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The One vs. the Many: Minor Characters and the Space of the Protagonist in the Novel
     

The One vs. the Many: Minor Characters and the Space of the Protagonist in the Novel

by Alex Woloch
 

ISBN-10: 0691113149

ISBN-13: 9780691113142

Pub. Date: 11/03/2003

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Does a novel focus on one life or many? Alex Woloch uses this simple question to develop a powerful new theory of the realist novel, based on how narratives distribute limited attention among a crowded field of characters. His argument has important implications for both literary studies and narrative theory.

Characterization has long been a troubled and

Overview

Does a novel focus on one life or many? Alex Woloch uses this simple question to develop a powerful new theory of the realist novel, based on how narratives distribute limited attention among a crowded field of characters. His argument has important implications for both literary studies and narrative theory.

Characterization has long been a troubled and neglected problem within literary theory. Through close readings of such novels as Pride and Prejudice, Great Expectations, and Le Père Goriot, Woloch demonstrates that the representation of any character takes place within a shifting field of narrative attention and obscurity. Each individual—whether the central figure or a radically subordinated one—emerges as a character only through his or her distinct and contingent space within the narrative as a whole. The "character-space," as Woloch defines it, marks the dramatic interaction between an implied person and his or her delimited position within a narrative structure. The organization of, and clashes between, many character-spaces within a single narrative totality is essential to the novel's very achievement and concerns, striking at issues central to narrative poetics, the aesthetics of realism, and the dynamics of literary representation.

Woloch's discussion of character-space allows for a different history of the novel and a new definition of characterization itself. By making the implied person indispensable to our understanding of literary form, this book offers a forward-looking avenue for contemporary narrative theory.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691113142
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
11/03/2003
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
960,550
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

Table of Contents

PROLOGUE: The Iliad's Two Wars 1
The Proem 1
When Achilles Disappears: A Reading of Book 2 3
The Death of Lykaon 8

INTRODUCTION: Characterization and Distribution 12
Character-Space: Between Person and Form 12
Characterization and the Antinomies of Theory 14
"They Too Should Have a Case" 21
Two Kinds of Minorness 24
Function and Alienation: The Labor Theory of Character 26
Realism, Democracy, and Inequality 30
Austen, Dickens, Balzac: Character-Space in the Nineteenth-Century Novel 32
The Minor Character: Between Story and Discourse 37

CHAPTER ONE: Narrative Asymmetry in Pride and Prejudice 43
Minor Characters in a Narrative Structure 43
The Double Meaning of Character 50
The One vs. the Many 56
Asymmetry: From Discourse to Story 62
Characterizing Minorness 1: Compression 68
The Space of the Protagonist 1: Elizabeth's Consciousness 77
Characterizing Minorness 2: Externality 82
Helpers: Charlotte Lucas and the Actantial Theory 88
The Space of the Protagonist 2: Elizabeth's Self-Consciousness 97
Wickham: "How He Lived I Know Not" 103
Minor Minor Characters: Representing Multiplicity 116

CHAPTER TWO: Making More of Minor Characters 125
Distorted Characters and the Weak Protagonist 125
Between Jingle and Joe: Asymmetry and Misalignment in The Pickwick Papers 133
Seeing into Sight: Mr. Elton and Uriah Heep 143
Partial Visibility and Incomplete Vision: The Appearance of Minor Characters 149
Repetition and Eccentricity: Minor Characters and the Division of Labor 155
"Monotonous Emphasis": Minorness and Three Kinds of Repetition 167

CHAPTER THREE: Partings Welded Together: The Character-System in Great Expectations 177
Between Two Roaring Worlds: Exteriority and Characterization 177
The Structure of Childhood Experience 188
Interpreting the Character-System: Signification, Position, Structure 194
Metaphor, Metonymy, and Characterization 198
Getting to London 207
Three Narrative Workers and the Dispersion of Labor in Great Expectations 213
Wemmick as Helper (the Functional Minor Character) 214
Magwitch's Return (the Marginal Minor Character) 217
Orlick and Social Multiplicity (the Fragmented Minor Character) 224
The Double: A Narrative Condition? 238

CHAPTER FOUR: A qui la place?: Characterization and Competition in Le Père Goriot and La Comédie humaine 244
Typification and Multiplicity 244
The Problem: Who Is the Hero? 244
Character, Type, Crowd 246
Balzac's Double Vision 255
The Character-System in Le Père Goriot 260
La belle loi de soi pour soi 260
Goriot: The Interior as Exterior 265
Rastignac: The Exterior as Interior 267
Between the Exterior and the Interior 272
Interiority and Centrality in Le Père Goriot and King Lear 282
The Shrapnel of Le Père Goriot 288
Recurring Characters, Le Père Goriot, and the Origins of La Comédie humaine 288
The Social Representation of Death: Le Père Goriot and Le Cousin Pons 295
Cogs in the Machine: Les Poiret between Le Père Goriot and Les Employeés 303
Competition and Character in Les Employeés 308

AFTERWORD: Sophocles's Oedipus Rex and the Prehistory of the Protagonist 319
Notes 337
Works Cited 375
Acknowledgments 383
Index 385

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