Un article de Wiki Agreg-Ink.
L’analyse textuelle en anglais
à l'origine de cette page, un document de Karineuh
A character is a textual creation. Characters are not real beings. Disclosure or revelation of character can take place through direct telling, where the narrator intervenes to describe and evaluate, or through indirect showing where the reader will infer from information shown and elaborate her/his representation of a character after filtering the information through extra-textual and intra-textual experience grids.
Names and titles
- Names may be a way of reinforcing traits, sometimes through their acoustic value, sometimes through their metaphorical value.
- There may also be a semantic connection between the name and the behaviour of a character.
Physical appearance and clothing
Even when they are directly described, physical appearance and clothing can be seen as an indirect indication of the character’s psychological make-up and may reveal their social background.
Analysis should always question:
- the grammaticality of a character’s speech (does s/he use complex syntactical constructions and link-words, juxtaposed, co-ordinate or subordinate clauses? Is his/her language mainly interpellations, characterized by questions, orders or vocatives, or is it rather assertive? )
- the vocabulary (is it limited or varied, concrete or abstract, familiar or high-flown, repetitive and symmetrical?)
- the tone (serious, argumentative, ironical, self-deprecatory?)
- the character’s ability to communicate.
- gestures and movement
Objects can reveal hidden aspects of a character’s personality. “The establishment of an identifiable setting”. “The general locale in which action occurs”.
- Setting can have an analogical function and complement the indirect showing of character, or be in harmony with a character’s mood.
- Setting also contributes to the building up of atmosphere. In order to qualify the atmosphere generated by the setting, it is useful to ask oneself whether the scene takes place indoors or outdoors, whether the setting is open or closed, single or multiple, natural or manufactured, static or dynamic.
- Setting can be put in relation to plot, and to time.
- Note the referential function of setting, i.e. the manner in which a setting contributes to a greater illusion of reality.
- Whether established through a few words embedded within the narration, or through one longer descriptive passage, setting, like character, remains a textual construct;
- Descriptions rely on a twofold process:
- •appellation: the reader must know what is being described. Cf. criteria of repetition, accumulation and transformation.
- •expansion: a description develops on two levels. It usually involves some enumerating or listing of the different parts or components of the object along with a series of terms explicitly evoking its qualities or properties (colour, size, number, atmosphere, aesthetic comments…).
- A description can only exist when there are: a narrator, a pause (a moment when action stops), a focalizer.
- The functioning of temporality in narrative.
- The period when the narrative was written.
- The period in which the story is set.
- The time-speak of the narrative.
- The use of verbal tenses.
- The passage of time in the narrative.
- The position of the narrator as temporal organizer.
- a twofold approach to the problem: narrated time : ‘le temps de la chose racontée’, ‘temps du signifié’ ; narrative time : ‘le temps du récit’, ‘temps du signifiant’.
Narrated time refers both to the length of time covered by the narrative which may vary considerably, from one day to several centuries or generations, and to the historical period evoked in the narrative. The relationship between the period of writing, the period of reading and the period in which the story is set can either facilitate or hinder the “illusion of reality”.
- Note the different time-markers.
- The main categories of time study are order, frequency, duration.
- •Anachronies, i.e. “any chunk of text that is told at a point which is earlier or later than its natural or logic position in the even sequence”, are common and can be divided into analepses and prolepses, or retroversions and anticipations.
- •The flow of events is interrupted with either a flashback in time enabling the reader to “live” a moment from the past, or a flashforward whereby an omniscient narrator or an I-narrator will evoke; an event before that event has taken place within the text.
- •There are external analysis which refers to events beyond the time-speak of the text, and internal analepsis which flashes back to an event already encapsulated in the text.
- •Like analepsis, prolepsis can be typologized as internal, external or mixed.
- •Frequency is the term used to designate “the number of times a specific event occurs in a story in relation to the number of times it is narrated.”
- •Four kinds :
- - an event which is supposed to have happened once may be narrated once,
- - an event which is supposed to have happened once my be narrated several times,
- - an event which is supposed to have happened more than once may be narrated once,
- - an event which is supposed to have happened several times may be narrated several times.
- •Analysis of frequency can indicate that an event has a foreground and can therefore have a dramatic function. Ex.: an event taking place once is repeated several times; an event which has taken place is narrated several times by different characters.
- •Study of narration then is the study of the pace of the narrative and concerns the different narrative techniques used to accelerate and decelerate.
- •Acceleration comes about when a short section of the text covers a long period of the story, and deceleration when a long section covers a short temporal speech.
- •Ellipsis represents maximum acceleration where almost no textual space is devoted to a long period of time.
- •Pause: a long section of the text covers no story duration at all, as in purely descriptive passages or when the narrator comments upon a situation.
- •Summary: a form of narrative. Compression whereby a given story period is reduced to its main features. The general effect is to create a certain acceleration.
- •In scene, there is a high degree of identity between the length of the text and the story duration.
- •Stretch: what happens when narrative time is longer than narrated time, a device which slows down the rhythm and is often used to create suspense.
- •Thus acceleration and deceleration often contribute to dramatizing or de-dramatizing a situation and invite the reader to foreground or background certain features of the story. Important features are usually decelerated while less important one are accelerated, though of course these techniques can be turned on to create shock effect.
Identification of the narrator
- The narrator is different from the author and reader.
- The real author belongs to non-fiction, and the real reader too, while the narrator belongs to fiction.
- The narrator is the most important link in the chain linking the real author of the text to the real reader.
- The narrator, like the characters, is a construct.
- The “implied author” is “an ideal, literary, created version of the real man”, or “ the creative mind implied by the existence of the text”.
- The narrator is a mere linguistic sign and belongs to the fictional world.
- The “implied reader” is an abstract reader.
Types of narration
•“énonciation historique” (“pure narrative”) vs. ‘‘discours’’ (‘‘discourse’’) = question of enunciation.
- « énonciation historique » : typical of narratives dealing with past events.
Characterized by the use of certain tenses (the simple past), pronouns (third person pronouns), deictics disconnected from the situation of utterance (“there”, “then”…)
- “discourse” characterized by certain verbal forms, such a presents, perfects, and modal forms; the presence of first and second person pronouns as well as deictics referring to the situation of utterance (“here”, “now”…).
•Extradiegetic/ intradiegetic narrator
- The position of the narrator in relation to the telling of the story proper, i.e. the diegesis.
- Extradiegetic narrators do not take part in the diegesis.
- Intradiegetic narrators take part in it.
•Heterodiegetic/ homodiegetic narrator
- The relationship between the narrator and the characters.
- The narrator is also a character, the narration is “character-bound” or homodiegetic.
Homodiegetic narration often coincides with narration using the first-person pronoun “I”. The “I”-narrator (je-narrant) tells the story. The “I”-character (je-narré) can appear as the object upon which the discourse focuses.
- The narrator does not intervene in the story as a character, the narrator is said to be heterodiegetic.
•Ulterior/ simultaneous/ anterior narration
- The narrator seems to tell a story that is supposed to have taken place many years before = ulterior narration: usually coupled with past tenses.
- In some cases, when there is no explicit time-marker, past tenses = illusion of simultaneity. Most often the illusion of simultaneous narration is given by the repeated use of present tenses.
- Anterior narration, though less frequent, is usually characterized by a systematic use of future tenses.
The role and function of the narration
- Relating actions and events, saying what happens.
- Establishing a setting, establishing a spatio-temporal setting.
- Commenting upon the characters, comments upon the character’s attitudes, digressing from the description of what they do or say to the analysis of their behaviour; narrational intervention then, by providing explanations or explicit judgements; contributes to direct characterization.
- Generalizing, puts forward a more general message.
- Commenting upon the act of narration itself, allusions to the act of narration.
- Addressing the narrate, “reader”, “dear reader”.
- Reporting the character’s words or presenting their thoughts; direct presentations of speech or thoughts, (ex. “what are these vast buildings?” she wondered); free direct presentation of speech or thoughts, (ex. These vast buildings, what are they); indirect presentation of speech or thoughts, (ex. She wondered what these vast buildings were); free indirect presentation of speech or thoughts, (ex. What were those vast buildings?), narrative report of speech or thought acts, (ex. She wondered about those buildings.)
Focalization vs. narration
Who sees? Who tells? The vision of the scene by one of the characters = focalization.
Focalization vs. point of view
Three cases of focalization: the narrator knows more than the character; the narrator only tells what the character knows; the character knows more than what the narrator tells.
- Internal/ external focalization, focalization 0:
•Either the focalizer can be located or s/he cannot; if located, then two other possibilities appear; •Either the focalizer is a character, in which there is internal focalization; or the focalizer is an heterodiegetic narrator not taking part in the diegesis but witnessing the scene from a precise place, in which case there is external focalization. •If the focalizer cannot be located, there is focalization 0. Focalization 0 is often combined with omniscient narrator.
- Multiple focalizers:
There may be several focalizers and several types of focalizations. A focalizer may become focalized. There may be character-focalizers or narrator-focalizers.
- Position of the focalizer.
•Wherever the focalizer is localized, it is necessary to determine the situation of the focalizer to the focalized: is there distance or proximity? Are there changes in perspective? Is there movement or is there a static vision from the same angle?
•Question of temporal focalization (a scene observed on many occasions).
•Question of mental focalization (focalization of what is imagined).
•Focalization must be studied case by case and in context. The study of the problem is to examine : “the triadic relation formed by the narrating agent (who narrates), the focalizer (who sees), and the focalized (what is being seen).
•There exist relations of similarity (closeness or consonance) or opposition (distance or dissonance) between narrator and focalizer, narrator and focalized, & focalizer and focalized.
•Focalization often contributes to characterization.