Retelling / Rereading: The Fate of Storytelling in Modern Times

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"In this passionate, erudite, and far-ranging book, Kroeber renews for our multi-cultural age a fundamental argument: the stories we tell, hear, read, and see make a difference to the lives we read."--Jonathan Arac, University of Pittsburgh

In this highly readable and thoroughly original book, Karl Kroeber questions the assumptions about storytelling we have inherited from the exponents of modernism and postmodernism. These assumptions have led to overly formalistic and universalizing conceptions of narrative ...

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Overview


"In this passionate, erudite, and far-ranging book, Kroeber renews for our multi-cultural age a fundamental argument: the stories we tell, hear, read, and see make a difference to the lives we read."--Jonathan Arac, University of Pittsburgh

In this highly readable and thoroughly original book, Karl Kroeber questions the assumptions about storytelling we have inherited from the exponents of modernism and postmodernism. These assumptions have led to overly formalistic and universalizing conceptions of narrative that mystify the social functions of storytelling. Even "politically correct" critics have Eurocentrically defined story as too "primitive" to be taken seriously as art. Kroeber reminds us that the fundamental value of storytelling lies in retelling, this paradoxical remaking anew that constitutes story's role as one of the essential modes of discourse. His work develops some recent anthropological and feminist criticism to delineate the participative function of audience in narrative performances.

In depicting how audiences contribute to storytelling transactions, Kroeber carries us into a surprising array of examples, ranging from a Mesopotamian sculpture to Derek Walcott's Omeros; startling juxtapositions, such as Cervantes to Vermeer; and innovative readings of familiar novels and paintings. Tom Wolfe's comparison of his Bonfire of the Vanities to Vanity Fair is critically analyzed, as are the differences between Thackeray's novel and Joyce's Ulysses and Flaubert's Madame Bovary. Other discussions focus on traditional Native American stories, Henry James's The Ambassadors, Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler, and narrative paintings of Giotto, Holman Hunt, and Roy Lichtenstein. Kroeber deploys the ideas of Ricoeur and Bakhtin to reassess dramatically the field of narrative theory, demonstrating why contemporary narratologists overrate plot and undervalue story's capacity to give meaning to the contingencies of real experience. Retelling/Rereading provides solid theoretical grounding for a new understanding of storytelling's strange role in twentieth-century art and of our need to develop a truly multicultural narrative criticism.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This riposte to narrative-averse modernists wields impressive scholarship and rational argument to rescue ``story'' from the grip of too-rational scholars. Kroeber insists on the role of audience and context and on the value of ambiguity and contingency. His central point is that the process of retelling/rereading, which requires us to grasp a complex whole and judge it, evokes an emotional and social, as well as an intellectual, response. Rebutting assertions that the power of narrative depends on plot, he emphasizes the change-enabling dialog between story and audience, reclaiming the social and ethical functions (currently stressed in anthropological and feminist criticism) arising from ``recomprehension and revaluation.'' Despite some recondite patches, this wide-ranging study addresses nonspecialist scholars. The argument is not new, but cogently put, and among pithy assertions is the radical notion that the best criticism of story is midrash (more story). For scholarly collections.-- Patricia Dooley, Univ. of Washington Lib. Sch., Seattle
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813517650
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/1992
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Ch. 1 Storytelling and Modern Criticism 1
Ch. 2 Narrativity and Landscape Art 15
Ch. 3 Social Foundations of Narrative 40
Ch. 4 How Stories Are Constructed 59
Ch. 5 Syntagmatic and Paradigmatic Fiction 87
Ch. 6 The Aesthetics of Contingency 120
Ch. 7 Modern Dialogic Narrative 151
Ch. 8 Storytelling in a Postmodern/Postcolonial World 166
The Stories 195
Coyote and the Shadow People 195
Orpheus and Eurydice 199
Raw-Gums and White-Owl Woman 201
Blood-Clot Boy 207
Grasshopper in Love with Deer 211
Notes 215
Index 249
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