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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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CHRISTER JOHANSSON - Telling and Showing: A Semiotic Perspective 147


CHRISTER JOHANSSON Telling and Showing: A Semiotic Perspective The distinction between telling and showing, or diegesis and mime- sis, is one of the classic distinctions of narratology. But it is also a fuzzy and underexplained one. In this paper I will try to make this distinc- tion clearer and more concrete by the use of semiotic concepts, espe- cially the concepts of iconicity and indexicality. My results will be applied to the three main media of narrativity and fictionality, prose fiction, fiction film, and drama. As is well known, Plato makes a distinction between two basic narrative modes: simple narrative (“diegesis haple”) and mimetic narrative (“mi- mesis”). Simple or diegetic narrative implies that the author speaks in his own voice, mimetic narrative that the author is speaking as if he were someone else, that is, one of the characters in the story. The great author speaks himself, according to Plato, and imitates the good and the right, while the lesser author is trying to imitate everything, not only people but also other kinds of living creatures and things, with his words and gestures. The tragedy and the comedy are mimetic, dithy- rambs are purely diegetic and epic poetry is a combination of both modes. However, all genres and media are, Plato seems to say, medi- ated by the author’s narrative activities and voice (Plato 2006, 79 ff.). To Aristotle all literary art, comedy, dithyrambs, flute and kithara music, is mimetic, that is, an imitation of human beings in action. However,...

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