Conceiving Modern Narrative

  • Daniel Punday


In the last decades of the seventeenth and the first decades of the eighteenth centuries, European thought saw the emergence of the idea of a “world” in many fields. In Germany, G.W. Leibniz theorized the concept of “possible worlds”—the idea that our reality can be viewed as one of a nearly infinite number of possible other states of being through which God sorted in the process of deciding how the human world should unfold (1686). In Italy, Giambattista Vico proposed studying the history of human societies in contextualist terms—emphasizing, in other words, attention to the particular “world” in which people within a particular society at a particular time operated (1725).1 In France, Madame de Lafayette wrote La Princesse de Clèves (1678), often considered the first modern European novel because of its treatment of character psychology, thus ushering in an artistic period, which continues today, of constructing texts for mass consumption that transport readers into a “world” described through a character’s distinct, personal perspective.2 At about the same time as these changes, scientists began to develop modern theories of human reproduction by postulating the existence of the female egg and shortly after using the newly developed microscope to study the composition of sperm. Although it would be some time before the biology of reproduction was fully understood, the basic components of human generation were discovered by the beginning of the eighteenth century.


Eighteenth Century Narrative Text Narrative Structure Human Identity Sexual Generation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

1 Conceiving Modern Narrative

  1. 2.
    This is, of course, only one of many ways to define the much discussed “rise of the novel.” On the Princess de Clèves as a forerunner of the modern novelistic conflict between “private lives and public stories,” see William Ray, Story and History: Narrative Authority and Social Identity in the Eighteenth-Century French and English Novel (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1990).Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Michael Crowe, The Extraterrestrial Life Debate 1750–1900: The Idea of a Plurality of Worlds from Kant to Lowell (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986).Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Giambattista Vico, The New Science of Giambattista Vico, trans. Thomas Goddard Bergin and Max Harold Fisch (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1948), p. 104, § 349.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Catherine Gallagher, Nobody’s Story: The Vanishing Acts of Women Writers in the Marketplace, 1670–1820 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), p. 164.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    Michael Riffaterre, Fictional Truth (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990), p. 1.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    On the incompleteness of fictional entities, see Ruth Ronen, “Completing the Incompleteness of Fictional Entities,” Poetics Today 9 (1988), pp. 497–514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 9.
    Robert Howell, “Fictional Objects: How they Are and How they Aren’t,” Poetics 8 (1979), p. 139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 10.
    For a recent overview of debates about fictional objects and paraphrase see Charles Crittenden, Unreality: The Metaphysics of Fictional Objects (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991).Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    Saul A. Kripke, Naming and Necessity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980), p. 40.Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    Ursula LeGuin, The Lathe of Heaven (New York: Avon Books, 1971), p. 80.Google Scholar
  11. 14.
    G.W. Leibniz, “Discourse on Metaphysics,” Philosophical Essays, ed. and trans. Roger Ariew and Daniel Garber (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1989), p. 41.Google Scholar
  12. 16.
    Theodore Dreiser, An American Tragedy (New York: Modern Library, 1953), p. 504.Google Scholar
  13. 17.
    Charles Dickens, Great Expectations (New York: Penguin, 1965), p. 35.Google Scholar
  14. 18.
    In fact, many critics have suggested that the modern novel is inherently linked to the search for such genealogical origins. See, e.g., Christine van Boheemen, The Novel as Family Romance: Language, Gender, and Authority from Fielding to Joyce (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1987).Google Scholar
  15. 20.
    Louise Erdrich, The Antelope Wife (New York: Harperflamingo, 1998), p. 200.Google Scholar
  16. 21.
    Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1957), p. 84.Google Scholar
  17. 22.
    Robert Scholes and Robert Kellogg, The Nature of Narrative (London: Oxford University Press, 1966), p. 161.Google Scholar
  18. 23.
    C.S. Lewis, Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966), p. 36.Google Scholar
  19. 24.
    Albert Russell Ascoli, “The Vowels of Authority (Dante’s Convivio IV. vi 3–4),” Discourses of Authority in Medieval and Renaissance Literature, ed. Kevin Brownlee and Walter Stephens (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1989), p. 25.Google Scholar
  20. 25.
    Evelyn Birge Vitz, Medieval Narrative and Modern Narratology: Subjects and Objects of Desire (New York: New York University Press, 1989), p. 112.Google Scholar
  21. 26.
    Jane H.M. Taylor, “The Sense of a Beginning: Genealogy and Plentitude in Late Medieval Narrative Cycles,” Transtextualities: Of Cycles and Cyclicity in Medieval French Literature, ed. Sara Strum-Maddox and Donald Maddox (Binghamton: Medieval and Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1996), p. 96.Google Scholar
  22. 27.
    William W. Ryding, Structure in Medieval Narrative (The Hague: Mouton, 1971), p. 9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 28.
    Carla Freccero, Father Figures: Genealogy and Narrative Structure in Rabelais (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1991), p. 12.Google Scholar
  24. 29.
    H. Vaihinger, The Philosophy of Äs If”: A System of the Theoretical, Practical and Religious Fictions of Mankind, trans. C.K. Ogden (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1925).Google Scholar
  25. 30.
    See Alan Bewell, “An Issue of Monstrous Desire: Frankenstein and Obstetrics,” Yale Journal of Criticism 2 (1988), pp. 105–28.Google Scholar
  26. 31.
    Dennis Todd, Imagining Monsters: Miscreations of the Self in Eighteenth-Century England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), pp. 121–22.Google Scholar
  27. 32.
    Barbara Johnson, “My Monster/My Self,” Diacritics 12.2 (Summer 1982), p. 7.Google Scholar
  28. 33.
    Qtd. Howard B. Adelmann, Marcello Malpighi and the Evolution of Embryology (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1966), vol. II, p. 731.Google Scholar
  29. 34.
    Aristotle, Generation of Animals, trans. A.L. Peck (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1953), pp. 113–15; 729b 15–23.Google Scholar
  30. 36.
    See Joseph Needham’s History of Embryology, 2nd ed. rev. (New York: Abelard-Schuman, 1959), which characterizes ancient embryological theories in general as denying either maternity or paternity (43).Google Scholar
  31. 37.
    F.J. Cole, Early Theories of Sexual Generation (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1930), p. 43.Google Scholar
  32. 41.
    Jonathan Sawday, The Body Emblazoned: Dissection and the Human Body in Renaissance Culture (London: Routledge, 1995), p. 23.Google Scholar
  33. 42.
    Robert Silverberg, “Foreword,” Off Limits: Tales of Alien Sex, ed. Ellen Datlow (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996), p. xi.Google Scholar
  34. 44.
    Gillian Beer, Darwin’s Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot and Nineteenth-Century Fiction, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 46.
    Kendall L. Walton, Mimesis as Make-Believe: On the Foundations of the Representational Arts (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990), p. 22.Google Scholar
  36. 47.
    Erich Auerbach, Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, trans. Willard Trask (New York: Doubleday, 1957), p. 171.Google Scholar
  37. 48.
    François Rabelais, The Histories of Gargantua and Pantagruel, trans. J.M. Cohen (New York: Penguin, 1955), p. 74.Google Scholar
  38. 49.
    Nelson Goodman, Ways of Worldmaking (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1978), p. 135.Google Scholar
  39. 50.
    Lubomír Doleˇzel, “Extensional and Intensional Narrative Worlds,” Poetics 8 (1979), p. 196.Google Scholar
  40. 51.
    Marie-Laure Ryan, Possible Worlds, Artificial Intelligence, and Narrative Theory (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), p. 32.Google Scholar
  41. 52.
    John O’Neill, Five Bodies: The Human Shape of Modern Society (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985), p. 25.Google Scholar
  42. 54.
    James Weldon Johnson, The Autobiography of An Ex-Coloured Man (New York: Hill and Wang, 1960), p. 211.Google Scholar
  43. 55.
    Elaine K. Ginsburg, “Introduction: The Politics of Passing,” Passing and the Fictions of Identity, ed. Elaine K. Ginsburg (Durham: Duke University Press, 1996), p. 4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 58.
    Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970), p. 162.Google Scholar
  45. 59.
    Donna J. Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,” Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York: Routledge, 1991), p. 150.Google Scholar
  46. 60.
    Robert Coover, “The Babysitter,” Pricksongs & Descants (New York: New American Library, 1969), pp. 206–39.Google Scholar
  47. 61.
    William S. Burroughs, Cities of the Red Night (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1981), p. 25.Google Scholar
  48. 62.
    Steven Shaviro, “Two Lessons from Burroughs,” Posthuman Bodies, ed. Judith Halberstam and Ira Livingston (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995), pp. 40–1.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Daniel Punday 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel Punday

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations