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The Novelist as Medium

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JournalNeophilologus
DatePublished - Jul 2000
Issue number3
Volume84
Number of pages17
Pages (from-to)329-345
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This essay, as part of a project exploring the concept of fictionality from a rhetorical perspective, considers novelistic communication in terms of the metaphor of the novelist as medium. I suggest that this metaphor avoids treating narrative creativity as the symbolic articulation of authorial intentions, without reducing novelistic discourse to the communication of fictional narrative as literal information. The essay examines certain kinds of experience, common among novelists, in which creativity is equated with a loss of narrative control: I elaborate upon the senses in which such narrative obligations situate the novelist as a 'medium' negotiating between the narrative and its readers. The argument centres upon novelists' own accounts of their experiences of creativity, with particular reference to Walker, Bronte, Scott, Trollope, Bowen, James and Barthelme. I establish the common feature of novelistic mediation, and distinguish between accounts which invoke obligations to higher discursive authorities and those which appeal to representational imperatives. The latter are pursued in more detail, first in relation to the ubiquitous notion of novelists' deference to the demands of their characters, and then in relation to the autonomy of story itself. Throughout I trace the recurrence, in these novelists' reflections, of an association between the nebulous issue of narrative creativity and practical considerations about their professional authority and accountability to a readership.

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