This essay reanimates discussion of narrative temporality by retuning to a theoretical crux—the contest between succession and duration—and the relation of the crux to the work of private desire and social labor. The essay begins with Freud's assertion that “[e]very desire sooner or later makes a picture of its fulfillment” and turns the phrase toward a discussion of “kernel narrative.” Questions of boredom and the temporality of reading are then posed by way of Soap Opera Digest, the weekly guide to events that the television viewer may have missed. Through a re-engagement with Russian formalism, Gérard Genette, and G. W. F. Hegel, the essay challenges the received understanding of novelistic chronology and argues for a reconsideration of the place of duration within a theory of narrative temporality. The argument builds on examples drawn from Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, and George Eliot and concludes with a discussion of novelistic time and the production of social relations.
Michael Levenson; Reading Time. Novel 1 November 2009; 42 (3): 511–516. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-2009-049
Download citation file: