On the Unreliable Animal Narrative in A Dog’s Tale论《狗的自述》中不可靠动物叙事文献综述

 2021-10-20 19:18:25


1. Introduction1.1 Research backgroundAs a discipline about theories of narrative, narratology can fall into classical narratology and postclassical narratology (Herman, 1999). Established on structuralism and influenced by formalism, classical narratology emerges in the 1960s and studies narrative as a self-contained system. After the 1990s, postclassical narratology springs up and combines narratology with other literary theories, thus generating rhetorical narratology, feminist narratology, cognitive narratology, etc. (Shen the representation of an event or a sequence of events (1982:127). Summarizing the structuralist theory which holds that each narrative has two parts: story and discourse, Chatman (1978) describes the difference between story and discourse as the difference between content and expression. Story consists of events (actions and happenings) and existents (characters and items of settings) while discourse is the means by which those events and existents are communicated. Abbott (2008) explains that we can make many changes to the discourse but still deals with the same story. Discourse has been the focus of narratological investigations. In his 1972 work Narrative discourse, Genette classifies discourse analysis into five aspects: order (events are narrated in a disrupted order), duration (how much space the narrative devotes to events that happen over short or long time periods), frequency (the relationship between frequency of happening and frequency of being narrated), mood (the degrees of narrative information) and voice (the time of narrating, narrative levels and narrator). James Phelan, one of the founders of rhetorical narratology, proposes that narrative is not just story but also action, the telling of a story by someone to someone on some occasion for some purpose (1996: 8).A crucial concept in narratological investigations is unreliability, which has evolved from two terms. It is initiated by Wayne C. Booth as unreliable narrator and refined by James Phelan as unreliable narration. Currently, most theorists embrace the term unreliability and some of them put narratorial or narrative before it to emphasize its narratological sense. Unreliability has been defined by Shen Dan as a feature of narratorial discourse. Her definition goes on with If narrator misreports, -interprets or -evaluates, or if she/he underreports, -interprets or -evaluates, this narrator is unreliable or untrustworthy (2014: 896). The three verbs involved here are borrowed from Phelans types of unreliability included in his theory on what he calls unreliable narration. From Shens definition, we can see that unreliability is inextricably linked with the concepts of unreliable narrator and unreliable narration. We cannot understand unreliability without help of these two terms. The term unreliable narrator is coined by Booth in Rhetoric of Fiction with his classical definition I have called a narrator reliable when he speaks for or acts in accordance with the norms of the work (which is to say the implied authors norms), unreliable when he does not (1961:158-159). To understand unreliable narrator requires knowledge of the implied author, a term also introduced by Booth in Rhetoric of Fiction, referring to the authors second self which is distinct from the actual author. The implied author is the authors image in the text, which is ethically superior to the flesh-and-blood author. The same actual author can create various kinds of second self when creating different works. Following Booths rhetorical approach, Phelan inherits the term the implied author as the standard to judge unreliability but he refines Booths theory on unreliability by adding another criterion the authorial audience, a term coined by P. J. Rabinowitz (1977) referring to the hypothetical audience which is distinguished from the actual audience. The authorial audience is created by the authors assumptions about his readers beliefs, knowledge, and familiarity with conventions (1977:126). An author will make his artistic choices based on these assumptions whose accuracy will decide his artistic success. Phelan refines Booths definition of unreliable narrator with a homodiegetic narrator is unreliable when he or she offers an account of some event, person, thought, thing, or other object in the narrative world that deviates from the account the authorial audience infers the implied author would offer (1999: 94). In other words, the narrator is unreliable when he deviates from the account the authorial audience infers the implied author would offer (1999: 94). Phelan regards unreliable narration as a mode of indirect communication which means the implied author communicates with his or her audience by means of the voice of another speaker addressing another audience (2007: 224). Phelans most significant theory, classification of unreliability will be left for discussion in the second chapter. Studies on narrative unreliability are essentially divided into two schools: the rhetorical school and the cognitive school. According to Shen (2014), critics adopting the rhetorical approach far outnumbers those taking the cognitive one. The divergence of these two schools lies in the yardstick of gauging a narrators unreliability. The rhetorical school regards the implied author as the standard on which unreliability is determined and locates unreliability on the gap between the narrator and the implied author while the cognitive school, questioning the utility of the term implied author, takes the readers readings of the text as the criterion for determining unreliability and locates unreliability in the interaction between the text and its readers. Some theorists suggest a synthesis of concepts and ideas from the rhetorical and cognitive approaches (Nnning, 2005), while others hold that they are essentially incompatible and any attempt to synthesize them is bound to favor one at the expense of the other (Shen, however, little-known is his facet as Americas early and prominent advocate for animal welfare (Fishkin, Moser, 2010). Though much ink has been spilled on Twains best-known works on humans, the lesser-known ones, in which there are additional concerns for animals, are underappreciated. Among them is A Dogs Tale (1903), one of Twains three polemical key pieces on animal welfare during the last decade of his life, the other two being his letter to the London Anti-Vivisection Society and A Horses Tale (Fishkin Moser, 2010). A Dogs Tale focuses on the experiences of a dog named Aileen Mavourneen (hereafter referred to as she in this thesis) who gallantly rescues her masters child from a burning cradle only to witness her puppys sacrifice for a medical experiment by her master. Apart from exposure of mistreatment of animals, the novel deserves attention for its unique narrative techniques. For one thing, the first-person narrator is surprisingly an animal, a domestic dog. She can understand human language and she also feels and thinks like a human. For another, the narrative has a feature of unreliability as the animal narrator lacks human intelligence and sophistication, thus inevitably tricking readers in its discourse. The animal narrative and its unreliable feature necessitates the study of A Dogs Tale with relevant narrative theories. 1.2 Literature reviewThe review includes two parts: previous studies on A Dogs Tale and extant theories of animal narrative. Although published in 1903, A Dogs Tale has not received due respect and drawn much research interest until recent years. However, thanks to the increasing weight of animal welfare and formalistic analysis, the novel has been rediscovered and examined as a valuable piece of literature. Generally speaking, the majority of the extant literature on A Dogs Tale is foreign whereas domestic papers are scarce and only one of them is from an authorized university journal. Previous studies on A Dogs Tale consist of studies on the novels themes and studies on its form. Most scholars have focused on the themes of A Dogs Tale. Taking an ecocritical approach, Marcus (2016) argues that it is one of the very few fictional works that condemn animal experiments by giving a firsthand account from the victims point of view. A broader perspective has been adopted by Guzman (2016) who concludes that Twains story reveals humans hypocritical relationship with animals labeled by humans as their friends. Different from Marcus and Guzman who focus on the dog narrator, Aileen, Priya Narayana (2018) show great interest in Aileens mother and hold that the novel explores enslavement as the mother dog symbolizes the white men who are confident about ignorance and meekness of African slaves. Studies on the novels themes have explored much possibility of Twains purposes, which provides reliable criteria for further interpretation of the novel. However, these scholars have their analysis based on Twains attitudes towards animal experiments, human-animal relationship and enslavement. There is still much research space in the novels form, which also contributes to theme interpretation.A few scholars have noticed its unique form: story told by an animal. Ali uses the term anthropomorphism to represent this form based on the definition anthropomorphism is an act of giving human characteristics to non-humans or objects (2016: 69) and explains its functions. Though Ali is a pioneer in the novels form by introducing the fresh term anthropomorphism, his study remains narrow in that it only explains why Twain endows an animal with the abilities to talk, feel and think like human beings, instead of directly asking the question why Twain employs an animal as the narrator who plays a major role in communicating the story to audience. It is noteworthy to point out that by introducing the two concepts the authors retreat and the implied author, Zhang, Li Zhen (2017) argue that the dog narrator is designed by Twain to minimize his interference with storytelling so that events are refreshingly and objectively presented from the dogs perspective and after the procession of the dogs consciousness. The novel is indirect in a charming way because the implied author, instead of retreating from the story entirely, hides himself in the text and readers have to depend on themselves to grasp his intention. These three scholars succeed in explaining why Twain employs a dog narrator. Nevertheless, their claim is arbitrary to call the dog narrator reliable based on their reason that she represents the value system and ethics of the implied author as well as questionable for two reasons. First, they have neglected the aspect of the narrators knowledge of facts and events. In fact, the dog often knows less than readers. While readers are fully aware of what really happened, she is kept in the dark. Second, the narrators representation of the implied authors values and ethics is questionable because there is a big gap between the clear-sighted and sophisticated implied author and the nave dog who has insufficient knowledge of facts and events and lacks human sophistication. This thesis will question their claim of reliable by exploring the dogs unreliability on three levels: facts and events, knowledge and perception as well as values and ethics in the third chapter. Types of unreliability on these three levels will also be dealt with.Extant theories of animal narrative are scarce and the related studies have only focused on the umbrella term that covers it. In their paper entitled The Stored Lives of Non-Human Narrators, Bernaerts, Caracciolo, Herman however, there is little analysis on its unreliability.As far as the deficiencies in the previous studies are concerned, first, scholars do not conduct analysis of unreliability of animal narrative and its significance in A Dogs Tale. Second, existing theories of animal narrative do not provide insight into the aspect of unreliability and thereby cannot provide the theoretical framework for this analysis. Hence, this thesis attempts to explore unreliability of animal narrative and its significance in A Dogs Tale by adopting theories of unreliability in narratology to provide a new perspective for the study of this work.1.3 Need of the studyThis thesis has pedagogical, theoretical and practical implications. Pedagogically, by applying the theory of unreliability to analyze A Dogs Tale, it will offer a new perspective to explore Twains works so that students of English-American Literature course can gain more profound understanding of Twains fictions and narrative techniques. Theoretically, through the combination of theories of unreliability with the analysis of animal narrative on which few canonized theories have been proposed yet, this thesis can enrich theories of animal narrative, especially about its feature of unreliability, and further, offers a new example for practising the analysis of theories on unreliability in a specific text. Practically, with the exploration of the novels narrative feature and its contribution to the theme (human cruelty towards animals), this thesis will illuminate our perception of the relationship between humans and animals, the imbalance of which has led to the behavior of eating wild animals, triggering the outbreak of COVID-19, an epidemic which has deprived over one thousand lives in China. This thesis can help us to seek a better animal-human relationship for the sake of both animals and humans. 2. Phelans theory of unreliability2.1. Six types of unreliabilityAccording to Phelan (1999, 2005), in telling a story a narrator plays three kinds of roles: reporter, evaluator and reader. A narrator may deviate from the implied author in his or her reporting, interpreting and evaluating, which generates the first classification: unreliable reporting along the axis of facts/events, unreliable interpreting on the axis of knowledge/perception and unreliable evaluating along the axis of ethics/evaluation. Moreover, Phelan includes activities of the authorial audience in his further classification. He holds that the authorial audience will perform two kinds of action once they decide the narrators accounting should not be taken for granted: (1) they reject those words and, if possible, reconstruct a more satisfactory account. (2) they accept what the narrator says but then supplement the account (1999:94; 2005:50-51). In other words, degrees of unreliability can vary. As a result, a subdivision is made on unreliable reporting, unreliable interpreting and unreliable evaluating. For example, if the whole of a narrators reporting is rejected by the authorial audience, he or she is performing, in Phelans terms, misreporting. If the authorial audience accepts part of the narrators reporting and supply the missing information, the narrator is underreporting. Likewise, unreliable interpreting can be divided into misinterpreting and underinterpreting and unreliable evaluating can be divided into misevaluating and underevaluating. In the light of the narrators reports, interpretations and evaluations as well as readers two kinds of responses, six types of unreliability are identified: misreporting, underreporting, misinterpreting, underinterpreting, misevaluating and underevaluating. The difference between mis- and under- is essentially the difference between being wrong and being insufficient. Misreporting occurs when the narrator offers erroneous information opposed to the facts or events in the story because of his limited knowledge or purpose of concealing information. Underreporting occurs when the information offered by the narrator is less than he or she knows. Misinterpreting occurs when the narrators lack of knowledge, perceptiveness or sophistication yields a wrong interpretation of an event, situation or character. Underinterpreting occurs when the narrator yields an insufficient interpretation of those things. Misevaluating occurs when the narrator makes the wrong ethical judgment on an event or character due to mistaken values. Underevaluatingg occurs when the narrators ethical judgment moves along the right track but does not go far enough. Significantly, Phelan points out that one type of unreliability often occurs in combination with others. 2.2 Development of six types of unreliabilityAlthough he successfully established six types of unreliability on two variables (1999, 2005): the axes on which unreliability occurs and the responses of the authorial audience, Phelan did not reveal the effects caused by these types at first. Later, the gap is filled. While most theorists talk of the ironic effects produced by unreliability, Phelan concentrates on the effects on interpretive, affective, and ethical relations between the narrator and the authorial audience. In order to account for these effects, Phelan (2007) elaborates his types of unreliability by drawing a distinction between estranging unreliability and bonding unreliability. In estranging unreliability, the authorial audience is estranged from the narrator because provided the discrepancies between the narrators reports, evaluations or interpretations and the authorial audiences own inferences on those things, the authorial audience will recognize that they will move far away from the implied authors perspective if they adopt the narrators. In bonding reliability, the distance between the narrator and the authorial audience is paradoxically reduced by their discrepancies because the unreliability includes communication endorsed by the implied author and the authorial audience. Any one of the six types of unreliability can function as estranging unreliability or bonding unreliability. According to Phelan (2017), unreliability and reliability are not binary opposites. Therefore, it makes sense to develop a spectrum that runs from unreliability on the left end and reliability on the right. Then, he locates six types of unreliability along this spectrum. A left arrow is used by Phelan to indicate the direction of increasing unreliability. Misreporting/underreporting is placed at the far left, misevaluating/underevaluating less left and misinterpreting/underinterpreting least left. Reasons for such location are as follows: First, since he views somebody-telling-somebody-else-that-something-happened as fundamental to narrative (2017: 98), Phelan also views that the author and the narrators divergence on what happened is more fundamental than their divergences on evaluations and interpretations about happenings. Second, misreporting is always accompanied by misevaluating and misinterpreting, thus magnifying the distance between the author and the narrator. Third, in Phelans view, ethical deficiencies are more significant than interpretive ones. Finally, Phelan considers misinterpreting as closer to restricted narration, one type of reliable narration identified by him. 2.3 Influence of six types of unreliabilityPhelans six types of unreliability have a significant influence on narratological investigations about unreliability. Comparing Phelans types of unreliability with those distinguished by Riggan based on social parameters: picaro, clown, madman and naif, Nnning comments that Phelans classification is not only much more systematic but also has the great merit of being based on a rhetorical model, focusing as it does on the relations among authorial agency, narrator and authorial audience (2005: 94). Also influenced by Phelans types of unreliability, Shen defines that If narrator misreports, -interprets or -evaluates, or if she/he underreports, -interprets or -evaluates, this narrator is unreliable or untrustworthy (2014: 896).Phelans six types of unreliability have been put into practice at home and abroad. First, Phelan has offered helpful concepts to describe unreliable narrative. For instance, Galvan (2006) employs the concept of misevaluating to explain the moral flaws in Latimers narration from George Eliots The Lifted Veil. Linkin (2016) uses the term of bonding unreliability to describe effects generated by the narrators confessional memoir in paralipsis or omission in Daphne du Mauriers Rebecca. Second, scholars have found value in applying Phelans types of unreliability to study phenomena of unusual narrative. For instance, He (2004) examines the course of a third-grade boys narrative with Phelans classification of reporting, interpreting and evaluating and concludes that unreliability of children narrative typically occurs on the axis of knowledge/perception. Chen studies A Madmans Day and concludes that unreliability of madman narrative is often on the axis of knowledge/perception and manifests itself as misinterpreting and underinterpreting. Surprisingly, there has been little discussion on the phenomenon of animal narrative. As far as the author of this thesis knows, no scholar has applied Phelans types of unreliability to study animal narrative in A Dogs Tale. Hence, this thesis aims to interpret types of unreliability in Mark Twains A Dogs Tale by adopting Phelans types of unreliability, that is, misreporting and underreporting on the axis of facts/events, misinterpreting and underinterpreting on the axis of knowledge/perception as well as misevaluating and underevaluating on the axis of ethics/evaluation, and their effects on the plot, characterization and themes of this novel.ReferencesAbbott, H. P. (2008). The Cambridge introduction to narrative (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Alber, J. (2016). Unnatural narrative: Impossible worlds in fiction and drama. Lincoln University of Nebraska Press.Ali, D. A. M. (2016). Anthropomorphism in George Orwells Animal farm and Mark Twains A dogs tale. 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