There is no simple way to say this: On narratological models and hyperfiction

Anna Gunder
Uppsala University, Sweden


Abstract: Discussions concerning hyperfiction often tend to stress the differences between the "old" and the "new" literature, and forget the close relationship between digital and traditional narration. In this paper I present how studies of the narrative technique in a hyperwork like Michael Joyce’s afternoon, a story bring to light both differences and similarities between multisequential ergodic storytelling and traditional monosequential narration. With the intention of attaining a description in which the focus is on the studied literary work of fiction, perspectives are combined from, on the one hand, traditional narratological methods and, on the other, hypertext theory.

In analysis of the narrative technique in multisequential hyperworks, traditional narratological models need to be improved if hyperfiction is not to be forced into a traditional model or reduced to merely a matter of digital hypertext technique. The traditional dichotomy story –discourse has to be supplemented in order to allow a description of hyperfiction in its own terms. Instead of a dualistic distinction as in traditional narratology, four concepts are necessary when dealing with multisequential, ergodic hyperfiction, namely: omnidiscourse, omnistory, real discourse, and real story.

This set of concepts makes it possible to study narratological aspects such as temporal structure, the narrator/narrators, descriptions of characters and settings etc. in hyperworks, without restricting the analysis to individual readings (real discourses and real stories). As a result, features in narrative structure and stylistic effects due to multisequentiality and ergodics can more easily be observed and analysed. Issues discussed in the paper are rereading, closure and the role of the narrative devices suspense and curiosity in hypernovels like afternoon. The paper also includes a discussion of the very act of reading hyperfiction, in which the concept hyperliterary competence is crucial.

About the Presenter: Anna Gunder is a doctoral student and a member of the research project IT, Narrative Fiction, and the Literary System run by The Section for Sociology of Literature at Uppsala University. She has published a paper on the narrative technique in Michael Joyce’s afternoon ("Berättelsens spel: berättarteknik och ergodicitet i Michael Joyce's afternoon, a story," Human IT 3:3, 1999, 27-127).