Narratologie. Essais sur la signification narrative dans quatre romans modernes
Paris: Klincksieck, 1977; Utrecht: (reprint) HES, 1984
back cover text:
This book, written in French, was my first foray into thinking about the connection between narrative structure and reader manipulation. Close readings of two novels by Marguerite Duras, one by Flaubert, and one by Colette constitute the arena where I attempted to generalise about structure. Retrospectively, this was a useful exercise to understand the bond between the possibility of generalising and the need to look at and understand the function of even the smallest details. This study is very different from, but became the basis for, my better-known book Narratology.
This study is an investigation into the nature and operation of narrative signs, signs that are constituted by specifically narrative characteristics of the text in which they are operative. The narrativity is determined by the triplicate stratification that distinguishes narrative from dramatic or poetic texts. In a given text it has a form that is determined by the relations between the three layers - the text, the narration and the fable (texte, récit, histoire); these layers are each of them constituted by the various activities, of the telling, of the ordering of events and of the actions.
These activities of narrator, focaliser and actors (narrateur, focalisateur, acteurs) each take place at a different level of meaning, but they are interdependent. Thus relations are developed between the three agents (instances), their activities and the objects of their activities, differing from story to story. The way in which the agents interact is determinative for the meaning of the text. Signs are produced that are neither lexical nor symbolic or thematic, but which are decisive for the overall meaning of the text. These signs are to be found only in cases where narrativity is involved (which is not to say that narrativity does not occur in dramatic texts or poems).