ELCH - Studies in English Literary and Cultural History - Vol. 13

ELK - Studien zur Englischen Literatur- und Kulturwissenschaft - Band 13

Gaby Allrath

(En)Gendering Unreliable Narration -
A Feminist-Narratological Theory and Analysis of Unreliability 
in Contemporary Women's Novels

How does gender affect the interpretation that a narrator is unreliable? How does it operate on the textual levels of story and discourse of unreliable narratives? In how far is gender relevant to the cognitive frames of reference readers rely on when gauging a narrator’s reliability? Discussing these and similar questions, this volume proposes a feminist-narratological theory of unreliable narration that takes into account the textual and the contextual dimensions of unreliability. It builds on the cognitive-narratological reconceptualizations of unreliable narration put forward in recent years, but argues that the feminist-narratological categories of sex, gender, and sexuality can and should be included in theoretical conceptions of unreliability. Detailed analyses of eight novels by well-known British, American, and Canadian women writers (e.g. Angela Carter, Margaret Atwood) and by authors that have so far been largely ignored by literary criticism (e.g. Eva Figes, Brigid Brophy) as well as cursory discussions of further novels illustrate that narratorial unreliability is a widespread phenomenon in female-authored narratives. At the same time, these analyses also demonstrate that narratorial unreliability can become a means of a narrative staging of gender-specific concerns and experiences, and they explore which functions can be assigned to unreliable narration in novels focussing on gender-inflected notions of madness and normality, on questions of gender and identity, and on the subject of heterosexual relationships. 

ISBN 3-88476-754-2, 280 S., kt., € 28,50 (2005)

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