Ethos and Narrative Interpretation


Ethos and Narrative Interpretation

The Negotiation of Values in Fiction

Liesbeth Korthals Altes

Frontiers of Narrative Series

344 pages


July 2014


$60.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
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July 2014


$60.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

July 2014


$60.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Ethos and Narrative Interpretation examines the fruitfulness of the concept of ethos for the theory and analysis of literary narrative. The notion of ethos refers to the broadly persuasive effects of the image one may have of a speaker’s psychology, world view, and emotional or ethical stance. How and why do readers attribute an ethos (of, for example, sincerity, reliability, authority, or irony) to literary characters, narrators, and even to authors? Are there particular conditions under which it is more appropriate for interpreters to attribute an ethos to authors, rather than to narrators? In the answer Liesbeth Korthals Altes proposes to such questions, ethos attributions are deeply implicated in the process of interpreting and evaluating narrative texts.

Demonstrating the extent to which ethos attributions, and hence, interpretive acts, play a tacit role in many methods of narratological analysis, Korthals Altes also questions the agenda and epistemological status of various narratologies, both classical and post-classical. Her approach, rooted in a broad understanding of the role and circulation of narrative art in culture, rehabilitates interpretation, both as a tool and as an object of investigation in narrative studies.


Author Bio

Liesbeth Korthals Altes is a professor of general literature in the Department of Arts, Culture, and Media in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. She is the author or coeditor of several books including Authorship Revisited: Conceptions of Authorship around 1900 and 2000 and The Autonomy of Literature at the Fins de Siècles (1900 and 2000): A Critical Assessment.


"Ethos and Narrative Interpretation . . . succeeds in presenting a type of narrative reading that opens new directions, while never forgetting to have a new close look at the basic issues of the discipline."—Jan Baetens, Leonardo Reviews

"I can highly recommend Ethos and Narrative Interpretation to experienced researchers in the fields of narratology and hermeneutics, and also to scholars who are interested in thinking about the place of literary studies in today’s society: the book provides a number of very convincing answers to the important question of why study literature."—Jan Alber, Style

“With its emphasis on ethos and the negotiation of values, this book will have a lasting impact on the way in which narratology redefines its core concerns. By grounding her argument in rhetoric, Korthals Altes offers a methodological alternative to text-oriented readings, while her insistence on the importance of values adds a new dimension to existing rhetorical approaches in narratology.”—Roy Sommer, author of Literature and Memory

Table of Contents

Why Ethos?

Part 1. Ethos, Narrative, and the Social Construction of Meanings and Values
1. Literary Interpretation, Ethos Attributions, and the Negotiation of Values in Culture
2. Ethos as a Social Construction: Authorial Posturing, Conceptions of Literature, and Value Regimes

Part 2. Ethos in Narratology: The Return of the Repressed
3. Narratology between Hermeneutics and Cognitive Science
4. Key Concepts Revised: Narrative and Communication, Embeddedness, Intentionality, Fictionality, and Reading Strategies
5. Whose Ethos? Characters, Narrators, Authors, and Unadopted Discourse

Part 3. Further Explorations: Contracts and Ethos Expectations
6. Generic Framing and Authorial Ethos
7. Sincerity and Other Ironies
On Narrative, Ethos, and Ethics

Works Cited


Winner of the 2016 Barbara Perkins and George Perkins Prize for best book published in 2014, from The International Society for the Study of Narrative

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