Narrative Structures and the Language of the Self by Matthew Clark offers a new way of thinking about the interrelation of character and plot. Clark investigates the characters brought together in a narrative, considering them not as random collections but as structured sets that correspond to various manifestations of the self. The shape and structure of these sets can be thought of as narrative geometry, and various geometries imply various theories of the self.
Part One, “Philosophical Fables of the Self,” examines narratives such as The Talented Mr. Ripley, A Farewell to Arms, A Separate Peace, and The Master of Ballantrae in order to show successively more complex versions of the self as modeled by Descartes, Hegel, Freud, and Mead. Part Two, “The Case of the Subject,” uses Case Grammar to extend the discussion to additional roles of the self in narratives such as The Waves, The Great Gatsby, Fifth Business, and Howards End as examples of the self as experiencer, the self as observer, the instrumental self, and the locative self.
The audiobook ends with an extended analysis of the subject in Hartley’s The Go-Between. Throughout, the discussion is concerned with practical analysis of specific narratives and with the development of an understanding of the self that moves beyond the simple dichotomy of the self and the other, the subject and the object.
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