Literary and Cultural Studies – Exercise 2 of 3

Text 2

The meaning of language also changes, depending on how words or sign are put together. For example, literary studies – especially the branch of narratology – is interested in perspective. Compare the following two passages:

Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo… His father told him that story: his father looked at him through a glass: he had a hairy face. […] When you wet the bed first it is warm then it gets cold. His mother put on the oilsheet. That had the queer smell. His mother had a nicer smell than his father. (from: J. Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man)

My earliest recollections are of my father and my mother bending over my cot and of the difference in personal odour that subsisted between my two parents. My father, certainly, did not have so pleasant an odour as my mother. I remember I would be told infantile stories, altogether appropriate to my infantile station. One of them, I seem to recall, was concerned with a cow coming down the lane – which lane was never specified – and meeting a child who was called (I am embarrassed, inevitably, to recollect this in maturity) some such name as Baby Tuckoo. (from: A. Burgess, Joysprick)

These passages describe the same situation. The first gives the perspective of a child with a child’s vocabulary and understanding of the world and thus makes this experience more immediate for readers (i.e., it gives the impression of a direct access to the experience). The second passage presents the perspective of an adult who remembers their own childhood. The person who tells us any given story is the narrator who is different from the author of the book.
In the first passage, even though they adopt the perspective of the child, the narrator does not appear as a character in the story. In the second passage, in contrast, the adult who is the narrator seems to be the same person as the baby. In literary studies one distinguishes between heterodiegetic narrator, a narrator who is not part of the story, and homodiegetic narrator, a narrator who is also a character in the story.

Exercise 2 (max. 4 points):