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Darwinian Narratology

Language Centre (December 11, 2009)

Based on the request of the producer(s),
this video can be viewed on HKBU campus only.


MAJOR SPEAKER : Toolan, Michael J
LENGTH : 79 min.
ACCESS : This video can be viewed on HKBU campus only
SUMMARY : In this talk I discuss the at least indirect (if not direct) influence, on literary narratives of the past 150 years, of Darwinian ideas about things happening (evolving) without an overarching narrative plan or design. At the very least, we see in 20th century literary narratives the noticeable persistence and even growth in the invoking of coincidence, contingency, sheer good luck and bad luckwhich are often frowned upon in traditional narrative theory (including the ancient Greeks) as lacking unity, coherence, logical connection, 'strong' causationin literary story or the 'thread' of narrativity. Versions of accident and unforeseeable happenstance are strikingly prominent in much fiction in recent years (evident even in Darwin's contemporaries (George Eliot, Dickens, Hardy), then reaching first the modernist novel, and certainly becoming epidemic in the postmodern novel. But I am particularly interested in the 'spread' of unplanned progression (more casual than causal) to the usually much more constrained and 'carefully wrought' genre of the short story, using several recent stories by Alice Munro as sources of exemplification. I am especially interested in the language in which these 'not very purposive/causal'.  [Go to the full record in the library's catalogue]

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