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Cambridge University Press
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June 2014
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What is narrative? How does it work and how does it shape our lives and the texts we read? H. Porter Abbott emphasizes that narrative is found not just in literature, film, and theater, but everywhere in the ordinary course of people's lives. This widely used introduction, now thoroughly revised, is informed throughout by recent developments in the field and includes two new chapters. With its lucid exposition of concepts and suggestions for further reading, this book is not only an excellent introduction for courses focused on narrative but also an invaluable resource for students and scholars across a wide range of fields, including literature and drama, film and media, society and politics, journalism, autobiography, history, and still others throughout the arts, humanities, and social sciences.


‘Abbott brilliantly zeroes in on the architecture of narrative with an exactness and bent for orderly exposition that utterly redeems his subject.’

Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education

‘Anyone seeking a lucidly written guide to the study of narrative technique should turn immediately to H. Porter Abbott's Cambridge Introduction to Narrative.’

Source: Literature/Film Quarterly

‘Written in an unfailingly lucid style that nonetheless refuses to ‘dumb down’ the major research questions facing analysts of stories, this book provides an ideal starting-point for readers seeking a synoptic overview of recent scholarship on narrative. More than just a primer for readers unfamiliar with previous research on stories, however, Abbott's book itself represents a significant contribution to the field of narrative studies.’

David Herman Source: editor of The Cambridge Companion to Narrative

‘Directness, accessibility, and coherence distinguish this brief but comprehensive study of narrative ... Most highly recommended.’

Source: Choice

‘A lucid, practical, wide-ranging, and often original introduction to narrative, which will be extremely useful in undergraduate and graduate courses on literary theory and criticism. This is not a dry textbook, however; the reader is made aware of a real voice and of a fascination with the role of narrative across many areas of culture and beyond.’

Derek Attridge

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  • Chapter 2 - Defining narrative
    pp 13-27
Selected foundational works on narrative
Bal, Mieke, Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative, revised edition, University of Toronto Press, 1997.
Barthes, Roland, “Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narratives,” in Image-Music-Text, reprinted in Sontag, Susan (ed.), A Barthes Reader, New York: Hill & Wang, 1982, 251–95.
Barthes, RolandS/Z, (trans. Richard Miller), New York: Hill & Wang, 1974.
Chatman, Seymour, Coming to Terms: The Rhetoric of Narrative in Fiction and Film, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990.
Chatman, SeymourStory and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1978.
Cohn, Dorrit, Transparent Minds: Narrative Modes for Presenting Consciousness in Fiction, Princeton University Press, 1978.
Genette, Gérard (trans. Jane E. Lewin), Narrative Discourse: An Essay on Method, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1980.
Herman, David (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Narrative, University of Cambridge Press, 2007.
Herman, David, Jahn, Manfred, and Marie-Laure Ryan, (eds.), The Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory, London: Routledge, 2005.
Herman, Luc, and Vervaeck, Bart, Handbook of Narrative Analysis, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005.
Keen, Suzanne, Narrative Form, Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.
Mcquillan, Martin, The Narrative Reader, London: Routledge, 2000.
Onega, Susan, and José Ángel Garcia Landa, (eds.), Narratology, London: Longman, 1996.
Prince, Gerald, A Dictionary of Narratology, revised edition, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003.
Prince, GeraldNarratology: The Form and Functioning of Narrative, Berlin: Mouton, 1982.
Richardson, Brian (ed.), Narrative Dynamics: Essays on Time, Plot, Closure, and Frames, Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2002.
Rimmon-Kenan, Shlomith, Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics, revised edition, London: Routledge, 2002.
Scholes, Robert, Kellogg, Robert, and James Phelan, The Nature of Narrative, revised edition, New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
More reading of interest
Aldama, Frederick Luis, Postethnic Narrative Criticism: Magicorealism in Oscar ‘Zeta’ Acosta, Anna Castillo, Julie Dash, Hanif Kureishi, and Salman Rushdie, Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003.
Andrew, Dudley, “Adaptation,” in Concepts in Film Theory, Oxford University Press, 1984, 98–104.
Aristotle (trans. Ingram Bywater), “De Poetica [Poetics],” in McKeon, Richard (ed.), Introduction to Aristotle, New York: Random House, 1947, 624–67.
Bakhtin, M. M. (trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist), The Dialogic Imagination, Austin, University of Texas Press, 1981.
Bhabha, Homi K. (ed.), Nation and Narration, London: Routledge, 1990.
Boardman, Michael M., Narrative Innovation and Incoherence, Durham: Duke University Press, 1992.
Booth, Alison, Famous Last Words: Changes in Gender and Narrative Closure, Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1993.
Booth, Wayne, The Rhetoric of Fiction, revised edition, University of Chicago Press, 1983.
Bordwell, David, Narration in the Fiction Film, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985.
Branigan, Edward, Narrative Comprehension and Film, London: Routledge, 1992.
Brooks, Peter, Reading for the Plot, New York: Random House, 1985.
Brooks, Peter and Gewirtz, Paul (eds.), Law's Stories: Narrative and Rhetoric in the Law, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996.
Bruner, Jerome, Making Stories: Law, Literature, Life, New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2002.
Bruner, Jerome “The Narrative Construction of ‘Reality’,” in Ammaniti, Massimo and Daniel, N. Stern (eds.), Psychoanalysis and Development: Representations and Narratives, New York University Press, 1994, 15–38.
Bruner, Jerome “A Narrative Model of Self-Construction,” in Snodgrass, Joan Gay and Robert, L. Thompson (eds.), The Self Across Psychology: Self-Recognition, Self-Awareness, and the Self Concept, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, vol. 818, New York Academy of Sciences, 1997, 145–61.
Bruner, Jerome “Two Modes of Thought,” in Actual Minds, Possible Worlds, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986, 11–43.
Chambers, Ross, Room for Maneuver: Reading Oppositional Narrative, University of Chicago Press, 1991.
Chambers, RossStory and Situation: Narrative Seduction and the Power of Fiction, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984.
Cohn, Dorrit, The Distinction of Fiction, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.
Culler, Jonathan, “Convention and Naturalization,” in Structuralist Poetics: Structuralism, Linguistics, and the Study of Literature, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 131–60.
Culler, Jonathan “Story and Discourse in the Analysis of Narrative,” in The Pursuit of Signs: Semiotics, Literature, Deconstruction, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981, 169–87.
Currie, Mark, Postmodern Narrative Theory, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998.
Doležel, Lubomír, Heterocosmica: Fiction and Possible Worlds, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.
DuPlessis, Rachel Blau, Writing Beyond the Ending: Narrative Strategies of Twentieth-Century Women Writers, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985.
Fehn, Ann, Hoesterey, Ingeborg, and Tatar, Maria (eds.), Neverending Stories: Toward a Critical Narratology, Princeton University Press, 1992.
Fludernik, Monica, Towards a “Natural” Narratology, London: Routledge, 1996.
Forster, E. M., Aspects of the Novel, New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1927.
Genette, Gérard, (trans. Channa Newman and Claude Doubinsky), Palimpsests: Literature in the Second Degree (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1997).
Genette, GérardParatexts: Thresholds of Interpretation (trans. Jane E. Lewin), Cambridge University Press, 1997.
Gerrig, Richard J., Experiencing Narrative Worlds: On the Psychological Activities of Reading, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993.
Gibson, Andrew, Towards a Postmodern Theory of Narrative, Edinburgh University Press, 1996.
Grünzweig, Walter, and Sobach, Andreas (eds.), Transcending Boundaries: Narratology in Context, Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, 1999.
Hayles, N. Katherine (ed.), Technocriticism and Hypernarrative, Special Issue, Modern Fiction Studies 43:3 (1997).
Herman, David (ed.), Narratologies: New Perspectives on Narrative Analysis, Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1999.
Herman, DavidStory Logic: Problems and Possibilities of Narrative, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002.
Iser, Wolfgang, The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic Response, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978.
Iser, WolfgangThe Implied Reader: Patterns of Communication in Prose Fiction from Bunyan to Beckett, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974.
Jameson, Fredric, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981.
Kafalenos, Emma, Narrative Causalities, Colombus: Ohio State University Press, 2006.
Kenner, Hugh, “The Uncle Charles Principle,” in Joyce's Voices, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978, 15–38.
Kermode, Frank, The Art of Telling, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983.
Kermode, FrankThe Genesis of Secrecy: On the Interpretation of Narrative, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979.
Kermode, FrankThe Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction, Oxford University Press, 1966.
Kindt, Tom, and Hans-Harald Müller, , The Implied Author: Concept and Controversy, Berlin: de Gruyter, 2006.
Landow, George P., “Reconfiguring Narrative,” in Hypertext 2.0: The Convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology, revised edition, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997, 178–218.
Lanser, Susan Snaider, Fictions of Authority: Women Writers and Narrative Voice, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992.
Martin, Wallace, Recent Theories of Narrative, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986.
McHale, Brian, Postmodernist Fiction, London: Routledge, 1987.
Mezei, Kathy (ed.), Ambiguous Discourse: Feminist Narratology and British Women Writers, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.
Mihailescu, Calin-Andrei, and Hamarneh, Walid (eds.), Fiction Updated: Theories of Fictionality, Narratology, and Poetics, University of Toronto Press, 1996.
Miller, D. A., The Novel and Its Discontents: Problems of Closure in the Traditional Novel, Princeton University Press, 1981.
Miller, J. Hillis, Reading Narrative Discourse, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998.
Mitchell, W. J. T. (ed.), On Narrative, University of Chicago Press, 1981.
Morson, Gary Saul, Narrative and Freedom: The Shadows of Time, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994.
Nelles, William, Frameworks: Narrative Levels and Embedded Narrative, New York: Peter Lang, 1997.
O'Neill, Patrick, Fictions of Discourse: Reading Narrative Theory, University of Toronto Press, 1994.
Palmer, Alan, Fictional Minds, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004.
Pascal, Roy, The Dual Voice: Free Indirect Speech and Its Functioning in the Nineteenth-Century European Novel, Manchester University Press, 1977.
Phelan, James, Living to Tell about It: A Rhetoric and Ethics of Character Narration, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005.
Phelan, JamesNarrative as Rhetoric: Technique, Audiences, Ethics, Ideology, Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1996.
Phelan, JamesReading People, Reading Plots: Character, Progression, and the Interpretation of Narrative, University of Chicago Press, 1989.
Phelan, James and Rabinowitz, Peter (eds.), A Companion to Narrative Theory, Oxford: Blackwell, 2005.
Phelan, James and Rabinowitz, Peter (eds.), Understanding Narrative, Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1994.
Rabinowitz, Peter J., Before Reading: Narrative Conventions and the Politics of Interpretation, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987.
Rabkin, Eric S., Narrative Suspense, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1973.
Richardson, Brian, Unlikely Stories: Causality and the Nature of Modern Narrative, Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1997.
Richardson, BrianUnnatural Voices, Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2006.
Richter, David H., Fable's End: Completeness and Closure in Rhetorical Fiction, University of Chicago Press, 1974.
Richter, David H. (ed.), Narrative/Theory, New York: Longman, 1996.
Ricoeur, Paul (trans. Kathleen McLaughlin and David Pellauer), Time and Narrative, 3 vols., University of Chicago Press, 1984, 1985, 1988.
Rimmon-Kenan, Shlomith, A Glance Beyond Doubt: Narration, Representation, Subjectivity, Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1996.
Ryan, Marie-Laure, (ed.), Narrative Across Media: The Languages of Storytelling, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004.
Ryan, Marie-LaureNarrative as Virtual Reality: Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.
Ryan, Marie-LaurePossible Worlds, Artificial Intelligence, and Narrative Theory, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991.
Schank, Roger C., Tell Me a Story: Narrative and Intelligence, Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1990.
Stanzel, Franz K. A. (trans. Charlotte Goedsche), Theory of Narrative, Cambridge University Press, 1984.
Sternberg, Meir, Expositional Modes and Temporal Ordering in Fiction, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978.
Sturgess, Philip J. M., Narrativity: Theory and Practice, Oxford University Press, 1992.
Torgovnick, Mariana, Closure in the Novel, Princeton University Press, 1981.
White, Hayden, The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987.
Williams, Jeffrey, Theory and the Novel: Narrative Reflexivity in the British Tradition, Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Zunshine, Lisa, Why We Read Fiction: Theory of Mind and the Novel, Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2006.


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