Manfred Jahn’s Narratology

September 7, 2011

Manfred Jahn’s Narratology: A Guide to the Theory of Narrative conveys an interesting theory of the process of narration. He states that there are many ways to go about of writing a narrative and one that is extensively utilized is the conception of the matrix narrative. Although it may sound complex, in simple terms it is the ability to utilize a text within a text.
• A matrix narrative is a narrative containing an ’embedded’ or ‘hyponarrative’. The term ‘matrix’ derives from the Latin word mater (mother, womb) and refers to “something within which something else originates” (Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary). In linguistics, a ‘matrix sentence’ is one that embeds a subordinate sentence. Ordinarily, both the transition to a hyponarrative, its termination and the return to the matrix narrative are explicitly signaled in a text; occasionally, however, a text closes on a hyponarrative without explicitly resuming the matrix narrative (see example in subgraphic [c] below). One could call this a dangling matrix narrative. The systematic opposite to this would be an uninitialized hyponarrative (example?).
• N2.4.2. For a more elaborate analysis of embedded narratives, Rimmon-Kenan (1983: 91) suggests the following terms:
• A first-degree narrative is a narrative that is not embedded in any other narrative; a second-degree narrative is a narrative that is embedded in a first-degree narrative; a third-degree narrative is one that is embedded in a second-degree narrative, etc.
• A first-degree narrator, by analogy, is the narrator of a first-degree narrative, a second-degree narrator is the narrator of a second-degree narrative, etc., in exact correspondence.
There can be many layers or narrative levels that an author can choose to create and he has many tools hat his disposal. A writer can develop his narratives by utilizing first-degree, second-degree, etc. narration. He can encompass his characters within worlds of worlds; much like the recent film Inception. The characters within the movie for example, are real life plays in an international syndicate comprised of six different individuals. They maintain their lifestyle by entering dreams within dreams and imposing an idea; much like how a writer imposes his thoughts and his concepts through his writing. By utilizing the matrix narrative, a writer has access to countless possibilities of character and plot development. I.E. Epiphanies, warnings, dreams, vertigo, etc.

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