Ethos and narrative interpretation : the negotiation of by Liesbeth Korthals Altes

By Liesbeth Korthals Altes

Ethos and Narrative Interpretation examines the fruitfulness of the idea that of ethos for the idea and research of literary narrative. The proposal of ethos refers back to the extensively persuasive results of the picture one can have of a speaker’s psychology, global view, and emotional or moral stance. How and why do readers characteristic an ethos (of, for instance, sincerity, reliability, authority, or irony) to literary characters, narrators, or even to authors? Are there specific stipulations below which it truly is extra acceptable for interpreters to characteristic an ethos to authors, instead of to narrators? within the solution Liesbeth Korthals Altes proposes to such questions, ethos attributions are deeply implicated within the technique of reading and comparing narrative texts.

Demonstrating the level to which ethos attributions, and consequently, interpretive acts, play a tacit position in lots of equipment of narratological research, Korthals Altes additionally questions the schedule and epistemological prestige of assorted narratologies, either classical and post-classical. Her process, rooted in a huge figuring out of the position and stream of narrative paintings in tradition, rehabilitates interpretation, either as a device and as an item of research in narrative stories.


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Hermeneutics refers not just to individual, subjective practices of interpreting and evaluating texts, or artifacts more generally. Philosophical hermeneutics, or metahermeneutics, always also strives to gain insight into the processes and conditions of how people interpret. While this interest often leads to normative programs that stipulate the conditions for correct interpretation—a claim that has elicited heavy epistemological and ethical critique—hermeneutics also includes a reflection on the cognitive—and social—processes that underlie interpretation, which has a more general relevance, often overlooked in narratology.

3 Such a “display” of ways of speaking, acting, thinking, and assigning meaning to actions and behavior is found in the earliest fictional narrative of which we have written trace, the Gilgamesh epic, up to the works of Houellebecq or James Frey. For example, Gilgamesh’s testosteronedriven behavior, which threatens the social order, is a matter of comment 24 Ethos, Narrative, Social Construction from multiple perspectives within the story world. His self-centered values are also firmly redressed in later developments of the plot.

However, narratologists should perhaps Interpretation, Attributions, and Negotiation 35 keep in mind that Theory of Mind is a general theory about the functioning of the mind, which has not been devised to account for the ways in which singular literary works are read and interpreted. Another critical note pertains to what I call the continuity thesis, often adopted in cognitive narratology. 8 Psychological inference processes arguably also include hypotheses about characters’ ethos and about the complex interplay of perspectives, which qualify how we infer a particular character’s ethos.

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