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Updated Up To 23/01/2018
Volume 6, Number 2 (June 2008) : 279--300
Thought Presentation and Constructed Dialogue in Oral Stories
Limits and Possibilities of a Cross-Disciplinary Narratology
Jarmila Mildorf
Rubric A: Narrative as a Way of Thinking


The disciplinary rapprochement between various disciplines across the arts and social sciences that have had an interest in narrative forms and functions has been slow and is still far from being completed. An area which has not been extensively covered yet is the question whether certain forms of third-person consciousness, i.e. the representation of the consciousness of a third party, are at all possible in oral narratives. One mode of depicting third-person consciousness in literary narratives is free indirect discourse (FID), which is commonly viewed as a dual-voiced narrative technique that entails both a reference to the thinking subject and to the narrating instance. The evaluation of FID as a literary narrative technique that is deemed less possible in oral stories results from the attribution of qualities of fictionality and factuality to the respective narrative genres and modes, whereas claims of truth-commitment and sincerity are made for spoken language. This paper discusses the methodological implications of FID for a cross-disciplinary narratology by looking at oral narratives from a sample of illness narratives on the UK’s DIPEx website. While FID can hardly be found in the spoken data, third-person consciousness is still made possible through the use of hypothesizing discourse markers and through devices such as constructed dialogue, which can be used to ascribe thoughts and feelings to other people in an indirect way. The paper demonstrates how third-person consciousness is used by speakers to come to terms with the motives behind other people’s actions. On a more abstract level, the paper explores the limits of a cross-disciplinary narratology when it comes to rigid methodological frameworks while at the same time arguing for a re-conceptualization of defining criteria such as fictionality and truth-commitment that allows for more flexibility.

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