Jahn’s Focalization

September 25, 2011

Manfred Jahn’s Narratology introduces the concept of focalization. It is the point of view of the narrator throughout the story. This literary device allows for transitions throughout the story and can give readers a better grasp of the background knowledge between the characters. It can also be used to help grasp the narrative in a different light; there can be more than one conscious train of thought that we as readers can follow through.

fixed focalization The presentation of narrative facts and events from the constant point of view of a single focalizer. The standard example is Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
variable focalization The presentation of different episodes of the story as seen through the eyes of several focalizers. For example, in Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, the narrative’s events are seen through the eyes of Clarissa Dalloway, Richard Dalloway, Peter Walsh, Septimus Warren Smith, Rezia Smith, and many other internal focalizers.
multiple focalization A technique of presenting an episode repeatedly, each time seen through the eyes of a different (internal) focalizer. Typically, what is demonstrated by this technique is that different people tend to perceive or interpret the same event in radically different fashion. Texts that are told by more than one narrator (such as epistolary novels) create multiple focalization based on external focalizers (example: Fowles, The Collector). See Collier (1992b) for a discussion of multiple internal focalization in Patrick White’s The Solid Mandala.
collective focalization Focalization through either plural narrators (‘we narrative’) or a group of characters (‘collective reflectors’). See Stanzel (1984: 172); Banfield (1982: 96). Example:
A small crowd meanwhile had gathered at the gates of Buckingham Palace. Listlessly, yet confidently, poor people all of them, they waited; looked at the Palace itself with the flag flying; at Victoria, billowing on her mount, admired the shelves of running water, her geraniums; singled out from the motor cars in the Mall first this one, then that […]. (Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway)(Jahn N3.2)

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