Critical Reading: Unit 4 Narrative and structure
Dialogue (from roots meaning ‘through’ and ‘speak’) means verbal linguistic exchange; spoken language between two or more people; and, in our case, the literary representations of that. Monologue (from root words meaning 'one' and 'word') means speech produced by one person, and in our case its literary representation. Obviously, dialogue is crucial to dramatic texts, but it is also important in narrative fiction and does feature in some poetry. Usually, dialogue is easy to spot in printed texts, because each new speaker's contribution is indented and enclosed in inverted commas:
Not all authors follow these conventions, however. James Joyce, for example, didn't use inverted commas.
The conventions for representation of speech are quite straightforward, but what about the representation of thought? At its simplest, we might have something like this:
The narrative voice is telling us what John and Hazel felt and thought. If the author had wanted to give us a more direct sense of John and Hazel's thought, though, he or she might have written the lines like this:
What are the differences between the different ways of representing the thoughts and speech of these characters? How does the presence of the narrative voice change? Are the representations of thoughts really very like the way we think? How could they be made more like the thought process?
Read these short sections from Goring, Hawthorn and Mitchell: pp. 246–247 ('free indirect discourse') and pp. 299–300 ('stream of consciousness'), and the entries on ‘free indirect speech’ and ‘stream of consciousness’ in the Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, via the Oxford Reference Online resource.
Follow the links below to the opening section of Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway and the last section of James Joyce's Ulysses. Try to identify the different techniques used by the authors to represent speech and thought. Post your responses to the Narrative and structure forum.
Mrs Dalloway at Project Gutenberg
Ulysses at Project Gutenberg
If the novels intrigue you, read more of them. Don't forget to add entries on the texts you have looked at this week to your blog. If you have encountered other texts that use similar techniques, recommend them via the Book club forum.
If you would like more help, or more details about the techniques touched on in this session, read the notes on some techniques for representing the interior monologue.
Write a short piece of stream of consciousness no more than six lines long, and post it to the Narrative and structure forum. Post comments on others' pieces.