Brian Richardson - analyzes in depth the creation, fragmentation, and reconstitution of experimental narrative voices that transcend familiar first- and third-person perspectives

Brian Richardson, Unnatural Voices: Extreme Narration in Modern and Contemporary Fiction, Ohio State University Press, 2006.

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Brian Richardson presents a study that explores in depth one of the most significant aspects of late modernist, avant-garde, and postmodern narrative. Unnatural Voices analyzes in depth the creation, fragmentation, and reconstitution of experimental narrative voices that transcend familiar first- and third-person perspectives. Going beyond standard theories that are based in rhetoric or linguistics, this book focuses on what innovative authors actually do with narration.
Richardson identifies the wide range of unusual narrators, acts of narration, and dramas with the identity of the speakers in late modern, avant-garde, and postmodern texts that have not previously been discussed in a sustained manner from a theoretical perspective. He draws attention to the more unusual practices of Conrad, Joyce, and Woolf as well as the work of later authors like Beckett and recent postmodernists. Unnatural Voices chronicles the transformation of the narrator figure and the function of narration over the course of the twentieth century and provides chapters on understudied modes such as second-person narration, "we" narration, and multiperson narration. It explores a number of distinctively postmodern strategies, such as unidentified interlocutors, erased events, the collapse of one voice into another, and the varieties of postmodern unreliability. It offers a new view of the relations between author, implied author, narrator, and audience and, more significantly, of the "unnatural" aspects of fictional narration. Finally, it offers a new model of narrative that can embrace the many non- and anti-realist practices discussed throughout the book.

“A landmark in narrative analysis and in the study of modern and postmodern fiction generally” —Modern Fiction Studies

“[A]ccessible to undergraduate students . . . . what Unnatural Voices ultimately argues for . . . is not a different poetics, but an additional one, an anti-mimetic poetics that supplements existing mimetic theories. landmark in narrative analysis and in the study of modern and postmodern fiction generally” —The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association

“Brian Richardson has written a stimulating, insightful, and thoroughly convincing book. Unlike critics who rely on well-known works of secure literary stature in presenting their theories, Richardson breaks out of that circle by providing a wealth of fresh and challenging literary touchstones and by working inductively rather than deductively. He recognizes that the unusual and aberrant examples provided by postmodern and postcolonial literature are just as valuable for study as canonical narratives and merit just as much theoretical consideration.” —William Nelles

Brian Richardson, Unlikely Stories: Causality and the Nature of Modern Narrative, University of Delaware Press, 1997.
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[Chapters on causality in philosophy and literature; the canons of probability governing fictional worlds; causal connection as defining feature of narrative (with analysis of Mrs Dalloway); chance in Conrad, Faulkner, and Ellison; Beckett's assault on causality; chance, cause and fate in minority, postcolonial, and postmodern texts.] Reviewed in Style

Unlikely Storiesis the first book-length study of the full range of causal issues in narrative, and explores the neglected question of just what brings about events in a fictional text. This book focuses on causality as a foundational element of all narratives, and as a distinguishing feature of many of the most compelling works of distinctively modern fiction and drama. Richardson draws on a wide range of literary texts: seminal ancient and early modern works, the classics of high modernism, numerous avant garde and postmodern pieces, as well as narratives by recent postcolonial and U.S. Ethnic authors. This study brings together a number of related critical issues, including the causal laws that attempt to govern fictional worlds, the reader's implication in the causal dilemmas that confront major characters, and the philosophical and ideological ascriptions of cause that are variously embodied, interrogated, or parodied. One of the most significant features of this study is its disclosure of just how fundamental and widespread causal issues are in complex narratives--and how insistently they are thematized in twentieth-century works.
The first, theoretical section of the book explores several issues invariably present in the often curious intersections of philosophical and literary uses of causality, and engages in larger, ongoing debates involving deconstruction, feminism, and more traditional theories of narrative. It goes on to scrutinize claims about the nature of narrative, and outlines a theory of probability in fictional worlds that can both encompass traditional notions like fate and determinism as well as distinctive modern and postmodern uses of chance. The last half of the book identifies exemplary moments in modern deployments of causation present in Conrad's Nostromo, Faulkner's Light in August, and Ellison's Invisible Man, as the power of necessity is challenged by irruptions of chance and coincidence. This is followed by an account of Beckett's relentless interrogation of causality in Molloy>, perhaps the most farreaching such investigation in literature. Another chapter examines non-Western causal agencies, as Asian, postcolonial, and U.S. ethnic authors explore causal issues from quite different metaphysical vantage points. The final chapter provides an overview of contemporary practices, and identifies some distinctive postmodern strategies and potential limitations. Here the paradoxes of representing chance events in fictional discourse are outlined and discussed. This book also explores related questions of literary history and theory, ideological critique, and narrative sequencing.
"This is a book not so much about causality as about its infringements and displacements in modernist and postmodern narrative. Richardson gives us readings of a truly astounding range of novels, short stories and plays and explicates their structural and thematic preoccupations with causality, fate, chance and supernatural forces. Enjoyable, insightful and instructive: a book written with great tact and sophistication." - Monika Fludernik


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