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A Narrative Analysis of Edward P. Jones’s the Known World

Author WangLiZuo
Tutor YuanFang
School Inner Mongolia University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords The Known World Edward P. Jones narrative focalization narrative time narrative discourse black slave-owner
CLC I561.074
Type Master's thesis
Year 2012
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The Known World is the masterpiece by Edward P. Jones. Since it was published in2003, the novel has received more than due attention. Initially catching reviewers’ attention for its unusual subject matter—the ownership of slaves by a black master in the antebellum South—the novel soon demonstrated its literary qualities as well. In2004, The Known World won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction as well as International Dublin Literary Award for fiction. Reviewers lauded Jones for the novel’s epic grandeur, vernacular, and lyrical prose, fully realized characters, and lively dialogue. Comparing Jones favorably with William Faulkner and Toni Morrison, several critics went so far as to dub Jones a major new force in Southern writing.Based on the theories of classical narratology, especially the insights from Narrative Discourse written by the famous French narratologist Genette, this thesis focuses on the textual analysis of narrative focalization, narrative time and narrative discourse as they are presented in The Known World. By using textual analysis with theoretical explorations the thesis seeks, hopefully, to explicate and illustrate Jones’s outstanding artistic narrative and the profound effects his works produce.This thesis firstly analyzes the narrative focalization and finds the writer mainly employs more zero focalization to show the every character’s life in the slavery and expose the unknown life of slavery. Then the paper examines the narrative structure in terms of the narrative time. In this part, the focus is put on the narrative time and the story time in the novel. As the order is concerned, the novel is written in anachronies which has two different sorts:analepsis and prolepsis. The analysis demonstrates that Jones skillfully copes with the relation between story time and discourse time to have a good command of the rhythm of the narration in the novel. Besides, narrative discourse in the novel is also studied in this thesis. Most novelists depend on the narrative discourse to develop the plot of the story and reveal the traits of the main characters in their works. As the development of narratology, the narratologists become more and more acute to the different styles of the narrative discourse in the text, which is applied to show and change the narrative "distance" between the characters and between the characters and the readers. In this novel, Jones adopts variable narrative discourse to make the novel more direct and vivid. The above analysis reflects how Jones strengthens the narrative effects through all the narrative elements.This thesis proposes to approach The Known World from the standpoint of narratology. The method employed in the thesis aims to establish a recursive relationship between theoretical investigations and The Known World. By combining textual reading with theoretical analysis, the thesis hopes to contribute to the further illumination of the fictional narrative as well as to fresh appreciations of Jones’s novel.

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