Narrative strategies



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Texas Tech University


With this dissertation, and using a rhetorical approach, I hope to improve upon narrative terminology by presenting alternative ways for understanding and discussing narrative. A rhetorical approach views meaning as the result of a collaboration between the strategies employed by authors in a text and the response to those strategies in readers. Currently, high school and college English classes do their students an injustice by perpetuating the use of archaic terms such as "first-person" and "third-person" and by failing to make distinctions between point of view and voice, between character functions and traits, and between the chronological order of plot and the artistic order of progression. As an undergraduate, I was taught the Periodical Table of Elements but not the elements of narrative, and I was an English major. As a teaching assistant, I once asked a colleague to teach a class for me while I went out of town. When I returned, my colleague admitted that she had no idea what she was teaching my students, for she had never before heard of round and flat characters. How can a graduate student of the American novel make it through a bachelor's and a master's degree and into a doctoral program and remain unfamiliar with basic terms describing narrative structure? I feel it is my mission-and "mission" may seem rather strong here, but that is how I feel-to make a variety of narrative strategies more accessible to both the teacher and the student of literature. With this project, I write primarily to other narratologists in that I both defend and attack different concepts as I assert my own. However, in trying to pool together the various terms, picking and choosing those that are most precise, I offer a secondary audience of teachers a rhetorical pedagody for narrative studies. My project attempts to both improve the distinctions made by theorists before me and illustrate those distinctions in applications to ten specific novels, applications that exemplify how such a rhetorical pedagody can be manifested in student writing.