Narrative Theories

Paul Ricouer: Time and Narrative, "Threefold Mimesis"(from v. 1)

-"Time becomes human to the extent that it is articulated through a narrative mode, and narrative attains its full meaning when it becomes a condition of temporal existence."
-In relating time and narrative, R. suggests the "mediating role of emplotment" 
1) Structural
-borrows "conceptual network" which includes questions like who, what, why, how, what, with whom, against whom in considering an action
-Narrative assumes reader and narrator are familiar with such terms as "agent, goal, means, circumstance, help, hostility, cooperation, conflict, success, failure"
-Also assumes a "familiarity with the rules of composition that govern the diachronic order of a story"
-paradigmatic order of action translated into syntagmatic order of discourse in the shift from action to narrative
2) Symbolic Mediation
-"symbol" is "a meaning incorporated into action and decipherable from it by other actors in the social interplay"
-human action is already articulated by signs, rules, and norms - it is symbolically mediated outside narrative; meaningful articulation is also public
3) Temporal
-R. borrows Heideggerian notion of time as "within which," this concept signals that time is defined by "the characteristic of Care": we choose what is within time with what we care about
-"within time ness" breaks with linear representation
-Plot mediates through "drawing a meaningful story from a diversity of events or incidents"
-Plot mediates by bringing together heterogeneous factors of agents, goals, means, interactions, circumstances, unexpected results.
-Two dimensions of emplotment that are paradoxical: episodic, which is related seeing narrative as a series of events; and configurational, which is related to seeing narrative as a story with a "one temporal whole." The episodic dimension calls attention to linear representation of time and the configurational dimension calls attention to non-linear wholeness of time.
-Idea of "untold stories" demonstrates the link between narrativity as connected to outside world: in psychoanalysis, inchoate or repressed stories become actualized by the therapist, in a courtroom, the true "story" is disentangled from a tangle of other plots
-In sum, a "notion of a told story that would be in "continuity" with the passive entanglement of subjects in stories that disappear into a foggy horizon
-Reading actualizes a story as much as writing it does - actualizing a story requires the joint work of the text and the reader; "the text is a set of instructions that the individual reader or the reading public executes in a passive or creative way."
-the act of reading fuses two horizons, "that of the text and that of the reader, and hence the intersection of the world of the text and the world of the reader."
-Texts enrich our understanding of the world by providing new sets of references for the reader to apply to his world
-R. argues that narrated time reconfigures temporal features of the world
-an intuitive apprehension of the structure of time is not possible: we have a hierarchization of temporal experience that includes temporalizations like Heidegger's "being-towards-death" on the one hand, and Augustinia eternal death on the other
-Other temporalities: common time, say, shared by multiple characters in a story, or public time, shared in historical accounts
INTERESTING ULTIMATE "SO WHAT" FOR R'S WORK: "The most serious question this work may be able to pose is to what degree a philosophical reflection on narrativity and time may aid us in thinking about eternity and death at the same time."

Some of my own applications of Ricoeur:
Sketches by Boz
Ricoeur's sense of continuity between the text and the worlds of the reader and writer in terms of structural, symbolic, and temporal understandings might yield some interesting approaches to works like Sketches by Boz. In a genre in which "real life" is repeatedly figured as "stories" and "stories" as "real life," Ricoeur's analysis seems especially apt. Ricoeur's continuity brings force to my argument that Dickens and his audiences too recognize the possibilities of (ethical) transformation of reader's lives and worlds via text. If text is of the world, it then feeds back into the world and enriches it. I call Dickens's sketches "reportorial storytelling" because the function of the "repertorial" calls attention to the ways in which the text is of the world, or in other words, in which the story has been disentangled or "told" from the lived, human fabric.
The Good Soldier
Thinking about the different temporalities with which we structure our world: say, linear being-towards-death and time "within which" alongside works which call attention to odd temporalities like Ford's The Good Soldier might also prove fruitful. James Dowell, the narrator, deliberately calls attention to the non-linear temporality of his narrative. His account is very much controlled by "time within which" traumatic events occur; specifically, the nine years of his and Florence's acquaintance with the Ashburnhams. The Good Soldier offers an interesting account of narrative temporality in the case of remembering traumatic events with the advantages of retrospective knowledge: does Dowell's narrative orientation towards "time within which," filled in, randomly, imitate his retrospective knowledge? In other words, since he had to fill in knowledge gaps non-chronologically, is he forcing his reader to do the same? Finally, if we are to psychologize Dowell, does trauma affect which temporalities someone will adopt? Is "linear" sane, and "time-within-which" less so, or does the text ironize such a view?