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Über dieses Buch

Narrative is everywhere and has unique powers: to enchant and inspire, to make sense of our lives and ourselves and to afford us an enriched understanding of alternative worlds and lives and of better futures – though narrative also has the potential to coerce and oppress. Narrative is at the centre at all stages of the English curriculum and has been the subject of a burgeoning critical industry. This timely volume addresses the many ways in which recent thinking has informed the teaching of narrative in university classrooms in the UK and the USA. Distinguished teachers from both countries range widely across narrative topics and genres, including the opportunities opened up by new technologies, and chapters articulate students’ own individual and collaborative experiences in the teaching/learning process. The result is a volume that explores the pleasurable challenges of working with students to help them appreciate and assess the power that narrative exerts, to become reflective critics of its inner workings as well as exponents of narrative themselves.



Chapter 1. Introduction

The Introduction provides detailed summaries of the chapters that comprise the volume, and, before that, the Introduction discusses the teaching of narrative at university in terms of curricular stages, notions of enchantment and disenchantment, realism and modernism and, drawing on (among others) D. A. Miller and Peter Brooks, relations in narrative between closure and the narratable, and Freud’s Eros and Thanatos. The latter provides an opportunity to develop some ideas about how teaching, narrative and desire connect. There is detailed discussion of how students respond to the experience of reading narrative fiction (as opposed to reading poetry and watching drama) and of working with ‘conflicted’ nineteenth-century novels.
Richard Jacobs

Chapter 2. Time, Narrative and Culture

This chapter is about the experience of teaching narrative in the context of philosophical and social theories of time. Most critical writing about time and narrative is focused on the question of memory, but this chapter argues that expectation, anticipation and surprise are equally fruitful concepts for teaching narrative. It looks at the notion of ‘epochal temporality’, or the claim that different historical epochs have distinct and describable experiences of time, and asks what this might mean for an understanding of narrative time in the contemporary novel. It explores the idea that, in the historical present, there is a preoccupation with the unforeseeable, which differs significantly from predominant conceptions of time in the second half of the twentieth century. The chapter also aims to set out a range of useful narratological concepts, particularly related to the notion of narrative tense, which is useful for the description of time structures in so-called ‘epochal temporality’ and for the teaching of time experiments in contemporary fiction. The chapter is closely tied to a third-year undergraduate module in which students work on a range of modern novels.
Mark Currie

Chapter 3. Talking Race and Narrative with Undergraduate Students in the USA

This chapter starts from the observation that students often have difficult talking critically about race and narrative—particularly fictional narratives—because they seem so familiar and, therefore, have become naturalized. Students often take race and narrative as givens, rather than multifaceted constructions and ongoing processes arising from long, complex histories. I reflect on my experiences using two short stories to teach narrative theory and racialization to undergraduate students: Toni Morrison’s ‘Recitatif’ (The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Boston: Wadsworth, 1983) and Ted Chiang’s science fiction ‘Story of Your Life’ (2002). While students are more willing to believe that race is a central structuring element in Morrison’s famous story featuring protagonists of unspecific race, they are more ambivalent about Chiang’s story because it does not overtly deal with race and/or ethnicity as we generally understand it. But through discussions of narratological concepts, such as focalization, order and anachrony, Chiang’s ‘Story’ can become a way to talk about the logics and processes of racial formation, as theorized by Michael Omi, Howard Winant and others. In other words, ‘Story of Your Life’ defamiliarizes some key elements of narrative and racialization in ways that can enable students—sometimes—to recognize how they are inextricably intertwined.
Sue J. Kim

Chapter 4. The Ethics of Teaching Tragic Narratives

Should we not reflect more on the ethical consequences of taking narratives of violent death, mutilation, pain and degradation—often with no sense of redemption—into a room full of impressionable young people? In the ancient world, Plato and Aristotle clashed over the issue of the moral effects of tragedy upon its readers and audiences. Having considered their arguments, I go on to discuss how effective (and ethical) modes of teaching tragedy may be where role play and distancing techniques are employed. I survey political critiques of the genre, including some contemporary claims that certain texts can cause psychological harm to students. I conclude that when we teach tragedy we are actually conducting a philosophical exploration into the nature of value itself in an open-eyed, honest way which can only be of benefit to us all.
Sean McEvoy

Chapter 5. Teaching Comic Narratives

This chapter examines the challenges and rewards peculiar to teaching comic narrative. Readers frequently respond to humor as trivial, so students who expect readings in university courses to be ‘important’ often fail to recognize when a text is also funny. Instead, they find these texts confusing: why do the characters behave so illogically and say such contradictory things? Recognizing humor can be even more difficult when a text’s comic elements depend on unfamiliar references, or when the subject matter is shocking. But jokes often provide the focal point for a text’s thematic components, and are often where apparently contradictory ideas are brought into productive conflict. Using examples from Tom Stoppard, Sterling Brown and Virginia Woolf, and drawing on theories of humor from Plato to Bergson, this chapter will examine ways to help students see how comic narratives construct substantive philosophical and political arguments.
Rachel Trousdale

Chapter 6. Teaching Crime Narratives: Historicizing Genre and the Politics of Form

This chapter will examine the teaching of crime narratives in the context of an undergraduate module on American Crime Fiction. My purpose is to elucidate how the study of crime fiction can be a way of helping students understand the politics of narrative form. As such it traces the progression of the module from the reading of Poe’s detective stories through the narrative disruptions of mid-century hardboiled crime fiction to more contemporary noir fiction by authors such as Sara Paretsky and Attica Locke. I will discuss how students become accustomed to historicizing shifts in the ways crime narratives are constructed.
Todorov’s classic essay on ‘The Typology of Detective Fiction’ serves as an accessible formalist introduction to the spectrum of crime narratives, distinguished by their various configurations of the relationship between fabula and sjuzhet. His essay helps students to begin asking narratological questions about their reading, but one of the objectives of the module is to encourage students to discover the limitations of Todorov’s ahistorical perspective. In discussing the transition from the classic ‘whodunit’ narrative structure to the disorientating and tangled narratives of Chandler and his successors, students find their own ways of recuperating some of the historical content of the form, which has been evacuated from purely Formalist analysis. Using Franco Moretti’s Marxist analysis of detective fiction as a corrective, we move into more sophisticated discussions of how readers undertake structural and functional analyses simultaneously, and thereby of how hardboiled and contemporary noir narratives represent entanglement with society and politics.
Will Norman

Chapter 7. Teaching Historical Fiction: Hilary Mantel and the Protestant Reformation

This chapter analyzes Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall Trilogy as a case study for what historical fiction can contribute to our understanding of history. In particular, I will attend to what her novels reveal about the complex processes of historical and religious change that occurred during the Protestant Reformation, which marked its 500th anniversary in late 2017. Guided by my experience teaching Mantel’s fiction in courses on contemporary British fiction and historical fiction at a large regional university in the USA, I examine the ways that literature offers a unique perspective on major historical developments in religion and theology, especially by giving readers an opportunity to encounter, and indeed inhabit, religious interiority. By showing how new religious ideas and sensibilities develop, how they come into conflict with older viewpoints, and how they are by turns absorbed, adopted, challenged, resisted or rejected, Mantel discloses how religion is subject to the same historical contingencies as anything else. Far from being timeless and unchanging, it is contextual and more often than not syncretistic.
The Wolf Hall Trilogy offers students one example of how a writer can take even a period as thoroughly documented as the Tudor dynasty, or a movement as widely studied as the Protestant Reformation, and somehow defamiliarize them, or make them seem fresh. She does this in part by rendering central episodes in early modern history from a more intimate point of view. Like Leo Tolstoy, Mantel is less interested in the politics of the period than in what it felt like to live through it. As such, history becomes more than simply the ‘background’ to historical fiction; rather, it becomes part of the very method of historical fiction. In turn, students are invited to reflect on their own methods of reading and interpreting literature. Reading historical fiction necessarily involves us in multiple temporalities: the time period when the work is set, when it was written, and when we are reading it. Students may be led to reconsider their own beliefs, whether or not they are religious, in light of an earlier period of momentous historical change.
Mark Eaton

Chapter 8. Text and Context: Using Wikis to Teach Victorian Novels

Having personally fallen victim to the romance of the archive, I love introducing students to primary sources that help them navigate the distant world of Victorian novels. Without contextual knowledge, they often find themselves puzzled or frustrated—why don’t ill-suited spouses just divorce each other? Why are aristocrats so clueless about the Stock Exchange? Hoping to improve upon conventional assignments, I tasked students with creating a wiki. To an online version of the novel, they attached their own essays, which they keyed to points of conflict or confusion in order to help future student readers understand the issues at stake. Students investigated the novelty of investment capitalism, attitudes towards Jews, the contested nature of the term ‘gentleman’, the history of medical reform, and domestic violence, among other topics.
Students also came to see that their primary sources did not establish facts about Victorian beliefs but were no more authoritative than the novels. Moreover, certain genres, such as advice literature, attempted to stabilize social meanings, while the novels were more interested in opening up areas of ambiguity or change. Students traced the dynamic interrelationships among texts, as novels, conduct books, newspaper accounts and memoirs vied for authority over social meanings. They also noted the ways in which the novel itself registered competing values and ideas. In doing so, they became more sensitive to the features of different narratives and different kinds of narratives, developing a special appreciation for the heteroglossia of the novel.
Ellen Rosenman

Chapter 9. Digital Humanities in the Teaching of Narrative

In this chapter I distill some of the benefits that can be realized in the undergraduate literature classroom by replacing one or more traditional writing assignments with group (crowd-sourced) or individual projects employing Digital Humanities (DH) techniques of analysis, visualization and interpretation of narrative. I describe a modest mapping exercise in a course about London novels, with a frank account of the start-up effort required and the surprising cognitive gains realized by its incorporation into a traditional English syllabus. In a brief account of a pedagogically focused Digital Humanities Initiative at a small liberal arts college, I show how undergraduates gain a digital skill set and more acute engagement with narrative texts by participating in Text Encoding Initiative markup of a digital edition of a medieval epic poem. I refer to colleagues’ DH projects, for example involving undergraduate students in research that maps characters’ movements in space, leading to new interpretations of canonical texts. The centerpiece of the chapter shares an original discovery about the sources and influences on Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent that came out of DH pedagogy.
Suzanne Keen

Chapter 10. The Work of Narrative in the Age of Digital Interaction: Revolutions in Practice and Pedagogy

There are three main challenges in the teaching of narrative development in the area of new media: (1) the interactive, multilinear and ludic natures of new media platforms do not necessarily lend themselves to traditional narrative structures; (2) the emphasis which these media put upon users’ otherwise unmediated forms of self-expression is not necessarily conducive to classical structures of narrative communication; and (3) many of the promises which these media forms have made in relation to narrative advances not only have not been realized and are perhaps unrealizable, but are also not always entirely desirable. Bolter and Grusin’s scepticism as to the potential of introducing ‘interactivity to the novel’ is, for example, echoed by Koskinen’s rebuttal of ‘interactive narratives’—‘no one in his right mind can write an alternative ending to the story of Jesus Christ’. Yet these challenges also represent opportunities. The questions which these technologies pose as to how we teach narrative open up possibilities as to the development of narrative structures, practices and modes of reception—beyond blogging and citizen journalism, beyond Wikipedia, social media, virtual worlds and video games: not amateurish ‘produsage’ but a late postmodern incarnation of Roland Barthes’ notion of scriptibilité. Such opportunities may promote ways to teach writing which themselves underpin the development of cultural identity and critical thought.
Alec Charles

Chapter 11. Empowering Students as Researchers: Teaching and Learning Autoethnography and the Value of Self-Narratives

Helping students to connect their academic research with their creative writing processes is often a challenge but when achieved, can provide valuable pathways between their personal experiences and the social world under study. The author identifies supporting this connection as a potentially powerful teaching and learning tool, helping undergraduates to make the leap from student to writer and researcher. This chapter will identify possible ways in which the writing and sharing of autobiographical narratives can inform and enhance pedagogy in creative writing workshops with undergraduate students. The author identifies autoethnography as an evolving methodology that values and legitimizes personal stories and evocative academic work, and can facilitate recovery from personal events that have been difficult or traumatic (Richardson and St Pierre 2005). The chapter will explore how the study of self-narrative can empower students to make explicit links between these personal experiences and their academic research. This chapter will be of interest to teachers and students carrying out research in education and to those trying to develop their own teaching practice to incorporate student-focused approaches to creative writing. The author suggests that an autoethnographic approach can contribute to an increased confidence in students’ sense of their place within the discipline of creative writing and the place of their discipline within the wider world.
Jess Moriarty

Chapter 12. Narrative and Narratives: Designing and Delivering a First-Year Undergraduate Narrative Module

This chapter will describe the inception, development and delivery of a popular first-year undergraduate narrative module. Designed partly as a module helping students in their transition from school and college work to undergraduate study, the module starts with fairy tales and folktales (drawing on Zipes, Bettelheim and Propp), myths (Frye, Eliade and Barthes), examines the central importance, as well as the potential coercions, of narrative in our culture (at one point the module brings together the ‘Alice’ books and Freud’s case study of Dora), and moves on to the analysis of short novels or novellas (by Melville, James, Conrad, Joyce, Mann, Mansfield, Rhys and detective stories) that highlight in their narrative techniques and issues—including the realist/modernist narrative ‘divide’—that we explore in narratological theory (Walter Benjamin and Peter Brooks among others). The module concludes with a debate around ‘Disneyfication’.
Richard Jacobs


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