In the major form of the traditional coincidence plot, estranged relatives meet in remarkable circumstances. In complex representations, the central aspect is cognitive and involves a recognition scene in which the estranged characters discover each other's identity. An analysis of this narrative core of the coincidence plot centers on the depiction of the characters' cognitive processes and the suspense generated by the reader's anticipation of a recognition scene. Beyond this, the narrative explanation of coincidence is a key feature: a variety of explanatory patterns, frequently involving causality, are invoked to naturalize the narrative strategy and conceal the authorial manipulation that lies behind it. The traditional coincidence plot is a key plot feature in varying manifestations from the Renaissance to the postmodernist novel; however, modernist and postmodernist fictions also developed their own specific forms of coincidence involving analogical relationships of correspondence. Both in the question of recognition and explanation, this new form of literary coincidence differs substantially from traditional coincidence, notably because of its subversion of the causal explanatory systems and of linear patterns of origin which form a central part of the traditional coincidence plot.
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Hilary P. Dannenberg; A Poetics of Coincidence in Narrative Fiction. Poetics Today 1 September 2004; 25 (3): 399–436. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-25-3-399
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