Self-conscious character narration provides special opportunities for authors to signal (un)reliability. This article focuses on one such opportunity. When narrators like John Dowell in Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier consistently assert moral and cognitive distance from their existences as characters in a story world, they create a pattern that Dorrit Cohn calls dissonant narration. But otherwise dissonant narrators close this distance and deviate from their pattern if they link a character trait to both their narrating- and their experiencing-self, thereby asserting that their claimed character trait is temporally continuous. I refer to these kinds of exceptions within dissonant narration as claims of stable identity and argue for their importance for judgments of (un)reliable narration. After defining the concept in relation to contemporary models of unreliability, the article analyzes particular claims of stable identity made by John Dowell and other narrators to show that authors can use them in different ways to guide readers' understandings in character narration.
Paul McCormick; Claims of Stable Identity and (Un)reliability in Dissonant Narration. Poetics Today 1 June 2009; 30 (2): 317–352. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-2008-012
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