The Storyworld Accord: Econarratology and Postcolonial Narratives (Frontiers of Narrative)
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“Storyworlds,” mental models of context and environment within which characters function, is a concept used to describe what happens in narrative. Narratologists agree that the concept of storyworlds best captures the ecology of narrative interpretation by allowing a fuller appreciation of the organization of both space and time, by recognizing reading as a process that encourages readers to compare the world of a text to other possible worlds, and by highlighting the power of narrative to immerse readers in new and unfamiliar environments.
Focusing on the work of writers from Trinidad and Nigeria, such as Sam Selvon and Ben Okri, The Storyworld Accord investigates and compares the storyworlds of nonrealist and postmodern postcolonial texts to show how such narratives grapple with the often-collapsed concerns of subjectivity, representation, and environment, bringing together these narratological and ecocritical concerns via a mode that Erin James calls econarratology. Arguing that postcolonial ecocriticism, like ecocritical studies, has tended to neglect imaginative representations of the environment in postcolonial literatures, James suggests that readings of storyworlds in postcolonial texts helps narrative theorists and ecocritics better consider the ways in which culture, ideologies, and social and environmental issues are articulated in narrative forms and structures, while also helping postcolonial scholars more fully consider the environment alongside issues of political subjectivity and sovereignty.
direct links between narratives and empathy. Perhaps the best-known recent version of this argument is Martha Nussbaum’s in “The Narrative Imagination,” an essay in her 1997 book Cultivating Humanity. Noting that the rise of modern democracy coincides with the rise in popularity of the novel, Nussbaum stresses the need for world citizens to engage in the imaginative acts demanded by literary narratives. She draws on thinkers as diverse and wide-ranging as Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius, Walt Whitman,
idea that unless directed otherwise by a narrative, readers will base their understanding of the storyworld upon their understanding of the actual world. Ryan argues that readers construct the central world of a textual universe as conforming as far as possible to their representation of the actual world. As she states, “We will project upon these worlds everything we know about reality, and we will make only the adjustments dictated by the text” (Possible Worlds 51). projective location. A
96–97) The speaker of this passage, or whether there is more than one, is deeply ambiguous. The first sentence contains hallmarks of free indirect discourse: we can ascribe the description of the car as “big” and “shiny” to Tiger’s voice, yet the expression of this idea in Standard English and with possessive pronouns indicates the narrator’s voice is also present here. Perspective shifts in the second to fifth sentences. The idioms (“This time so” and “boy”) and the use of the present tense in
But the same tropes familiar to the imperial aesthetic Pratt describes and the same dynamic between figure-ground relationships that so effectively works to form a vision of the bazaar in the previous passage are largely absent here. Bombay does not “reveal” itself to the passive traveler. Indeed, Naipaul struggles to assert any sort of individual mastery over this landscape, as his use of the collective third-person pronoun attests. His attention moves from the dock’s launch, to the city in the
one of the world’s worst industrial disasters; forty tons of poisonous gas was belched into the air on December 2, 1984, when water entered a tank containing methyl isocyanate, a toxic gas and key ingredient in the manufacturing of Sevin (446). The explosion led to numerous illnesses in nearby residents, including immediate choking and later blindness, respiratory illness, reproductive problems, and neurological and immune disorders.12 Yet despite these legislative acts and the Bhopal disaster,