Coincidence and Counterfactuality: Plotting Time and Space by Hilary P. Dannenberg

By Hilary P. Dannenberg

In Coincidence and Counterfactuality, a groundbreaking research of plot, Hilary P. Dannenberg units out to reply to the perennial query of ways to inform a great tale. whereas plot is likely one of the such a lot critical elements of storytelling, it really is maybe the least studied point of narrative. utilizing plot concept to chart the improvement of narrative fiction from the Renaissance to the current, Dannenberg demonstrates how the unconventional has advanced over the years and the way writers have constructed more and more complicated narrative techniques that faucet into key cognitive parameters ordinary to the reader from real-life experience.
Dannenberg proposes a brand new, multidimensional idea for examining time and area in narrative fiction, then makes use of this thought to track the historic evolution of narrative fiction by means of concentrating on twist of fate and counterfactuality. those key plot strategies are built round pivotal moments whilst characters’ existence trajectories, or occasionally the trails of heritage, converge or diverge. The study’s wealthy old and textual scope finds how narrative traditions and genres resembling romance and realism or technology fiction and historiographic metafiction, instead of being separated by way of transparent limitations are actually in a continuous strategy of interplay and cross-fertilization. In highlighting severe levels within the old improvement of narrative fiction, the research produces new readings of works through pinpointing the leading edge position performed by means of specific authors during this evolutionary approach. Dannenberg’s unique research of plot styles is interdisciplinary, incorporating study from narrative concept, cognitive methods to literature, social psychology, attainable worlds concept, and feminist techniques to narrative.

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Extra info for Coincidence and Counterfactuality: Plotting Time and Space in Narrative Fiction

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Who was come hither in pursuit of his daughter . . had . . fortunately been two hours earlier, he had not only found her, but his niece into the bargain” (Fielding 1966, 490). Here the narrator conceals the ultimate causal-manipulative level of the author by suggesting that the narrative world is subject to a random interplay of phenomena within its own autonomous system of time and space. In contrast to the example from Robinson Crusoe, the causal-manipulative level of Providence is absent and has been replaced by a more pluralistic worldview that suggests multiple possible causal-progenerative sequences (Squire Western does/does not meet his daughter) that are produced according to the random interplay of events and not as part of any grand divine scheme.

Even in the form of a brief insert, as in the example from Tom Jones above, counterfactual narratives play a key contributory role to realist fiction’s simulation of a credible environment that in turn sustains the immersed reader’s belief in the narrative world. The reality-enhancing cognitive power of such causal connections is twofold. First, the inbuilt causal reasoning of counterfactuals acts to reinforce the impression of the reality of the fictional world by activating the same causal patterns that the reader uses to make sense of real life, allowing her to equate the fictional world with the real one.

The following examples illustrate the historical transition away from a construction of events in which a providential god—implicitly located in a metaworld that is part of the narrative c o gn it i v e pl ot t i ng world—is deemed to be causally manipulating events toward more pluralistic forms of causal justification. Causation in the Coincidence Plot In the traditional form of the coincidence plot, characters with a previous connection (of kinship, friendship, or even enmity) are brought together under remarkable and apparently random circumstances.

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