Narration and Focalization: A Cognitivist and an Unnaturalist, Made Strange

Merja Kristiina Polvinen, Maria Mäkelä

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Any new narratological theory faces the test of being applicable to much-analyzedclassics of prose fiction and of yielding new insights into narratives that have served as textbook examples of narrative strategies for decades. This essay is a constructed dialogue between imaginary narratologists who are paradigmatic proponents of two schools of thought in postclassical narratology: the cognitive and the unnatural. The two narratologists juxtapose their respective concepts and methodologies in an analysis of William Golding's late modernist classic The Inheritors, especially the narrative dynamics of "alien" Neanderthal focalization versus "naturalizing" Homo sapiens narration. Ultimately, The Inheritors reminds the cognitivist of how language-bound the readerly effects of estrangement and integration in internal focalization can be. Conversely, the same novel serves as an example for the unnaturalist of the paradoxical necessity for perceptual and emotional familiarization in our attempts to understand fundamental alterity. The parameters of cognitive and unnatural narratology may seem divergent at the outset, but in this essay their representatives find a common ground in an estranging reading of the enactive immersion in The Inheritors. Here the extraordinary embodiedness of the Neanderthal focalization is a key to a literary-allegorical reading of the Neanderthal mind as imagined by Golding. This reading, accomplished through a constructed debate between two paradigms, reflects the actual positions of the authors of this essay: Makela and Polvinen are both proponents of an approach that acknowledges the inherent syntheticity and linguistic overdeterminedness of a literary narrative as well as its "natural" enactivist pull toward bodily immersion.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPoetics Today
Volume39
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)495-521
Number of pages27
ISSN0333-5372
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 6122 Literature studies
  • William Golding
  • unnatural narratology
  • cognitive narratology
  • focalization
  • estrangement
  • narratology
  • voice

Cite this

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Narration and Focalization : A Cognitivist and an Unnaturalist, Made Strange. / Polvinen, Merja Kristiina; Mäkelä, Maria.

In: Poetics Today, Vol. 39, No. 3, 09.2018, p. 495-521.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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