In this article I discuss the importance for narrative theory of the concept, drawn from developmental psychology, of “joint attention.” In the first part, I explain the basic concept and its significance for the emergence of narrative in young children. In the second part, I draw out the implications of this genetic approach for our understanding of the nature of narrative signification: where classical narratology is based on a chain of representational and “communicative” dyads (signifier/signified and sender/receiver), joint attention integrates these functions into a triadic semiotic by which the sign mediates among three poles: the producer of the sign, the receiver of the sign, and the object of their joint attention. In the third part, taking Boccaccio's Decameron as an example, I illustrate how this approach to the semiotics of narrative elucidates aspects of literary narrative that are obscured by classical semiotics. Joint attention offers affordances for quasirecursive recontextualization, since the object of joint attention may consist of another act of joint attention: literary narrative can create complex joint attentional structures by which the story is “seen” through nested perspectival prisms of embedded narrative and character.
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Adam Lively; Joint Attention, Semiotic Mediation, and Literary Narrative. Poetics Today 1 December 2016; 37 (4): 517–538. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-3638042
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