17.038 nesting and linear narratives

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Tue May 27 2003 - 02:10:55 EDT

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                    Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 17, No. 38.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

       [1] From: Wendell Piez <wapiez@mulberrytech.com> (21)
             Subject: Re: 17.032 nesting and linear narratives

       [2] From: Virginia Knight <virginia.knight@bristol.ac.uk> (20)
             Subject: linear narratives and nesting

             Date: Tue, 27 May 2003 06:56:21 +0100
             From: Wendell Piez <wapiez@mulberrytech.com>
             Subject: Re: 17.032 nesting and linear narratives

    Willard and all,

    Thanks to everyone who's responded so far on my "nesting of narrative"
    question. (Thanks especially to Ryan Deschamps for the Symposium reference.
    Of course! This is also an interesting example on the cusp of a shift
    between oral and literary, perhaps where the literary "breaks out". Chaucer
    is also in an interesting shift between oral and literary, at any rate if
    the Tales were meant for oral presentation.)

    Part of why I'm interested in whether there's a distinction apparent here
    between oral and literary narratives is that I wonder whether the literary,
    because of both its means of composition (signs on a page as well as sounds
    in the air) and its means of transmission, doesn't "tolerate" deeper
    nesting. Plato and Chaucer (experimenters with written forms) giving us
    such deep examples may lend weight to this idea.

    Nonetheless, I agree whole-heartedly that it is evidently an ancient (and
    beautifully effective) technique of drawing attention to the contingency
    and, frequently, dubiousness, of what we hear and see, the narrativity of

    I'll also have to return to Calvino's "If on a Winter's Night a Traveller",
    which IIRC deals rather directly with this.


             Date: Tue, 27 May 2003 06:57:23 +0100
             From: Virginia Knight <virginia.knight@bristol.ac.uk>
             Subject: linear narratives and nesting

    The _Odyssey_ reaches four levels, for example at Od. 9.508-514. During
    Odysseus' extended account of his journey from Troy to Scheria, Odysseus
    quotes a speech made by the blinded Cyclops Polyphemus in which he
    (Polyphemus) recalls in turn a prophecy given to him by the seer Telemos.
    Irene de Jong's recent _A Narratological Commentary on the Odyssey_ has
    invaluable discussions of embedded narratives within the poem.
       Dostoevsky may furnish further examples, not perhaps of multiple levels
    of narrative but of extended episodes two or three levels deep, especially
    if we allow the narrators of _The Brothers Karamazov_ or _The Devils_, who
    take a back seat almost all the time, to put us at one remove further from
    the action.

    Virginia Knight

    Virginia Knight, Institute for Learning and Research Technology
    Tel: +44 (0)117 928 7154  Fax:  +44 (0)117 928 7112
    University of Bristol, 8-10 Berkeley Square, Bristol BS8 1HH
    Official homepage: http://www.ilrt.bris.ac.uk/aboutus/staff?search=cmvhk
    Personal homepage: http://www.ilrt.bris.ac.uk/~ggvhk/virginia.html
    ILRT homepage: http://www.ilrt.bristol.ac.uk

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