290 Jesse Matz ENDNOTES 1. but rather the reverse: in the spirit of rapprochements Ricoeur himself theorized. 4. 7. “Stories” 163. and this concept owes something to Louis Mink’s foundational claim that narrative serves as a “cognitive instrument” (though the difference between “instrument” and “artifact” is decisive). History. which is vital and often a crucial contribution to the endeavor in question here. For example. Dalloway. 8. Gilbert concludes that “when people are deprived of the information that imagination requires and are thus forced to use others as surrogates.” the essays choose not to pursue repercussions the shapes would in turn entail. This is not to say that phenomenological hermeneutics must defer to the human and social sciences. David Herman. but situated temporal practice comes up only when he takes up the question of ars memoria in Memory. compensate for. but. 5. 3. as Rebecca Stern’s introduction notes. the temporality of the telling. and the functions of the ending” (2). but it might well include aspects of all of what Richardson includes in his definition.” this argument differs in its location of this resource initially outside consciousness itself (qtd. or take an aesthetic opportunity from cognitive deficits.” Brian Richardson’s term for “the movement of a narrative from its opening to its end. or Catherine Gallagher’s argument about “plots of undoing” through which Back to the Future demonstrates a negative “mode of historical understanding” (56): both show how the narrative texts in question make available certain modes of temporal understanding but do not choose to theorize temporal availability itself. I presume the link to Heideggerian “tuning” (Stimmung) is coincidental. which suggests that the best way to predict our feelings tomorrow is to see . they make remarkably accurate predictions about their future feelings. Similar to Leonard Talmy’s claim that “narrative can be construed as a system for structuring any time-based pattern into a resource for consciousness. make arguments that would have to enrich any practice of narrative temporality. Herman cites Vygotksy and other sources (166–169). Kate Haffey’s essay on the “temporality of the kiss” in Mrs. 6. in Herman. the movement and shaping of the plot. The essays collected in a recent issue of Narrative focused on time (2009). but that cognitive gaps leave the field open to improvements literature artfully performs. 10. these sciences discover narrative temporality at the center of their inquiry. since Michon describes a phenomenon not unlike that at work in Heidegger’s account of temporal authenticity. between positivism and hermeneutics.” an opening out of the time-schemes of compulsory heterosexuality (159).
Gayatri Spivak and Alan Liu. Benveniste argues that narrative language enables “instantaneous transfers” among tenses— transfers that are also effectively temporal theories. present and future. drawing on work by Käte Hamburger and Emile Benveniste. Put another way. According to Banfield. creates new and unique temporal meanings. is a sentence that combines three different temporal referents never combined in ordinary speech. a person requires mechanisms that assist her to plot the events of her life within the context of coherent sequences across time—through the past. then a temporal practice geared toward teaching time could also give criticism a sharper edge. Theory to Practice 291 how others are feeling today” (228. For an account of the relationship between narrative and temporal invention in key recent theoretical work see Matz. if Liu is right to equate history with technical competence. Hamburger proves that “action presented as the Here and Now of the fictive persons. who notes that “we are temporally provincial with regard to the future” and in need of “narrative organization” to develop a complete historical sense (343). . nullifies the temporal meaning of the tense in which a piece of narrative literature is narrated” (98. 12. for this “fictive time” becomes an object of understanding through which ordinary temporal landscapes are reconfigured from the point of view of a “presentification” different from the presence of life in time.The Art of Time. emphasis original). and pedagogical practice by giving teaching a purpose at once publicly political and technically formal. 1). professional criticism. It is worth noting that pedagogy has lately been playing a theoretical role in important efforts at just the kind of critique a temporal practice would entail. for example. Here again (and here most basically) the narrative artifact enables temporal inquiry that might not otherwise occur. If Spivak is right to locate cultural perspectives in temporal figurations. emphasis original). however. emphasis original). et al. locating a crux of the form of temporal agency at work in narrative engagement more generally. of course. enabling a sense of the past (for example) not natural to ordinary language use (209). 13. “Tomorrow was Christmas. We might discover more specifically the making of alternative temporal subjectivity in and through these sentences. the temporal dimension has been much neglected in the therapy world” (35).” for example. Despite this. Broader claims for the relationship between time and “the literary” more generally—claims about the way “the literary often structures our thinking about time now”—have recently been made in the essays collected in Time and the Literary (Newman. the detection of change is vital to the performance of meaning and to the experience of personal agency in one’s life. That even ordinary narrative sentences propose unique temporal possibilities has been the argument of linguistic accounts of “unspeakable sentences”—those forms of reference that expand the range of meaning by indicating unlikely chronologies. Ann Banfield. Indeed Liu and Spivak suggest that the focus on temporality might reunite cultural work. 11. 14. and. His account is not unlike that of Arthur Danto. have lately looked to teaching for comparable advantages—Spivak in her claim that “if we teach our students the way to informed figurations of that ‘lost’ perspective” annihilated by the dominance of Hegelian timing our cultures might rediscover non-Western possibilities (116. White and Epston note that “In order to perceive change in one’s life—to experience one’s life as progressing—and in order to perceive oneself changing one’s life. Liu’s call for a pedagogical enterprise that enriches “technical competence” with the “sense of history” would justify a teacherly practice at once broadly relevant and consistent with the professional practice of criticism. See also Wai Chee Dimock’s work on the way the “coils of time” that structure Henry James’s sentences enable temporal “kinship” (92). A critical purchase emerges. has argued that narrative contexts routinely produce sentences special for their temporal creativity. unspeakable sentences show how literary forms construct subjectivities different from those structured through other forms of communication. Liu in his argument that intervening pedagogically in “cool” culture will mean “teaching that the contemporary instinct for technical competence need not be oblivious to the sense of history that is the primary means by which the humanities at once reinforce and critique culture” (307). This nullification. and this detection of change is engendered by the introduction of a linear conception of time. foundational arguments by Anderson and Bakhtin.
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