This article suggests that two distinct modes of text-building constraints co-incide in the Indonesian novel “Surabaya.” The first set of constraints consists of narrative functions that shape sentence-level grammar within the story; the second level of text-building constraints shapes the thematic structure of the story. The author argues that, unlike its narrative structure, which is bound by the linearity of time, the thematic structure, of “Surabaya” is denned by a hierarchy of “heavier” and “lighter” themes, the “heavier” themes being evoked more often than are the “lighter” themes. He suggests that heaviness of theme is a strategy of text building found in classical Malaysian (Hikayat) texts, gamelan orchestra musical organization, and in calendric reckoning in much of Indonesia. He argues, in sum, for a method of writing that encourages grammatical description from two or more perspectives. “Binocular vision,” to use Gregory Bateson's words, is necessary in writing to provide a more honest, richer description of a text than a single mode of grammatical description can provide; it makes available to readers more than one means of access to the text.

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