In Time and Narrative, Paul Ricoeur argues that narrative reconfigures human time. While the link between narrative and the temporal character of human experience is very plausible, Ricoeur's description of the reconfiguration of time remains rather vague and does not deal with narrative qua narrative. This article takes up Ricoeur's thesis of a narrative reconfiguration of time but tries to find it in the very structures of narrative. A brief presentation and critique of Ricoeur's approach is followed by a second section that draws on the phenomenological tradition to define human time as the tension between expectation and experience. This tension can be found at the two levels in narrative, the level of the action and the level of the reception. The double reconfiguration of time can be explored by an examination of narrative structures. In the third section the attempt to combine a phenomenological approach with structuralist narratology is illustrated by a comparison of Homeric epic with modernist novels. They reconfigure time very differently and highlight that narratives allow us both to enact and to distance the temporal structures of our lives. Whereas evolutionary literary studies have recently argued that narrative serves an adaptive function, the approach outlined here foregrounds the opportunity to have experiences without the restraints of the everyday world as a crucial factor in the prominence of narrative across ages and cultures.
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Jonas Grethlein; The Narrative Reconfiguration of Time Beyond Ricoeur. Poetics Today 1 June 2010; 31 (2): 313–329. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-2009-022
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