|Richard Walsh is senior lecturer in English and Related Literature at the University of York, UK.
He is the author of The Rhetoric of Fictionality: Narrative Theory and the Idea of Fiction (2007).
His current research concerns the encounter between narrative thinking and complex systems in radically interdisciplinary contexts.
"Some Commonsensical and Uncontentious Theses on Narrative and Spatiality, Leavened by a Perverse Reading of Robbe-Grillet’s Jealousy"
The relation between narrative cognition and other cognitive systems, notably spatial cognition, tends to be obscured in narratological discussions of fiction by the assumption that fictions produce and refer to fictional worlds.
However a world, in the sense that may be produced, is not a referential object but a concept, abstracted from processes of mental representation that are at odds with narrative. In this view, the (fictional) narrative text, then, is not in itself essentially narrative, though it primarily cues our faculty of narrative cognition, but rather the semiotic object of an interpretation in which narrative always functions interdependently with other modes of cognition such as spatial modelling.
These are mutually informing interpretative paradigms, not the figure and ground they become in fictional worlds approaches. The reading of fiction is characterized by a negotiation between sequential and systemic cognitive frames, within the constraints of the cognitive cost of the inferences made. I shall set out the theoretical basis of this argument and illustrate it by offering a perverse reading of Robbe-Grillet’s Jealousy, a novel that invites spatial interpretation in great detail.
Accepting that invitation, however, is a misunderstanding of the novel’s fictive rhetoric.