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The UnexpectedNarrative Temporality and the Philosophy of Surprise$
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Mark Currie

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748676293

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748676293.001.0001

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Narrative Modality: Possibility, Probability and the Passage of Time

Narrative Modality: Possibility, Probability and the Passage of Time

(p.99) Chapter 6 Narrative Modality: Possibility, Probability and the Passage of Time
The Unexpected

Mark Currie

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter takes a set of arguments about probability in grammar and argues for their importance for an understanding of narrative temporality. It examines the category of ‘epistemic modality’ in grammar, as the place where degrees of certainty and probability are encoded in the grammar of sentences, and applies this line of thought to the structure and nature of narrative discourse. After a consideration of the dynamics of narrative certainty and doubt, it explores the idea that literary criticism in general, and narratology in particular, show a marked tendency to eliminate questions of futurity. The discussion focuses on two meanings of the word ‘possibility’: the contingent and the futural. It shows that contemporary narratology operates often under the influence of possible worlds theory, and that this has produced an atemporal conception of modality in the theory of narrative.

Keywords:   Modality, grammar, retrospect, possible worlds, focalization

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