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Disputable Core Concepts of Narrative Theory

Edited By Göran Rossholm and Christer Johansson

The present volume is a contribution to the theory of narrative by scholars from various disciplines, mainly scholars from Comparative Literature but also contributors from Philosophy, Psychology and the languages. The essays focus on central terms and concepts in narrative theory over the last forty years. Established narratological concepts, such as narrative, narrator, story, fiction, character, narrative (un)reliability and point of view, but also relational concepts motivated by the expansion of narratology, such as narrative and non-verbal media, narrative and personal identity and narrative and literary genre, are themes dealt with.
In addition to presenting a critical examination of the core concepts of narrative theory, the volume is a demonstration of the vigour of contemporary Nordic narrative theory. The authors work at universities in Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Norway and Sweden, and they all belong to the Nordic Network of Narrative Studies.

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LARS-ÅKE SKALIN - Reading Literary Characters: Is There a Knowing the Dancer from the Dance? 119

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119 LARS-ÅKE SKALIN Reading Literary Characters: Is There a Knowing the Dancer from the Dance? In my discussion of what it is to read literary characters, I would like to start by alluding to a picture, Leonardo’s painting representing the Last Supper with Jesus and his disciples. At least for my current pur- pose I will regard it as a narrative painting which means that it dis- plays mimesis, or fiction, in some sense of these two terms, and by that, characters. An iconographic analysis will help us recognize the participants of the supper and tell us who is Judas, who is Peter, who is John and, of course, who is Jesus, and so on. Now, let’s ponder a little over a rather stupid-sounding question: is John to the left or to the right of Jesus? With this question about view-point, I will enter into a discus- sion of two main theoretical models of how to discuss characters in art, and especially literary art. The models have been called the “in- ternal” (or “mimetic”) and the “external” (or “non-mimetic”) ap- proach, respectively. Conversation about characters, either by the man in the street or by sophisticated critics and theorists might be called 120 “discourse about character”. However, since “about” is a word heav- ily loaded with theoretical presuppositions, I prefer to say “character- discourse” or “character-talk”, which should not be understood as the representation of characters’ talk in fiction, but, if only for this purpose, how we tend to talk...

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