17.030 nested narratives

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Thu May 22 2003 - 02:28:33 EDT

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                    Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 30.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

       [1] From: rddescha <rddescha@DAL.CA> (10)
             Subject: RE: FWD: 17.029 nested narrative? bibliographies of
                     didactics & ICT in literature?

       [2] From: Patricia Galloway <galloway@ischool.utexas.edu> (9)
             Subject: Re: 17.029 nested narrative

       [3] From: John Lavagnino <John.Lavagnino@kcl.ac.uk> (16)
             Subject: Re: 17.029 nested narrative?

       [4] From: "David L. Hoover" <david.hoover@verizon.net> (24)
             Subject: Re: 17.029 nested narrative? bibliographies of
                     didactics & ICT inliterature?

       [5] From: johnsone7@sio.midco.net (6)
             Subject: Re: nested narrative?

       [6] From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk> (34)
             Subject: narrative nesting

             Date: Thu, 22 May 2003 07:10:32 +0100
             From: rddescha <rddescha@DAL.CA>
             Subject: RE: FWD: 17.029 nested narrative? bibliographies of
    didactics & ICT in literature?

    Sorry I am not following this list, but a colleague forwarded this message to
    me and I thought I could help a little.

    One of the tales in _Arabian Nights_ (Arabic et. al. tradition -- and I don't
    think this particular tale is one of the "orphan" tales) goes well beyond
    three levels. I think its called "Fisherman and Genie"

    Also, I think Thomas King's _Green Grass, Running Water_ (Cherokee tradition)
    gets quite complicated with the nested narratives, running at least three
    levels (if not more) AND having simultaneous plots running to boot.

    Ryan. . .

    Ryan Deschamps

    MLIS/MPA Candidate -- Faculty of Management, Dalhousie University

             Date: Thu, 22 May 2003 07:11:27 +0100
             From: Patricia Galloway <galloway@ischool.utexas.edu>
             Subject: Re: 17.029 nested narrative

    Re nested narrative--a zillion years ago I wrote this about logical nesting
    that is indirectly relevant to Wendell's question in such a way that it may
    relate to the confusion of such nesting (I've scanned it in case people
    find it not very accessible in physical form):

    Yngve's Depth Hypothesis and the structure of narrative: the example of
    detective fiction. In Maxine McCafferty and Kathleen Gray (eds.), The
    Analysis of Meaning: Informatics 5, 104-109. ASLIB, London, 1979. (see

    Patricia Galloway
    University of Texas-Austin

             Date: Thu, 22 May 2003 07:11:53 +0100
             From: John Lavagnino <John.Lavagnino@kcl.ac.uk>
             Subject: Re: 17.029 nested narrative?

    There's a (non-oral) example of nested narrative in Joseph Conrad that
    goes four levels deep. In his novel Chance, there's a point in Part I
    where these stories are all going at once:

        We're hearing the tale of Mr Powell, who was second mate under
        Captain Anthony; this is interrupted by Marlow for the story of:

           Marlow's acquaintance with the Fynes, and presence on the scene
           when the elopement of Flora de Barral with Captain Anthony is
           revealed; he pauses in the middle of this story to tell us about:

              The financier de Barral, Flora's father, in his heyday; this
              is mostly not firsthand, but Marlow interrupts this account to
              tell us about:

                 His private-financier acquaintance through whom he once met
                 de Barral, or at least had a chance to observe him closely.

    Now an objective judge would have to say that this book consigns Homer
    to the dustbin of history.

    John Lavagnino
    Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

             Date: Thu, 22 May 2003 07:12:50 +0100
             From: "David L. Hoover" <david.hoover@verizon.net>
             Subject: Re: 17.029 nested narrative? bibliographies of didactics
    & ICT inliterature?

    I can't add anything to Wendell's comment about deeply nested narrative in
    Homer or other oral narrative, but Chaucer has no trouble with five levels in
    the Nun's Priest's Tale, depending on just how you are counting.

    That is, Chaucer tells the Canterbury Tales in which
    the Nun's Priest tells the story of Chauntecleer and Pertelote, in which
    Chauntecler's narrative about dreams includes a story in which
    Cicero tells about a man who has a dream in which
    the man's friend appears and tells about the friend's own murder.

    And four levels are, I think, quite common in Chaucer.

    Although it is a bit more doubtful, there may be four levels in the
    Anglo-Saxon Dream of the Rood, which is presumably closer to oral tradition
    (it is a VERY old poem):

    the poet tells writes a poem in which
    a dreamer tells about his dream in which
    the cross speaks to him about its suffering
    and (perhaps) reports God's words

    Good hunting,
    David Hoover

           David L. Hoover, Assoc. Chair & Webmaster
    NYU Eng. Dept., 212-998-8832 http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/english/

    "We easily perceive that the peoples furthest from civilization are the ones
    where equality between man and woman are the furthest apart and consider
    this one of the signs of savagery. But we are so stupid that we can't see that
    we thus plainly admit that no civilization can be perfect until exact equality
    between man and woman is included." (Mark Twain's Notebook, 1895)

             Date: Thu, 22 May 2003 07:13:21 +0100
             From: johnsone7@sio.midco.net
             Subject: Re: nested narrative?

    In answer to Wendell's question, Emily bronte's _Wuthering Heights_ comes
    to mind. In one spot (page 118 of my Riverside paperback) Lockwood is
    telling the story that Nelly told him and she quotes a letter from Isabella
    that quotes Hindley and he quotes Heathcliff. That is five levels deep (I

         -- Eric Johnson

             Date: Thu, 22 May 2003 07:14:35 +0100
             From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk>
             Subject: narrative nesting

    This in response to Wendell Piez's question about locating nested narratives.

    One example is provided by Ovid's Metamorphoses. In some places how many
    levels one can say there are is a matter for interpretation, but in places
    I count at least 5, in others possibly 7. An example of the former is the
    so-called Aeneid (i.e. the story of Aeneas's wanderings) 13.623-14.608.
    Several stories there go 4 deep, one goes 5 levels down: inside the Aeneid
    is the story at Caieta 14.154-444, inside of which is Macareus &
    Achaemenides 14.158-440, inside of which is Polyphemus 14.165-222 and the
    Laestrygonians and Circe 14.223-440, inside of which is Picus 14.132-434.
    There are two more of those in book 14 and another in book 15. See

    for my handy chart. But as in so many other cases, declaring anything to be
    thus-and-so in the Met is very tricky. But then perhaps what you want is a
    bag of hard tricks.

    Another example is certainly in The Saragossa Manuscript, a film by
    Wojciech Has (for which see http://www.cowboybi.com/saragossa/main.htm)
    based on the 19C novel by Jan Potocki. This has to be one of the most
    interesting and intricate films I have ever seen. (I caught it during my
    undergraduate days at Reed College, when one or two prints were making the
    underground scene at colleges and universities in the U.S.) The film is
    also available on DVD, it seems, via (of course) amazon.com. (He turns
    aside to do a one-click.) All, apparently, thanks to Jerry Garcia. Anyhow,
    at one point, if counting from those days can be trusted, I counted 7
    levels. Furthermore, on the 7th level, characters from other levels show
    up, and then things really become complex.

    I suspect but do not know that such intercalation (the technical term,
    about which some has been written by Ovidians) is commonplace in Near
    Eastern narrative traditions. I would ask someone who knows his or her way
    around Arabic literature.

    I also note that intercalation together with the epic convention of "in medias
    res" (as in Homer) are two very ancient ways of playing against so-called
    narrative. Flashbacks are another; a milder form of that would be embedded
    reminiscences; milder yet references to previous events and occasions;
    mildest of
    all, perhaps, word-meanings that evoke past times in the reader. I wonder how
    commonplace strictly linear narratives actually are. Are there any that are
    linear, or is this a rather unproductive notion of the hypertext
    evangelists? How can
    one tell the difference between a story and a reference to a story? In a
    number of
    places in Ovid's Met the difference seems purely arbitrary, i.e. a matter
    of counting
    words and lines.


    Dr Willard McCarty | Senior Lecturer | Centre for Computing in the
    Humanities | King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS || +44 (0)20
    7848-2784 fax: -2980 || willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk

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