Over the past twenty years, numerous critics have reacted to the New Critics’ neglect of the role of the responder in aesthetic experience. It has been emphasized that aesthetic experience is a personal transaction between the work and the responder, where the responder’s past experiences, expectations, emotions, and prior knowledge interact with the work.
The focus of literary education has also shifted from formalist criticism to how the reader creates his own individual narrative dependent upon what and how he chooses to perceive. As Rosenblatt (1976) points out, students whose attitudes are based on limited experience can gain broader insight into both the text and life itself once they become aware of their interaction with the text.
Such insight may increase if readers of modern literature recognize the role culture may play in an author’s manipulation of time and space. Teachers of literature are increasingly teaching cross-cultural literature, particularly Eastern literature.
They understand that students need to be acclimatized with works of fiction from other cultures to promote understanding of those cultures. But in order to interpret Eastern literature, students need to broaden their stance from one that strictly uses Western aesthetic conventions.
Thus, the purpose of this paper is to establish the nature and extent of the cultural influence on an author’s manipulation of time in his work and its subsequent effect on the transaction between reader and text. Specifically, this paper examines the usefulness of Genette’s theory to describe cultural influences on these Durrell’s and Mishima’s works.
It is hoped that this will help students not only to describe what they have observed in works of fiction, but may also call their attention to the existence of fictional devices which they had formerly overlooked and whose complexities they had neither expected nor explored.
Gerard Genette’s Narrative Discourse
First, an explanation of Gerard Genette’s structuralist study. Since Genette’s study includes a complex terminology, only those terms applicable to this research are discussed.
Genette was mainly concerned with the problem of tense in a narrative. As he points out, “We can charactize the temporal stance of the narrative only by considering at the same time all the relationship it establishes between its own temporality and that of the story it tells.” (p. 155)
In other words, there is a relationship between two kinds of time: story time and narrative time. Story time is the total period spanned by the story. Narrative time is controlled by the writer. It is the way the story is told, the way it is read, and is often termed the “pseudo-time” of the story.
In this paper, the narratives of the two tetralogies are examined in the relationships between the time of the story and the time of the narrative. The analysis is directed toward what the elements of time do, what they bring to the narrative, and how they interact there.
The examination of this relationship between the time of the story and the pseudo-time of the narrative is based on the three distinctly formulated features of order, duration, and frequency, each briefly defined. It should be noted that these three temporal divisions can, and often do, interact within the narrative itself; however, they are dealt with separately for the sake of analysis.
In Genette’s methodology, the relationship between story time and narrative time are first examined in terms of order. That is, the chronology of an event in the story is compared to where it is situated in the narrative. An anachrony occurs when the ordering of an event in the story differs from how the author arranges this same event in the narrative.
The second objective is to examine the duration or speed of the literary work. Speed is understood to be a relationship between a temporal and spatial dimension. The duration or speed of a story is told in seconds, minutes, hours, days, and so forth.
The length of a text is measured in lines, pages, and chapters. The relationship between the duration of a story and the length of a text sets the limits of the speed of the narrative. This relationship is never steady, but rather, a distorted one.