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Jane Campbell


  1. Elizabeth Sandifer
    December 15, 2015 @ 2:44 am

    (I wonder what happens if I leave a comment before something officially posts.)

    So, interestingly, I did that Actual-Implied-Narra(x) nested structure once or twice in grad school, and was always puzzled that people thought I was clever for it. I’m comforted to know someone had in fact thought it up before me. (Actually, I had the ideal author/reader at the outside, but that’s neither here nor there.)

    That said, having some experience with these terms outside of Chatman, you’re barking up a slightly wrong tree by attempting to collapse the Narratee and the Implied Author. The concept that really makes the distinction necessary is the idea of the unreliable narrator, which Wayne Booth coined the implied author specifically to solve the problem of how to explain in The Rhetoric of Fiction.

    Sometimes the implied author is also the narrator (and the implied reader the narratee), but they’re importantly distinct concepts. (And, of course, it is possible to have a third person story in which the narrator and implied author are distinct – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, for instance.)


    • Jane Campbell
      December 15, 2015 @ 9:15 am

      I think I did end up retaining that distinction, though — like in the bit where Amelia’s packing her suitcase, but then we see the open door in her house. We need an implied author for that shot. My main quibble has more to do with Chatman’s idea that the implied author isn’t also a narrator, leading to the notion of nonnarrated stories. And I stand by my assertion on that point.

      So what I really see here is a distinction between “internal” narrators (part of the story) and “external” narrators (outside the story). In other words, in the absence of an internal narrator (the Guide, for example, in Hitchhiker’s) the narration of the implied author becomes exposed. So there’s always an implied author (external narrator) but not always an internal narrator, just as Chatman says.

      An interesting thing, I think, is when the characters become aware that they’re in stories. There’s a breach of that interior/exterior distinction. They creep off the page and shove the implied author out of the chair. Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds is the first thing that comes to mind, literarily, and Stranger Than Fiction in the movies. It’s interesting, because sometimes when I write (it’s a fairly common trope) I get the sense that a character is actually acting on their own. Aware that this is a story, and that they are authoring it, and it’s going to go in a certain way, regardless of whether I’m writing it in first person, third person, whatever.

      But then, I’m always interested in self-aware texts, and I’m always pushing for a breakdown in artificial categories, in that rubedo phase of the alchemical Great Work where synthesis and union occurs. It’s… it’s kind of like entropy. In Tom Stoppard’s play Arcadia, there’s a lovely early scene between the young Thomasina and her not-quite-as-young tutor Septimus:

      THOMASINA: When you stir your rice pudding, Septimus, the spoonful of jam spreads itself round making red trails like the picture of a meteor in my astronomical atlas. But if you stir backward, the jam will not come together again. Indeed, the pudding does not notice and continues to turn pink just as before. Do you think this is odd?
      SEPTIMUS: No.
      THOMASINA: Well, I do. You cannot stir things apart.

      The more significant problem of conflation, as far as I’m concerned, is that is has the potential to elide the implied author. “It wasn’t me,” she cried, “it was my characters who wrote this book!”


      • Neil
        December 15, 2015 @ 4:16 pm

        As if I had not enjoyed your analysis enough, and then the mention of Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds, you all keep reminding me why this is one of my favourite collective endeavours… wonderful piece Jane


      • Elizabeth Sandifer
        December 15, 2015 @ 4:39 pm

        I think the implied author isn’t a narrator, though, because they have a necessary existence outside the story. The implied author isn’t a character – it’s what the text suggests is true about the real author. Which can differ from the real author – Milton is of the devil’s party and doesn’t know it and all. But it’s a property of language, not of narrative.

        I think fourth-wall breaking is interesting from this perspective, simply because there seems to me an unbreachable line here. You can’t get the implied author out of the chair entirely. No matter how much the character asserts their independence or interacts with their author, as readers we can’t actually lose the distinction – we’re always imagining the real author at the keyboard, and thus interacting with the implied author.

        I think you’re right to critique the concept of a non-narrated story, but I think that’s because the narrator is to diegesis what the implied author is to language. The implied author isn’t a narrator as such – consider non-fiction, which clearly has an implied author, but where you have to really contort your definitions to squeeze a narrator out.


        • Neil
          December 15, 2015 @ 6:55 pm

          I can’t get Morrison’s Animal Man out of my head here whilst I try to understand your argument.. for me I generally get lost in the text/narrative and generally want to lose sight of the author… The more I lose sight of the author, the more I am immersed in the story, and isn’t it the point of the author to make you forget that they exist? The narrator and the author are not one? the narrator generally is another character at once removed from the narrator as much as any other character is removed from the narrator, so yes the author, I am unsure of your definition of implied, there is an author of the text, there may be an implied author within the narrative, but surely this is as much a character as anyone else within the narrative.. Again this brings me back to Grant, typing at the keyboard, inserting himself, well an approximation of himself within the narrative. The two things are without doubt not the same. The Grant Morrison who is writing the text and the Grant Morrison within the narrative? The image within the text of Grant typing at the keyboard is not the same as Grant actually typing at the keyboard, and the beauty of this for me is that the character became even more real… Buddy Baker not Grant Morrison… and at this point the author is no longer implied but fully realised but still only the Grant Morrsion within the narrative and not the real Grant Morrison.


          • David Anderson
            December 16, 2015 @ 8:41 am

            Let’s consider a story with an unreliable narrator. Gene Wolfe’s Peace will do. Alden Weer is a first person narrator, telling us the story of his life. He skips over certain events in his life that he doesn’t want us to know about. However, he does so in such a way that we the reader can infer what at least some of those events are by reading between the lines.

            So as we’re reading the story we’re aware of at least two textual levels operating: one on which the text imitates Alvin Weer (who doesn’t want us to read between the lines) and another on which Gene Wolfe,has deliberately written this in such a way that we can (to some extent).

            Now, from reading Peace we can infer certain things about Gene Wolfe’s character and opinions. This is gives us an incomplete picture of the real author, and it might be actually misleading. We call what we infer about the author from the text the implied Gene Wolfe, who may be more or less like the real Gene Wolfe. (I assume that the real Mary Ann Evans had more of a sense of humour than the implied George Eliot, for example.)
            What about texts where the implied author disappears? Even in Shakespeare, the usual example, we can say that the implied author is someone who chose this story to tell, who created these characters, etc.

            An interesting question comes with stories for which multiple people are responsible, for example Doctor Who. There are clearly people who talk as if they think the implied Moffat deliberately puts in everything that appears on the screen, even where we know Matt Smith improvised it. I’m inclined here to talk about an implied production team, myself.

        • Shannon
          December 18, 2015 @ 2:21 am

          “The implied author isn’t a narrator as such – consider non-fiction, which clearly has an implied author, but where you have to really contort your definitions to squeeze a narrator out.”

          I think that’s a rather narrow definition of non-fiction. In personal narrative, the implied author is the narrator – there’s no difference between them, but there’s definitely a narrator. In non-autobiographical creative non-fiction, especially focused on another person’s experiences, the implied author and narrator can actually be separate. The actual writer of the piece is the implied author while the protagonist is the narrator. For example, in the article Death of an Innocent, which Into the Wild is based on, actually has two narrators – the “Innocent” (Chris McCandless) and the author (Jon Krakauer).


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  2. Anton B
    December 15, 2015 @ 9:16 am

    The third person omniscient, on the other hand, pretends something else entirely, having access to every character’s head, every setting (even those without characters), every period in time. Such a voice isn’t a part of the story, just the discourse. It’s a problematic POV, however, in that it purports to be unbiased and all knowing.

    What ‘omniscient narrator’ really suggests is a kind of uncanny telepathy which allows the narrator to not only know what is going on in the bodies and minds of various characters but also what is going to happen in the future. Consequently that future can appear highly limited and partial.

    The problem with considering ‘omniscience’ as a literary effect is that, as well as presupposing some understanding or acceptance of a quasi-religious all knowing ‘God’ by the reader, it also asserts a fixed and totalising interpretation of the text. Closing off the transformative possibilities of reading (or indeed viewing).

    I like your idea that Clara’s story is a literalised struggle to control the narrative, ending in the inevitable Death of the Author; cleverly swerved in an audacious narrative escape using a simulacrum of the title character’s original vehicle of escape from narrative collapse – the TARDIS itself (the original unreliable omniscient narrator as we found out in The Doctor’s Wife.)

    I’ve had some similar thoughts around Clara and the Doctor’s struggle to gain agency of their own narrative and themes of ‘agency’ and ‘performativity’ Which you can read here.
    A lot of it is informed by conversations I’ve enjoyed on this forum and is very much inspired by and indebted to the analyses of yourself, Phil and Jack. It’s rooted in my own practical and academic work in drama studies and also suggested by the excellent conversation over at Pex Lives between Phil and Elliot Chapman. I’d be pleased to read any comments you or others might have.


    • David Anderson
      December 16, 2015 @ 8:46 am

      The objections to third-person narrative make me agree with Phil about suspension of disbelief. That is, most of the objections imply that when we’re reading we believe (suspend disbelieve) that there is an actual existing Anna Karenina (say), about which Tolstoy has an improbable amount of knowledge, including events in her mind she’s never told anyone of. But if we don’t think we’re believing in an independent Anna, then we’re no longer required to suppose that Tolstoy is claiming omniscient, unbiased, or otherwise objective knowledge of her.
      Given that a lot of very good writers have used third-person freely moved narration, it seems useful to be able to save them from that kind of objection.


  3. Frezno
    December 15, 2015 @ 9:33 am

    Absolutely fantastic writeup, but I just have one question.

    Where does the narration they added to the BBC America airings of Series 6 fit in with Amy?


  4. Riggio
    December 15, 2015 @ 9:45 am

    This very much ties into my own thinking about how Clara’s developed this season. At the time, I referred to a parallel with Season 18’s Tom Baker from TARDIS Eruditorum’s analysis. Her role on Doctor Who was being slowly reduced, as more focus was going onto the Doctor himself and the wider exploration of immortality.

    But examining Clara in terms of her narration and narrative power really amps that analysis. From the start, she was designed as a character to manipulate the audience’s perception of what the narrative in a story really was. One of the reasons I think she was initially unpopular (and that the stories of Season Seven have such a generally poor rep) is that there were so many games of narrative perspective happening, it was difficult to follow where her real power was. Too often, audiences seemed to follow the Doctor’s perspective in Season Seven, because that was the most explicit and in-your-face set of memes and messages. I remember a lot of publicity material calling attention to Clara as a mystery and calling her the impossible girl.

    When I watched this current season, I noticed that every story up to Face the Raven was structured to take Clara from the centre of the narrative’s control. She began The Magician’s Apprentice as the main character, but was tricked into a Dalek shell that made her near powerless. Under the Flood was probably her most generic companion role in a story since The Crimson Horror. She vanished from the first two-part Ashildir story, spent most of the Zygon story playing Bonnie, and as you said about Sleep No More, the greatest threat to her character there was when the camera literally took her pov. After a whole season of Doctor Who pushing her out of the narrative’s control, the only way for her to take it back was to control her own death.

    Or, I think because Moffat likes the character and the actor too much not to give her a possible bit of extra cash if her career slows down over the next decades, to control her own exit from the show onto the Big Finish audio spinoff with Maisie Williams.

    Given the narrative topsy-turvy going on this season, I’m really interested to see how River’s role will play out in the Xmas Special next week, which seems to be Doctor Who doing a full-on screwball comedy.


  5. David Brain
    December 15, 2015 @ 9:52 am

    I think the main reason I rate Sleep No More as one of the more successful entries this year is because of the way control of the narrative is never lost by Rassmussen even though he keeps going out of his way to invite us (the viewers) to think that firstly the rescue team and then the Doctor & Clara have successfully done exactly that – and then neatly undermines that belief. And for me it worked particularly well with a companion who superficially behaves almost entirely in keeping for the traditional version of that role, but because the companion is the “narrative-controller” Clara it feels completely wrong, meaning that one interpretation of the fake-out ending – that it might not have ever actually happened – feels reasonable, in a way that it might not have done with almost any other combination of Doctor and Companion.


  6. Janine
    December 15, 2015 @ 1:41 pm

    What’s interesting about the way Clara alters the Doctor Who narrative – returning to your point on Day – is that she writes it as a fan. The changes she makes are the kind of conscious changes you could imagine a fan making to a Doctor Who episode. She proposes a different ending to the Time War story because she believes she knows the Doctor well enough to identify him acting out-of-character (because, as of Name, she’s now experienced the entire Classic Series). In Time, she uses her love of Doctor Who, and her genuine conviction that the BBC – and the general public – owes it a debt, in order to get another run commissioned (and it’s ultimately there that you can see the fan – because even when the story ends well [one last victory], she refuses to leave it at that). And of course that gets nasty in Dark Water, when during a period of emotional turmoil, she thinks she’s earned the right to decide how Doctor Who works and tells an effectively unworkable story which could damage Doctor Who’s very nature.

    A lovely write-up by the way, Jane.


  7. juniperphoenix
    December 15, 2015 @ 1:44 pm

    She removes herself from the Doctor’s memory…. now the Doctor can’t tell his story of Clara, which is one of obsession and madness. He can only tell the story that exists around the negative space….The story that Clara wants to be told.

    It strikes me that this is the same thing the Doctor tried to do in Series 6 when he went around erasing all memory of himself from the universe. By erasing the Lonely God myth he hoped to escape from being the “Time War manpain Doctor” and go back to his preferred narrative of “idiot with a box.” Of course it didn’t work, because it was another form of running away and he had to actually face what he’d done in Day of the Doctor before he could get free of its domination of his narrative.


  8. Haze
    December 15, 2015 @ 4:06 pm

    “Obviously, cinematic texts have different issues regarding narration. A “first person” narrative in cinematic language would be like having the “camera” be a narrator on the visual channel, and voice-over narration on the audio. Which is terribly clunky. There are reasons we don’t see this kind of storytelling in cinema.”

    I think “Peep Show” could be reasonably considered “first-person” narration, and it works, so it’s not as if it’s an impossible technique. I suspect a big part of the reason we don’t see more first-person narration in film and TV is simply that we’re not used to it – it’s not how things are done, so people don’t do things that way – and that probably goes back to cinema’s origins as basically a sort of recorded theatre: full-on “first-person” narration being pretty much impossible to achieve on stage.


    • Zammo Davidson
      December 17, 2015 @ 8:05 pm

      Maybe another we don’t see “Peep Show” style character-POV techniques more often is that they are very time-consuming and laborious to film- All the recent interviews promoting the last series of “Peep Show” have featured Mitchell+Webb et al complaining about it at least once.


  9. 5tephe
    December 15, 2015 @ 11:48 pm

    Great essay and analysis, Jane.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on the “voice” of Cloverfield – could that be considered First Person Cinema? (There’s LOTS to pick apart in the narration there …)

    I’ll admit to having trouble though, with the distinction between narrator and implied author. In Third Person Close, with a novel with a third person voice, but which slavishly only follows the actions and thoughts of a single character, is there any difference?

    Surely you have:
    Real Author –> (implied author who is also the narrator) –> (implied reader who is also the narratee) –> Real Reader.


    • David Anderson
      December 16, 2015 @ 8:53 am

      It depends on how much free indirect style is going on, and how you want to analyse that.
      Take Jane Austen’s Emma. Frequently, Austen describes a situation in third-person language but using the language an assessment of Emma herself, who has misread the situation. So we’re supposed to notice that the text is currently imitating the language Emma would use.
      There are two ways of analysing this. One is to posit an unreliable narrator, who is in sympathy with Emma, and an implied author who wants us to notice that the judgements are in fact Emma’s and unreliable. The other is to say that the implied author is using irony, and we’re not required to posit a distinct narrator.
      I personally favour not positing distinct narrators unless the text actually calls for one.


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