The Game of Narration: Narratology in Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Narratology is not narration. Narratology is the science of the structure of narrative, or the technique through which the narrative is structured to achieve the best result for the work of art. Narratology is mainly concerned with the study of the structure as it is affiliated and indebted to the Russian Formalists, to Structuralism, and to Semiotics. Let us first examine the definition of the term. InOxford Concise Dictionary of Literary Terms by Chris Baldick, narratology is defined as:
a term used since 1969 to denote the branch of literary study devoted to the analysis of narratives, and more specifically of forms of narration and varieties of narrator. Narratology as a modern theory is associated chiefly with European structuralism, although older studies of narrative forms and devices, as far back as Aristotle’s Poetics … can also be regarded as narratological works. (146)
On the other hand, narration is “the telling of a story; the recounting of an INCIDENT or a series of incidents” (Morner & Rausch 143). There is a further difference between “narration – the act and process of telling a story- and narrative- what it is you actually recount” (Eagleton 92). In this paper I propose to briefly explore the tenets of narratology as established by Gerard Genette (1930- ), Roland Barthes (1915- 1980) and others, and examine the way it works in Muriel Spark’s novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961), as a sample. Muriel Spark (1918- 2006) is an untraditional modern Irish writer who uses narration, whether consciously or unconsciously, as a puzzle game to engage the reader’s attention and to avoid traditional narrative structures. More importantly, the unconventional narrative structure she establishes helps to achieve the main purpose of the novelist in depicting her characters both as a “set” as well as individually different from one another, the matter which enhances the effect of Miss Brodie at her prime on the Brodie set, as the six characters were derisively called. For instance, Spark does not adhere to the chronological order, but intentionally ignores it. We experience in this particular novel a number of analepses (flashbacks) and prolepses (flash-forwards) which could damage any sense of suspense in a traditional story, however, the novelist has succeeded in drawing the reader’s attention and interest to follow the incidents of the novel with its frugal details, and has succeeded in ‘transfiguring the commonplace’ through the structure of her narrative.
My paper is divided into three parts: the first part briefly examines the historical background ofnarratology, the second gives a summary of Gerard Genette’s theory about the constituent features of narratology, and the third part will be devoted to Muriel Spark’s novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, as an example of how the method of narration works, whether consciously or unconsciously, and how it helps in the comprehension of the narrative.
Part One: Historical Background of Narratology
Modern narratology started with Russian Formalism that “emerged in Russia about 1915, devoting itself to the study of ‘literariness’, i.e. the sum of ‘devices’ that distinguish literary language from ordinary language” (Baldick 196). Among its exponents was Roman Jakobson (1896-1982), who propagated the idea of the ‘literariness’ of the text, insisting that “the object of study in literary science is not literature but ‘literariness’, that is, what makes a given work a literary work” (qtd. in Morson 215). The stress then is on the language used by the writer. Another feature according to this school was the idea of ‘defamiliarization’ (Baldick 196) or ‘destrangement’ (Morson 216). The Russian thinker, Mikhael Bakhtin (1895-1975), rejected formalism and came out with his own theories on the novel as a literary genre; the most famous is his concept of ‘polyphonic novel’. He saw language as “inherently ‘dialogic’: it could be grasped only in terms of its inevitable orientation towards another” (Eagleton 101). After dying out in Russia, the movement (Formalism) was revived in the West in the sixties and had its great influence on Structuralism and Semiotics.
Roman Jakobson, a Russian linguist and literary critic, was an important link between Russian Formalism and Structuralism. “His main argument was that poetry is essentially metaphoric, while prose is essentially metonymic” (Onega 264), thus he is interested in the relation between language and culture (metonym occurs when a word or phrase substitutes another, as ‘the pen’ for writing when one says ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’). Jakobson’s ideas helped Claude Levi-Strauss (1908- ) to create his theory of structural anthropology and he published his book Structural Anthropology in 1958. Strauss’s efforts were “the first attempt to work out the all-encompassing science of semiology” (Onega 265). His main concept was “the rejection of the explanatory value of any data external to the text, such as its socio-cultural background of the writer’s biography, and a strictly empirical analysis of the text’s form and composition at different analytical levels” (Onega 265). In his essay, “The Death of the Author”, while examining Balzac’s story, Sarrasine, Barthes affirms that we never know who the narrator of the story is. He explains his idea:
We shall never know, for the good reason that writing is the destruction of every voice, of every point of origin. Writing is that neutral, composite, oblique space where our subject slips away, the negative where all identity is lost, starting with the very identity of the body of writing. (228)
He declares that “to give a text an Author is to impose a limit on that text, to furnish it with a final signified, to close the writing” (231). However, with the death of the author the scriptor (the creative reader), who is created with the text, is the one who rearranges the material. Barthes claims that “the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the author” (232). The door is therefore left open for the reader’s interpretation of the text according to his own impression and evaluation, unhindered by the presence of the writer. The structural analysis of narrative, or narratology was one of the offshoots of Structuralism; semiotics has greatly contributed to narratology.
Structuralism proper started with Ferdinand de Saussure, the Swiss linguist, who lectured on the subject (between 1906 and 1911), but died before his lectures were collected from the notes of his students, in a book published as Course in General Linguistics (1916). Saussure’s famous differentiation between langue and parole, the relation between the signified and the signifier helped to create semiology or semiotics, i.e. the science of signs. His theories influenced Barthes, and the latter had a great influence on Michel Foucault (1926- 1984), and Jacques Derrida (1930- 2004).
In The Semiotic Challenge, Barthes states that “the Structural Analysis of Narrative is fundamentally, constitutively comparative: it seeks forms, not a content” (224-225).
The term narratology was coined by Tzvetan Todorov (1939-) in his book The Grammar of Decameron (1969) and was used and developed chiefly by Gerard Genette (1930- ) in his theory about narratology explained in his Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method (1980), an English translation of part of his multi-volume work published in French, Figure III (1972). Genette’s theory of narratology is a development of the concepts of others. Onega clarifies:
Drawing on Todorov’s distintion between ‘story’ and ‘discours’, Genette goes on to distinguish three aspects of narrative reality: ‘story’ (histoire), meaning the signified or narrative content; ‘narrative’ (recit), meaning the signifier, discourse, or narrative text; and ‘narrating’ (narration), meaning the narrative act itself. (275)
Genette suggests five main devices for analyzing narratology, or the structure of a narrative, though he believes that this kind of analysis or examination of the narrative will not help critics or readers to delve deeper into the meaning of the work. It has nothing to do with hermeneutics; it is not an interpretive analysis, but only an analysis of the structure of the text, according to him. Some of the terms he uses replace the traditional ones (as incipit for beginning; analepsis for flashback; prolepsisfor flash-forward), while others are newly coined, which led one critic to state that Genette “coins a wholly new terminology for old concepts” (Onega 275). The five devices he mentions are: Order,Frequency, Duration, Mood, and Voice. Each of these devices is further branched into a number of sub-elements and they have overlapping features, as will be seen below. Genette explained his theory through examining Marcel Proust’s epic novel, A La Recherche du Temps Perdu (1913-1927), translated into English as In Search of Lost Time or Remembrance of Things Past. Genette’s ideas and his analysis were accepted by many critics and literary theorists, however, some critics criticized his theory and did not find his application quite worthy. He, therefore, wrote another book to defend his concepts and explain his point of view, Narrative Discourse Revisited (1988).
Genette believes that every text is a kind of narration, which has a certain structure that can be traced and studied. In her essay “Structuralism and narrative poetics” Susana Onega explains further:
The term ‘narratology” is now commonly used to refer exclusively to the ‘discourse’ branch of structuralism, since, as Genette himself notes, ‘analyses of narrative contents, grammars, logics and semiotics have hardly, so far, laid claim to the term narratology, which thus remains … the property solely of the analysts of narrative mode’”. (275)
Another critic, Terry Eagleton, explains the difference between recit and histoire, according to Genette:
In his Narrative Discourse (1972), Genette draws a distinction in narrative between recit, by which he means the actual order of events in the text; histoire, which is the sequence in which those events ‘actually’ occurred, as we can infer this from the text; and narration, which concerns the act of narrating itself. (Theory 91)
Furthermore, while discussing the elements of a narrative theory, Seymour Chatman raises the question about the necessary components of a narration, and then explains that according to structuralist theory each narrative has two parts: a story (histoire), the content or chain of events (actions, happenings), plus what may be called the existents (characters, items of setting); and a discourse (discours), that is, the expression, the means by which the content is communicated (106-7). He further adds that “A narrative is a communication; hence, it presupposes two parties, a sender and a receiver” (107).
Another school that focused on language of the work of art and not on the writer was New Criticism which dominated the literary scene in the United States in the 1940s and 1950s. Its method was “close reading of the text and detailed analysis of what New Critics consider the principal elements of a literary work: words, images, and symbols” (Morner & Rausch 148). In his article “The New Criticism”, Stephen Matterson asserts that “language functions in a different way in a work of literature than it does elsewhere, and the first job of the reader is to acknowledge and apprehend this special function and the role it plays in the formation of meaning” (167). He explains:
Both place special emphasis on the formal elements of the literary text, because these most obviously signaled the crucial distinction between literary and non-literary uses of language. (167)
Matterson believes that New Criticism “occupies a significant place in the development of modern literary theory and English studies” (175), because it focuses on language. Eduard Said believes that “what concerns the critic is how language signifies, what it signifies, in what form” (The World, the Text, and the Critic 147). Indeed, language does matter; Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is distinguished both for its structure and language.
Let us then examine Spark’s game of narration in her novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. My assumption is that, contrary to the views of many theorists who assume that narratology is mainly about the form and has nothing to do with the content of the narrative, I believe that analyzing the structure of a narrative will help explicate the text and add depth to the meaning. Spark’s dexterous way of structuring her novel enhances the main theme, which is what Miss Brodie achieved at herprime and how she did that since the title of the novel refers to Miss Brodie’s prime. Barthes believes that “the title’s function is to mark the beginning of the text, i.e., to constitute the text as a commodity” (267). Miss Brodie’s prime refers to her perfect age of maturity, both physically and intellectually, and her ability to achieve something in life, but it also suggests her going beyond that: crossing this stage and considering it from a distance. Indeed, Miss Brodie is the unifying element and the focus of the narrative, as all the characters are portrayed and described in respect of their relationships to Miss Brodie and her impact on their lives in the past, present, and future.
The novelist, therefore, has abandoned the traditional structure of the novel recommended by E. M. Forster in his book Aspects of the Novel (1927), which stipulates that the novel should have a beginning, middle, and an end. Spark’s Prime starts in medias res when the Brodie set are sixteen years old, though the events of the story actually start before that. According to Genette, the first category of narratology or of studying the structure of a narrative is order, which examines the relationship between the signified, i.e. the actual time sequence of the story, and the signifier, i.e. the time of the narrative. Order is therefore the relation between the temporal order, i.e. narrative time created by the narrator, and the real one in the sequence of events in the story. Right from the start we realize that the chronological order is not kept and is replaced by a form of anachrony, which denotes “a discrepancy between the order in which events of the story occur and the order in which they are presented to us in the plot” (Baldick 8 ), or in other words a non-chronological arrangement.Anachronies, according to Genette, are occasioned by two forms: analepsis, traditionally known as flashback, or prolepsis, i.e. flash forward. The novel starts with an unknown omniscient narrator introducing the school girls:
The girls could not take off their panama hats because this was not far from the school gates and hatlessness was an offence. Certain departures from the proper set of the hat on the head were overlooked in the case of fourth-form girls and upwards so long as nobody wore their hat at an angle. … The five girls, standing very close to each other because of the boys, wore their hats each with a definite difference. (5)
The individuality of the girls is emphasized at their first introduction in the way they wore their hats, but what is more important - as we are discussing order- is that the girls are in their fourth year, which means there is a form of prolepsis (flash-forward) here since this is not the beginning of the narrative. In describing the differences between each one of them, now at sixteen, the narrator moves back and forth into the narrative and we realize that the order is anachronic.
Although Miss Brodie had taught them when they were in the Junior school, they are still known now as the Brodie set when she no longer teaches them, and they still visit her from time to time. Two aspects are stressed in introducing these characters; their individuality and their being a set; “They had no team spirit and very little in common with each other outside their continuing friendship with Jean Brodie” (6); “they remained unmistakably Brodie” (6). As each of the girls wore her hat “with a definite difference”, so each one of them is different from the other. Monica Douglas was a “prefect, famous mostly for mathematics… and for her anger” (6); Rose Stanley “was famous for sex” (7); Eunice Gardiner famous for gymnastics; Sandy Stranger was “merely notorious for her small, almost non-existent eyes, but she was famous for her vowel sounds” (7); Jenny Gray was famous for “her way of speech which she had got from her elocution classes” (7); and finally there is Mary Macgregor “whose fame rested on her being a silent lump, a nobody whom everybody could blame” (8).
After introducing the Brodie set, the narrator delves into the past to reveal the close relationship between the teacher and her pupils six years back when she started teaching and manipulating them:
‘I am putting old heads on your young shoulders,’ Miss Brodie had told them at that time, ‘and all my pupils are the crème de la crème.’ (8)
The girls were only ten years old at that time, but Miss Brodie knew it was the age when deep impressions are made to last, “Give me a girl at an impressionable age, and she is mine for life”, Miss Brodie confidently says. The fact that we see the same girls after being educated by Miss Brodie confirms her idea for her influence remains with them, as will be seen later on. We are given an instance of Miss Brodie’s style of teaching her young pupils when they were only ten:
‘Hold up your books,’ said Miss Brodie quite often that autumn, ‘prop them up in your hands, in case of intruders. If there are any intruders, we are doing our history lesson … our poetry …English grammar.’ … ‘Meantime I will tell you about my last summer holiday in Egypt … I will tell you about care of the skin, and of hands … about the Frenchman I met in the train…’. (11)
This is a form of analepsis (flashback). In fact, narration in this novel takes a zigzag form because it is neither linear nor backward, but goes forward and then backward and then forward again all the time. This is certainly an anachronic (non-chronological) structure. Discussing the third aspect of the novel, E. M. Forster asserts that time sequence has to be preserved through chronological order:
Let us define a plot. We have defined a story as a narrative of events arranged in their time sequence. A plot is also a narrative of events, the emphasis falling on causality. “The king died and then the queen died’, is a story. ‘The king died and then the queen died of grief’, is a plot. The time-sequence is preserved, but the sense of causality overshadows it. (93-4)
Forster’s book is an authority on traditional novels, and here he stresses the importance of time sequence, which is definitely not preserved in this novel. Another form of prolepsis (flash forward) is clearly established in Chapter One when the narrator describes Mary Macgregor as a ten year old girl, then suddenly moves on in time to refer to her death at the age of twenty three in a hotel fire, though the details of the fire are kept to be given later on in the narrative:
Mary Macgregor, lumpy, with merely two eyes, a nose and a mouth like a snowman …, at the age of twenty-three, lost her life in a hotel fire ... . (13-14)
Another good example of prolepsis in the novel is given while talking about Eunice Gardiner who used to entertain them with her somersaults, when unexpectedly we learn about Miss Brodie’s death:
It was twenty-eight years after Eunice did the splits in Miss Brodie’s flat that she, who had become a nurse and married a doctor, said to her husband one evening:
‘Next year when we go for the Festival-‘
‘When we go to Edinburgh,’ she said, ‘remind me while we’re there to go and visit Miss Brodie’s grave.’
‘Who was Miss Brodie?’
‘A teacher of mine, she was full of culture. She was an Edinburgh Festival all in her own.’ (26)
In addition to resorting to prolepsis in the narrative, the sense of suspense is lost. In his Aspects of the Novel, E. M. Forster talking about the traditional elements or aspects of any novel asserts that what keeps the story, which is the first aspect, alive and draws the reader’s attention is holding the reader’s sense of suspense:
We are all like Scheherazade’s husband, in that we want to know what happens next. That is universal and that is why the backbone of a novel has to be a story. (35)
Yet, Spark challenges the traditional sense of suspense by introducing later events at the outset. Her game of narration actually concentrates on her main theme; anything else is of secondary importance. We immediately then have a foray into the past to reveal Mary as the black sheep of the set. At the age of ten, it was Mary who was blamed for everything. Here is an example of how she was treated:
‘Who has spilled ink on the floor – was it you, Mary?’
‘I don’t know, Miss Brodie.’
‘I dare say it was you. I’ve never come across such a clumsy girl.’ (15-16)
Yet, before her death, and after her failure in love, Mary recalls her days with Miss Brodie and the rest of the girls and considers them the happiest days of her life. The idea I would like to clarify here is that Spark intentionally uses the form of anachrony in order to enhance her meaning. Even if we accept Barthes’ concept of the “death of the author”, and the idea that narratology concerns only the form, analyzing the structure of The Prime will reveal a great correspondence between the form and the content.
When reconsidering the second device in narratology termed duration, Genette uses the word speed, saying “I think today I ought to have entitled that chapter not Duration but Speed” (Revisited 34). There are two durations in a text; Genette explains:
To compare the two durations (of story and of reading), one must in reality perform two conversions- from duration of story into length of text, then from length of text into duration of reading. (Revisited34)
Duration or speed includes summary, scene, ellipsis and pause. Pause is the term used for description. However, according to Genette, “not all description constitutes a pause; but then again, certain pauses are, instead, digressive, extradiegetic, and in the nature of commentary and reflection instead of narration” (Revisited 36).
A number of scenes occur in this narrative. At the end of the novel, Sandy, now Sister Helena, finished writing her ‘strange’ book of psychology entitled, “The Transfiguration of the Commonplace”, which brought many visitors to see her. She was asked:
‘What were the main influences of your school days, Sister Helena? Were they literary of political or personal? Was it Calvinism?’
Sandy said: ‘There was a Miss Jean Brodie in her prime.’ (128)
This is a scene given in real time, the time of the event or experience, and it shows the speed of the narrative as it moves in quick pace to reiterate the main theme of the novel which is the impact of Miss Brodie on her students, even on Sandy, the one who betrayed her.
There are occasional pauses in the novel, but they are scarce as Spark or the narrator does not give any unnecessary details or description. Though Miss Brodie is attracted to the art teacher, Mr. Lloyd, she does not establish a love relationship with him on moral grounds since he is married and has six children, instead she goes to Mr Lowther, the music teacher since he is a bachelor. Miss Brodie stays in his house for a while, cooking for him, feeding and nourishing him. The house is described:
It was a large gabled house with a folly-turret. There were so many twists and turns in the wooded path leading up from the road, and the front lawn was so narrow … The back of the house was quite plain. The rooms were large and gloomy with Venetian blinds. (89)
Still some of the girls visit Miss Brodie in Mr. Lowther’s house and think of the illicit relationship between the music teacher and Miss Brodie and wonder about what she is doing at her prime.
A narrator cannot give all the details of a narrative; s/he has to select the most important and the most meaningful. Therefore, a summary to briefly give the missing parts in the story is essential. A summary is usually associated with ellipsis, since in the process of summarizing many details are omitted. For example, we do not see much of the girls after their graduation from school, though we are briefed about the important incidents in their lives, this is a summary. However, many minor and unimportant incidents are skipped and so we have ellipses.
We notice that three of Genette’s device for examining the structure of a narrative text are connected with time; as Order, Duration, and Frequency. This is perhaps due to the French novel he set to analyze, A La Recherche du Temps Perdu, since time is of paramount importance in this particular narrative. Many of Genette’s examples are in fact drawn from this work and his terms seem to fit perfectly well when he gives examples taken from the French novel.
The third device we will consider now is frequency of events, which is branched out into singulative,repeated, and iterative narration. A singulative narration means narrating once that which happened once; repeated narration refers to incidents that happened only once but are repeated several times; while iterative narration refers to recounting only once what happened several times. A singulativenarration occurs when Miss Brodie gives a definition of a word or when she gives some pieces of information about a certain educational subject not familiar to her pupils, as for instance when they saw some unemployed people and Miss Brodie asked them about the meaning of the word ‘dole’, and then she explained:
“It is the weekly payment made by the State for the relief of the unemployed and their families”. (39)
An example of the repeated narration in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is the recurrence of Sandy’s answer about the major influence on her book. She answers, “There was a Miss Jean Brodie in her prime”. This is mentioned in Chapter Two (35), and repeated at the very end of the book in Chapter Five, to reiterate the main theme of the novel which is the impact of Miss Brodie on her students at the time of her maturity. The idea is repeated like a refrain in a poem and some critics referred to Spark’s poetic style. The third division of frequency, an iterative narration, is usually preceded by an adverbial phrase like ‘every day’, ‘each morning’ … etc. to denote the frequency of the event. For example, because Miss Brodie had not studied Greek, she asked Sandy and Jenny to teach her the lesson they were taking:
On Saturday afternoons an hour was spent on her Greek lessons, for she had insisted that Jenny and Sandy should teach her Greek at the same time as they learned it. (81)
The adverbial phrase here, ‘on Saturday afternoons’, asserts that the incident happened more than once, though it is mentioned just once.
A further division of iterative narration is given by Genette; i.e. internal and external iteration. He gives examples: An example of internal iteration is: “‘every other moment, holding in my hand the stiff starched towel …’”; and of external iteration is: “it was at this window that I was later to take up my position every morning…’” (Revisited 40).
The fourth device of narratology, or of examining the structure of a narrative is mood. As the function of a narrative is to give a story, the mood is created through distance, and perspective. Distance refers to the distance between the narrator and the text, whether the narrator is very close and involved in the situation of the narrative or whether he is totally away and absent. According to Genette, there are four degrees of distance: narrated discourse; transposed speech (indirect speech); free transposed speech (free indirect speech); reported speech. Genette explains in his Narrative Discourse Revisited: “The diegetic narrative mood … is expressed to varying degrees, depending on the degree to which the narrator is effaced from or represented in his narrative” (74). He believes that “there is no place for imitation in narrative” and that “The pair diegesis/mimesis is therefore unbalanced unless we decide, as Plato did, to read mimesis as an equivalent of dialogue” (Revisited 43). He prefers to use the wordrhesis instead of mimesis; “In a narrative, there are only rhesis and diegesis … the characters’ discourse and the narrator’s discourse” (Revisited 43). Though sometimes we sense a kind of contradiction in his details, however, what is generally understood is that narration or diegesis is the mainstream method used in a narrative text and there is a minimum amount of mimesis which he callsrhesis; i.e. when the fictional character speaks or is quoted in the text. It can generally be achieved through narrated speech (indirect speech), or reported speech (direct speech), as in the following example from the novel:
All along the sea front Miss Brodie questioned the girls … about the appointments of Teddy Lloyd’s house, the kind of tea they got, how vast and light was the studio, and what was said.
‘He looked very romantic in his studio,’ Sandy said.
‘How was that?’
‘I think it was his having only one arm,’ said Jenny.
‘He did more than usual with it,’ said Sandy.
The first sentence in which Miss Brodie interrogates the girls about the art teacher is given through narrated speech as we do not have the exact words of the character. It shows, however, Miss Brodie’s interest in Mr. Lloyd as well as her jealousy of not being with the girls when they visited him. The answers of both Sandy and Jenny are example of reported or direct speech in which we are given the exact words of characters. Sandy’s description of Mr. Lloyd as ‘romantic’, and the way he used his one hand skilfully, “‘He did more than usual with it’”, foreshadows her later attraction towards him.
Perspective is the point of view of the narrator (there is an overlapping here between this tool of mood and the fifth device which is voice). Terry Eagleton explains the term ‘perspective’ according to Genette:
‘Perspective’ is what might traditionally be called ‘point of view’. And can also be variously subdivided: the narrator may know more than the characters, less than them, or move on the same level; the narrative may be ‘non-focalized’, delivered by an omniscient narrator outside the action, or ‘internally focalized’ , recounted by one character from a fixed position, from variable positions, or from several character-view-points. (92)
In The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, the narrator knows more than the characters; for instance, Miss Brodie does not know who betrayed her. The omniscient narrator is outside the action, s/he is a non-focalized narrator.
Voice, the fifth device according to Genette, “concerns the act of narration itself, what kind of narrator and narratee are implied” (Eagleton, 92). When explaining voice, Genette classifies narratives into diegetic, i.e. the main story recounted; metadiegetic, i.e. stories told by a character within the diegetic narrative; and extradiegetic, stories that frame the main story. A narrator may therefore be homodiegetic, that is a first person narrator in which the author uses first person pronouns (I, we, me, us … etc.); or he may be heterodiegetic, absent from the narrative. He could also be autodiegetic, which is inside the narrative and its main character. In fact, the terms diegesis and mimesis go as far back as Plato and Aristotle who distinguish between diegesis as a form of narration when the poet himself speaks, as in the epic, and mimesis as a form of imitation as in the dramatic art, when the poet impersonates the character. Mimesis is created by direct speech (discourse), dialogues or soliloquies. All narratives include a kind of diegesis, however, they might include a mixture of the two when ascene is created. In The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, the diegetic narrative, i.e. the main events of the story, is given by a heterodiegetic omniscient narrator. When Sandy and Jenny create a story about Jean Brodie and her lover who died in the war, this is termed metadiegetic or embedded narrative according to Genette, i.e. a story within a story. Jenny Gray was Sandy’s close friend and together they created a fictive story about Miss Brodie in which they changed the facts:
Sandy opened the lid of a piano stool and extracted a notebook from between two sheaves of music. On the first page of the notebook was written,
The Mountain Eyrie
Sandy Stranger and Jenny Gray (18)
The story was still in the process of composition, and it concerns the relationship between Miss Brodie and her lover. The fact about his death is changed; he had not been killed in the war and when he came to the school to see his beloved, the headmistress told him “that Miss Brodie did not desire to see him” (18). This story was one of the secrets kept between Sandy and Jenny. However, the embedded narrative here enhances the main one as it emphasizes the influence of the teacher on her students.
Finally, the point I would like to stress in my research is that though structuralists, like Gerard Genette, Rolan Barthes, and Tzvetan Todorov as well as others are more interested in the structure of the narrative per se more than the meaning of the text, however, their theory of narratology does help readers to fully grasp the meaning of the text through studying its constituent parts and is therefore, useful in teaching. Moreover, narratology also helps the would-be writers to structure their creative works in such a way for a better effect. In addition, as narratology is not restricted to literature alone, applying the tenets of narratology in the field of psychology for instance, as in the field of creative writing, can also help in the field of psychoanalysis to study the psyche of the writer through his unconscious structure of the text.
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