How time and place are constructed in the novel and how readers perceive these features have been studied extensively. Less attention has been devoted to how communicative devices, such as letters, electronic messaging, or telephone calls, can influence both time and place by connecting characters in different locations. This article argues that the technical capabilities of different communication systems, when represented within a novel's story world, help determine the forms of plot, characterization, and narrative voice that a novelist can feasibly present. To demonstrate this, the argument compares three novels that share the generic conventions of romantic fiction: Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (1813) and Helen Fielding's modern adaptations of Austen, Bridget Jones's Diary (1996) and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (1999). Each novel depicts potential lovers who are initially seen as socially incompatible in that they live or work in dissimilar places. In all three texts, communication systems help connect the characters and bridge the environments in which they normally reside, thereby allowing romance to develop. However, the speed, reliability, and materiality of the different types of technology available in their respective historical periods radically affect how their plots are expressed. Letters, instant messaging, and mobile telephony are “semiotic resources” that the novelist can use to structure her plot and narrative voice.
Research Article|June 01 2015
Alistair Brown; Communication Technology and Narrative: Letters, Instant Messaging, and Mobile Phones in Three Romantic Novels. Poetics Today 1 June 2015; 36 (1-2): 33–58. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-2879838
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