Sie sind auf Seite 1von 3

Porter Institute for Poetics and Semiotics

Author(s): R. R.
Review by: R. R.
Source: Poetics Today, Vol. 11, No. 4, Narratology Revisited II (Winter, 1990), pp. 961-962
Published by: Duke University Press
Stable URL:
Accessed: 29-12-2015 09:31 UTC

Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content
in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship.
For more information about JSTOR, please contact

Duke University Press and Porter Institute for Poetics and Semiotics are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve
and extend access to Poetics Today.

This content downloaded from on Tue, 29 Dec 2015 09:31:57 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

New Booksat a Glance


words can lie and still tell a truth. The verisimilitude of fiction is not based
on a relationship between language and reality; rather, a system of representations seems to reflect a reality because it conforms to a grammar, a set
of rules. The fictional text works as a paradigm of references to a derivative
text in which the semantic components of the text have been translated into
explicit descriptions. Narrative truth is therefore a linguistic phenomenon,
claims Riffaterre, although it relies on codes of a society or a class that can be
identified independently of the narrative. Verisimilitude is an artifact, a verbal representation of reality. This paradoxical phenomenon of truth in fiction
is produced through an intricate mechanism of narrative tropes (like humor,
emblematic names, etc.) which serve as indices of fictionality. The gap between the narrative text, telling a verisimilar story, and the symbolic value of
the text, which, through a mechanism of overdetermination, creates a metalinguistic structure of fictional referentiality, is bridged by the subtext. A key
notion in Riffaterre's writing, the subtext is a unit of significance that functions as a hermeneutic model for a particular text. The subtext is activated
through structural constants and through ungrammaticalities which create
intertextual relations. Although fictional truth rests on factors that tend to
threaten verisimilitude, the referential illusion of fictional truth can still work
by replacing in literature the reference to reality with a reference to language.
Michael J. Toolan, The Stylistics of Fiction: A Literary-Linguistic Approach. London

and New York:Routledge, 1990. xi + 339 pp.

What do we mean when we talk about the "style" of literary works? This
troublesome question, which has constantly haunted literary studies, can be
regarded as referring both to a textual quality of a linguistic order and to a
subjective evaluation of a text. Hence, since most controversy over style can
be conceived of as a debate between linguists and critics, the duality of style is
the core of Toolan's argument. The problem of style becomes more and more
acute as linguistics distances itself gradually from the ideational Chomskyan
notion of a complete competence in a language user and begins to embrace the
larger picture of a conflictual language serving as a means for social contact.
At the same time, influential literary critics are no longer those of a New Critical tradition thundering against the heresy of paraphrase, but rather critics
who acknowledge and analyze the cultural conventions and conditions affecting what a society admits as artistic literature. Whereas the standard treatment
of style has been based on a fixed bi-planar system of mapping forms onto
meanings, recent stylistic theory argues that the entire enterprise of structural stylistics, from Bally onward, has been built on shaky ground (that of
bi-planar linguistics). Attempts to prove that stylistic effects are produced by
observable features of the expression-plane (shared uniformly by all readers)
fail in reality: access to unobservable events is always claimed by such theorists
one way or another since, as current stylistics acknowledges, we have no independent grounds for predicting meanings context-free. A stylistic model is
hence always shaped by particular individuals and particular interests. Toolan
proposes a relativized conception of style: although he shows that linguistic

This content downloaded from on Tue, 29 Dec 2015 09:31:57 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions


Poetics Today 11 :4

information gathered from the text can be used for literary interpretation,
none of this evidence can count as absolute. Even if variations of syntax or
lexis convey an intended meaning, it is doubtful whether such variations will
convey identical import to all readers. What is then the explanatory power
of a stylistic analysis? An affective-stylistic model specifying the reader's assumptions and expectations is needed. Yet Toolan's main aim is to show that
a stylistics of fiction can be useful in textual study and that a linguistic analysis of a text can explain and clarify the poetic features of a writer's writing.
Toolan's text-case is Faulkner's Go Down, Moses, in which he examines formal
regularities, showing how these correlate with narratorial perspectives, a play
of empathies and ironic effects. Such a linguistic analysis supplies ample evidence of the subtleties involved in a narrative's switching between types of
speech. The possibilities inherent in linguistic analysis of literary texts are not
yet exhausted, claims Toolan; the type of analysis he proposes refrains from
attributing objective scientism to stylistic effects. The methods of stylistics are
not fine, objective ones, but rather internal to the language games of literary
criticism and linguistic description.
Steven Ungar and Betty R. McGraw, eds., Signs in Culture: Roland Barthes Today.
Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1989. xxv + 164 pp.

Roland Barthes serves in this collection of essays as an Archimedean point

from which to describe recent and earlier conceptions of semiology. Semiology continues to exist today, but its current forms and practices differ significantly from those of the '60s and '70s. The change in semiology is well
illustrated in terms of Barthes's evolving practice of semiology. While Saussurean notions affected Barthes's semiology to a considerable extent, Barthes's
departure from this canonical model of semiology can be glimpsed as early as
his 1957 Mythologies,so the editors of this collection claim. The revised Saussurean model was highly influential in changing the practices of literary theory
and criticism. Barthes's various contributions to the study of signs, both in its
Saussurean semiological turn and its later manifestations, are here assessed.
Mythologiesannounced a shift from Saussurean semiology, in that the cultural
rules and constraints that govern the workings of signs were here recognized
for the first time. The attempt to break out of an endless semiology was later
reflected in the more politicized notion of language as discourse. These three
stages of revision culminated in S/Z, which, even if it did not break fully with
structural analysis, at least marked a critical pause. Each of the eight essays in
this volume elaborates and comments on a specific element in the evolution
of Barthes's study of signs. Each essay serves as a pivotal critical exercise beginning with or departing from Barthes's writings. One essay investigates the
links between Barthes and the philosophical tradition of Western metaphysics;
another explores Barthes's project of establishing a science of literature and
of defining a new scientific methodology, as reflected in the use of the notions
of systemand code, and so forth.

This content downloaded from on Tue, 29 Dec 2015 09:31:57 UTC
All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions