Tools for Analyzing Prose Fiction

Tools for Analyzing Prose Fiction

Narratology is a type of formalist criticism that explains and analyzes the structures, modes, and techniques of narrative. See Abrams, “Narrative and Narratology” (123-25), “Plot” (159-63), “Point of View” (165-69).

Narrative: story comprising characters, their dialogue and actions, and the events in which they participate.

Point of View: the way a story is told; the perspectives which are presented to the reader

  • First-Person Narrative: the narrator refers to him/herself with the pronouns “I” and “me”
    • Protagonist or Participant/Observer
    • Self-consciously narrating or Unself-consciously narrating
    • Reliable or Unreliable/Fallible
  • Third-Person Narrative: the story is told in the third-person, with pronouns “I” and “me” used only in dialogue
    • Omniscient: narrator knows everything about all characters, events, etc.; omniscient narrators may also occasionally employ embedded focalizers, characters whose perspectives temporarily control the narrative
      • Intrusive: narrator comments on and evaluates characters and actions; establishes what counts as facts and values in the narrative
      • Unintrusive/Impersonal/Objective: narrator “shows rather than tells”; does not explicitly comment on or evaluate the actions
    • Limited Point of View: narrative is controlled by through the limited perspectives of one main character (or a very few important characters) who does not know everything; such a third- person focalizer is often called a center of consciousness

Varieties of Authorial Voice:

  • Published Attribution::
    • Anonymous
    • Obvious pseudonyms (male, female)
    • Purportedly real names (male, female)
  • Authorial Voice or Standpoint:
    • Ungendered/gender-neutral voices
      • Obtrusive or Unobtrusive
      • Universalized or Located/Situated
    • Gendered voices
      • Overtly claimed masculine or feminine standpoint
      • Implied masculine or feminine standpoint
      • Transparently counterfeit masculine or feminine standpoint


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