Narrative Time

September 25, 2011

Jahn states that time in a narrative is not exactly linear. It can progress at various rates and trends to match the storyline. With this said, it can said that dialogue between the characters happen in real time however certain events can trigger a discrepancy in the timeline and time begins to speed up or slow down. This can be readily seen through all narratives i.e. Don Quixote, She Lived in a Story, etc. Jahn continues to state that there are different modes of the time that can be seen through out our various narratives; narrative present, historical present, gnomic present, and the synpotic present.

narrative present One of the two narrative tenses (see above). The narrative present foregrounds the story-NOW and backgrounds the discourse-NOW.
historical present A local present tense in a past tense context, usually producing an effect of immediacy or signaling a climax (perhaps comparable to the use of slow motion in film?).
The gnomic present/generic present presents (seemingly) common truths or statements claiming general validity, often in the form of a proverb. See Chatman (1978: 82); Stanzel (1984: 108); Wales (1989: 219, 375). Examples:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. [Ironic gnomic statement used at the beginning of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.]
Tizzie Dunn was dead, too, and the Waters had gone back to England. Everything changes [gnomic present]. Now she was going to go away like the others, to leave her home. (Joyce, “Eveline”)
synoptic present Use of the present tense in a chapter summary, the title of a chapter, etc. “Mr. Pickwick journeys to Ipswich and meets with a romantic adventure” (Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, qtd. Stanzel 1982: 42). (Jahn 5.1.3)

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