front cover of We-Narratives
Collective Storytelling in Contemporary Fiction
Natalya Bekhta
The Ohio State University Press, 2020
Winner, 2021 Perkins Prize from the International Society for the Study of Narrative

Natalya Bekhta’s We-Narratives: Collective Storytelling in Contemporary Fiction analyzes a storytelling form shaped by the pronoun “we,” probing the tensions between individuality and collectivity in more recent narratives in English. Despite a growing interest in collective characters and the we-form in narratology and beyond, narrative theory has not yet done justice to the plural voice in fiction. In fact, the formulation of a poetics of collective expression needs clear theoretical conventions and a reassessment of established concepts in order to approach plural voices and agents on their own terms. We-Narratives addresses this demand by distinguishing between indicative and performative uses of the first-person plural pronoun in fiction and by identifying formal and rhetorical possibilities of stories told by group narrators.

What does it mean for a multitude to speak as one? How can a truly collective narrative voice be achieved or lost? What are its aesthetic and political repercussions? In order to tackle these questions, Bekhta reads a range of contemporary novels and short stories by Jeffrey Eugenides, Joshua Ferris, Toby Litt, Zakes Mda, Joyce Carol Oates, and Julie Otsuka. She also focuses on narrative innovation by Margaret Atwood, William Faulkner, and Susan Sontag. These narratives feature group protagonists and narrators and therefore offer insight into collective narrative discourse and focalization, construction of communal knowledge and unreliability. We-narrative, taken as a distinct storytelling form, illuminates fiction’s expressive potential and nuances models of narrative analysis.

front cover of What's Nature Worth
What's Nature Worth
Terre Satterfield
University of Utah Press, 2004
Based on either written or oral interviews with a dozen prominent environmental writers, What’s Nature Worth? explores how the art of storytelling might bring new perspectives and insights to economic and policy discussions regarding the "value" of nature and the environment. The diverse points of view explored, and the writers’ insistence on careful interpretation, demonstrate that environmental values are complex, rich, and deeply felt—far more so than mainstream economic methodology would have us believe. There is general consensus among the contributors that the narrative form allows for an exploration of the richness of what it means to "value" nature without being preachy or didactic. Following interviews with the twelve authors, examples of their work demonstrate how indirect expressions of value, in the words of Allison Hawthorne Deming, have an "emotional hue" that can replenish the energy depleted by the coldness of cost-benefit arguments.

front cover of When the Lamp is Shattered
When the Lamp is Shattered
Desire and Narrative in Catullus
Michaela Janan
Southern Illinois University Press, 1993

The poetry of the Late Roman Republican poet Gaius Valerius Catullus, a rich document of the human heart, is the earliest-known reasonably complete body of erotic verse in the West.

Though approximately 116 poems survive, uncertainties about the condition of the fragmented manuscript and the narrative order of the poems make the Catullan text unusually problematic for the modern critic. Indeed, the poems can be arranged in a number of ways, making a multitude of different plots possible and frustrating the reader’s desire for narrative closure.

Micaela Janan contends that since unsatisfied desire structures both the experience of reading Catullus and its subject matter, critical interpretation of the text demands a "poetics of desire." Furthermore, postmodern critical theory, narratology, and psychoanalysis suggest a flexible concept of the "subject" as a site through which a multitude of social, cultural, and unconscious forces move. Human consciousness, Janan contends, is inherently incomplete and in a continuous process of transformation. She therefore proposes an original and provocative feminist reading of Catullus, a reading informed by theories of consciousness and desire as ancient as Plato and as contemporary as Freud and Lacan.

The Late Roman Republic in which Catullus lived, Janan reminds us, was a time of profound social upheaval when political and cultural institutions that had persisted for centuries were rapidly breaking down—a time not unlike our own. Catullus’ poetry provides an unusually honest look at his culture and its contradictory representations of class, gender, and power. By bringing to the study of this major work of classical literature the themes of consciousness and desire dealt with in postmodern scholarship, Janan’s book invites a new conversation among literary disciplines.


front cover of With Bodies
With Bodies
Narrative Theory and Embodied Cognition
Marco Caracciolo and Karin Kukkonen
The Ohio State University Press, 2021
We read not only with our eyes and minds, but with our entire body. In With Bodies, Marco Caracciolo and Karin Kukkonen move systematically through all elements of narrative and put them into dialogue with recent research in neuroscience, cognitive psychology, cognitive linguistics, and philosophy of mind to investigate what it means to read literary narratives bodily. They draw their findings from a wide corpus of material—narratives from antiquity to the present and composed in various languages, from Apuleius’s Metamorphoses to Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall—and craft their embodied narratology to retool current theories about authors, narrators and characters, time and space in storyworlds, and plot. Their investigation serves as a foundation for wider discussions on embodied narratology’s contributions to literary history, computation and AI, posthumanism, gender studies, and world literature.

front cover of Witnessing Slavery
Witnessing Slavery
The Development Of Ante-Bellum Slave Narratives
Frances Smith Foster
University of Wisconsin Press, 1994
Frances Foster's classic study of pre-Civil War American slave autobiography is now issued in an accessible paperback edition. The first book to represent these slave narratives as literary in the complete sense of the word, and the first study to call attention to the significance of gender in the narratives, Witnessing Slavery will be welcomed by both general readers and students of the American south, slavery, the Civil War, and race issues.

front cover of Women, America, and Movement
Women, America, and Movement
Narratives of Relocation
Edited & Intro by Susan L. Roberson
University of Missouri Press, 1998

Since the colonial days, American women have traveled, migrated, and relocated, always faced with the challenge of reconstructing their homes for themselves and their families. Women, America, and Movement offers a journey through largely unexplored territory—the experiences of migrating American women. These narratives, both real and imagined, represent a range of personal and critical perspectives; some of the women describe their travels as expansive and freeing, while others relate the dreadful costs and sacrifices of relocating.

Despite the range of essays featured in this study, the writings all coalesce around the issues of politics, poetry, and self- identity described by Adrienne Rich as the elements of the "politics of location," treated here as the politics of relocation. The narratives featured in this book explore the impact of race, class, and sexual economics on migratory women, their self-identity, and their roles in family and social life. These issues demonstrate that in addition to geographic place, ideology is itself a space to be traversed.

By examining the writings of such women as Louise Erdrich, Zora Neale Hurston, and Gertrude Stein, the essayists included in this volume offer a variety of experiences. The book confronts such issues as racist politicking against Native Americans, African Americans, and Asian immigrants; sexist attitudes that limit women to the roles of wife, mother, and sexual object; and exploitation of migrants from Appalachia and of women newly arrived in America.

These essays also delve into the writings themselves by looking at what happens to narrative structure as authors or their characters cross geographic boundaries. The reader sees how women writers negotiate relocation in their texts and how the written word becomes a place where one finds oneself.


front cover of The Writer in the Well
The Writer in the Well
On Misreading and Rewriting Literature
Gary Weissman
The Ohio State University Press, 2016
In The Writer in the Well: On Misreading and Rewriting Literature, Gary Weissman takes readers inside Ira Sher’s short story “The Man in the Well,” about a group of children who discover a man trapped in an old well and decide not to help him. While absorbing readers in the pleasurable activity of interpreting this haunting tale, Weissman draws on dozens of his students’ responses to the short story, as well as his dialogue with its author, to show that the deepest engagement with literature occurs when we approach literary analysis as a collaborative enterprise conducted largely through writing.
Rethinking the methods and goals of literary analysis, Weissman’s study redefines the nature of authorial intention and reconceives literary interpretation as a writing-based practice. By integrating writing pedagogy with older and newer schools of thought—from psychoanalytic, reader-response, and poststructuralist theories to rhetorical narrative theory and cognitive literary studies—and bridging the fields of literary studies, composition and rhetoric, and creative writing, The Writer in the Well  argues that the richest understanding of a literary work lies in probing how it has been misinterpreted and reconceived and offers a new “writer-response theory.”
This highly accessible and thought-provoking book, which includes the full text of Sher’s “The Man in the Well,” is designed to engage scholars, teachers, students, and avid readers of literature.

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