Date of Degree
Robert A. Day
The Odyssey, Aithiopika, and Quixote have a surprising set of narrative structures in common: each work falls into two distinct "halves," and each includes a large number of interpolated narratives which appear largely, though not exclusively, in the first half of the text. Both of these features–the bi-partite frames and the large number of interpolated tales–have important implications, both for the narratives as a whole, and for their relationship to the literary mode of romance. This structure imbues each text with a quality of extreme narrative self-consciousness in which part of the subject of the work becomes the nature of narrative itself. It also highlights powerful aspects of a romantic "literary nostalgia" which expresses itself as a fascination with the telling and re-telling of tales, and with the delicate and problematic relationship between narrative versions of events and the events themselves.
This study first examines closely the workings of the bi-partite frame narratives, especially the ways in which the second half of each text reflects back on its own first half. It then explores several sets of interpolated narratives, examples of which can be located in each text. These narratives–lying tales, dreams, and romantic autobiographies–express various aspects of the romance mode, particularly as defined by N. Frye, including powerful elements of both wish-fulfillment (an idealized future) and nostalgia (an idealized past).
The study concludes with an examination of problems of closure in romance narrative, well exhibited in the varied end(s) of the Odyssey, the Aithiopika, and the Quixote; these problems are caused in part by competing narrative drives within the romance mode which pull the narrative toward final closure and, at the same time, toward endless openness.
Brockman, Susan, "The Romance of Narrative: Design and Desire in the Odyssey, the Aithiopika, and Don Quixote" (1993). CUNY Academic Works.