Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Language, Literature, Culture and Education 2018

“Unnatural” Narrative Viewpoints: A Reexamination from a Cognitive Approach

Yuan Yuan

Shanghai International University Studies University, China


Point of view in narratives is usually aligned with narrator(s) or character(s), but there are cases when such natural alignment is absent. In such situations, we have the seemingly “unnatural” points of view “owned” by nobody, or in our terms, Unclaimed Narrative Viewpoint (UNV). For decades, ample critical attention has been devoted to this extraordinary phenomenon, and prominent critics have given various names to it, such as reflectorization (Stanzel, 1984; Fludernik, 1996), figuralization (Fluderic, 1996), empty deictic center (Banfield, 1987), hypothetical focalization (Herman, 2002), deputy focalizor (Caracciolo, 2014), etc. Bearing in view discussions on this topic by some of these critics and drawing on new insights from cognitive research such as conceptual blending, this paper will set out to launch a reexamination of this phenomenon, and it will argue for the point that this seemingly strange phenomenon is nothing but a product of a basic mechanism or strategy lying underneath everyday human cognition and communication. This project will proceed in three steps: the first part will go through a thorough review of past critical treatments of UNV, and come up with a uniform classificatory system covering all types of its instantiation; the second part will put forward an explanation for its functioning mechanisms drawing on the theory of Conceptual Blending developed by Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner, and try to demonstrate that the so-called single-scope and complex blending are in fact the key cognitive processes resulting in different types of UNV; the third part will provide a discussion of the results obtained in the previous step and explore their significance for narrative studies in particular and some other philosophical questions in general.


unclaimed narrative viewpoint, conceptual blending, cognition, communication