Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is the most analysed narrative in history. It has been used to demonstrate everything in the narratological universe, and I will use it here to survey some of the transitions through which narratology has passed in recent years. I want to make a simple point that despite the diversification, fracturing and deconstruction of literary studies, narratology is a common resource, a finite set of terms and concepts which can be deployed by critics with very different interests. Narratology is not a critical school and not a branch of formalism. In some ways narratology has followed the same course as globalisation. It has devolved into smaller units at the same time as it has converged into an increasingly shared vocabulary with increasingly similar objectives. This phenomenon marks a profound change from the condition of narrative criticism as recently as 15 years ago, when critics tended to draw terminology and critical concepts from disparate sources, and where those sources often had incommensurate aims and assumptions. Perhaps the most apparent change is the shift from a widespread fear of and resistance to theory in narrative criticism towards an almost wholesale acceptance of its perspectives and methods, towards the canonisation of certain theorists who have become the shared reference points for disparate narratologies.
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