Looks interesting! The “Narrative is Travel” Metaphor – Mikkonen

The “Narrative is Travel” Metaphor: Between Spatial Sequence and Open Consequence

From: Narrative
Volume 15, Number 3, October 2007
pp. 286-305 | 10.1353/nar.2007.0017

“In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:The understanding of narratives is closely tied to the experience of travel. In narrative theory, the travel story features regularly as either the model narrative or the model for narrative. In Vladimir Propp’s classic study of story grammar, for instance, the narrative functions are structured along a travel pattern between the hero’s departure and return. In more recent narratology and literary history, and in certain interdisciplinary approaches to the study of narrative, the notion of travel may even function as a code or key revealing how the narrative works. In the history of the novel, travel writing has helped to shape the genre. Narratives of travel to exotic lands have informed the modern novel with detailed foreign settings and a sense of authenticity in viewpoint. Since the time of the Greek epics different types of journey—the quest, the odyssey, and the adventure—have served as powerful masterplots in literary narratives. For instance, the chronotope of the road, and the metaphor of “the path of life” that it realizes, is a central feature in Mikhail Bakhtin’s history of novelistic plot patterns and especially important for what Bakhtin calls the adventure novel of everyday life (120).

The journey is universally recognized as a narrative in our culture. The narrative potential of travel lies in the fact that we recognize in it temporal and spatial structures that call for narration. The different stages of travel—departure, voyage, encounters on the road, and return—provide any story with a temporal structure that raises certain expectations of things to happen. Perhaps because of this pervasiveness of the travel narrative, we have come to understand personal life and mental development as a voyage. The travel metaphor is therefore not only a way to think about narrative; it also provides one with the means to think through narrative.

The question of the relation between travel and narrative is indeed large and complex. Here I will work from a narrower conception of narrative as travel (or as travel writing) so as to investigate the motivation behind the metaphor and to focus specifically on the question of the relation between narrative consecutiveness and consequence. I will develop the ideas of consecutiveness and consequence around two specific generic features and expectations of travel narratives. On the one hand, travel experience and travel writing presuppose the sense of a consecution of places, and events happening in particular places. The travel concept, and especially the journey plot pattern, manifests a specific model of temporality and causality—travel entails the arrangement of points of actuality in temporal order. On the other hand, the notion of travel is prone to give identity and narrativity to a series of events since it “humanizes” the experience of time and space. A travel story is dependent on the projection and experience of a world from a particular perspective, a person or a group of people moving through space in a given time, enabling thus the treatment of space as a stage for possible narrative action. Narrative progress, therefore, is intimately related to, even if does not always equal, the representation of the traveler’s experience of space and time.

My analysis has three goals: (1) to highlight the significance and some of the limitations of the metaphor of travel in narrative theory and textual analysis; (2) to rethink some of the identifying traits and expectations of travel writing through concepts of temporality, causality, and narrative experientiality as they are developed in narrative theory; (3) to extend cognitive-linguistic research on metaphors into the specifics of narrative form, specifically the issue of the relation between consecutiveness and consequence in travel narratives. In order to illustrate these theoretical points, I will toward the end of the essay offer an analysis of Graham Greene’s travel narrative Journey Without Maps (1936). Greene’s narrative is particularly pertinent to the questions raised here since it foregrounds the relationship between consecutiveness and consequence by…”



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