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Unnatural narratives in contemporary Chinese time travel fiction: patterns, values, and interpretive options

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Abstract

The first decade of the twenty-first century witnessed an upsurge and a flourishing of time travel fiction in China, which is physically, logically, and/or humanly impossible. The boom of this new narrative genre has been fueled in no small part by the so-called “postmodernist turn” coupled with the “historiographical turn”, to the degree that it is no longer possible to read it along the lines of traditional narrative theory. With contemporary Chinese time travel fiction as its central concern, this article pursues four major goals: (1) to uncover its dominant unnatural patterns and means of time travel, (2) to reveal its unnaturalness from such perspectives as metalepsis, prolepsis, self-contradictory narration, and multiperson narration, (3) to examine its consequences and values of being unnatural, and (4) to offer a way of naturalizing it by suggesting the intersection of unnatural narratology with ethical narratology.

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Notes

  1. Frenzel (2008, p. 1).

  2. Wittenberg (2013, p. 2).

  3. Li (2013, pp. 34–45).

  4. Alber (2009, p. 80).

  5. Alber et al. (2010, p. 113).

  6. Dannenberg (2008, p. 1).

  7. Ibid.

  8. Jin (2010, p. 1).

  9. Chatman (1978, p. 9).

  10. For the distinction between classical narratology and postclassical narratology, cf. Herman (1999, pp. 1–30).

  11. Fludernik (2009, p. 6).

  12. Cf. Herman (2009, p. xvi).

  13. Cf. Alber (2009).

  14. Cf. Ryan (2012).

  15. Cf. Genette (1980, pp. 234–235).

  16. Pier (2014, p. 326).

  17. Ryan (2012, p. 371).

  18. Cf. Thoss (2011, p. 190).

  19. Jin (2010, p. 45).

  20. Ibid. p. 24.

  21. Cf. Phelan (2005, pp. 1–8).

  22. For more on strange voices in fiction, cf. Hansen et al. (2011).

  23. Jin (2010, p. 75).

  24. Cf. Genette (1980, p. 40).

  25. Prince (2003, p. 79).

  26. Jin (2010, p. 23).

  27. Ibid. p. 30.

  28. Ibid. p. 50.

  29. Ibid. p. 476.

  30. Cf. Richardson (2006).

  31. Jin (2010, p. 1).

  32. Ibid.

  33. Ibid. pp. 250–251.

  34. Richardson (2006, p. 62).

  35. Ibid. p. 62.

  36. Shang, and Richardson (2012, p. 112).

  37. Richardson (2011, p. 38).

  38. Alber (2011a, p. 62).

  39. Jin (2010, p. 540).

  40. Alber (2011a, p. 62).

  41. For recent discussion and debate on fictionality, cf. Nielsen et al. (2015a, b) and Dawson (2015).

  42. Jin (2010, p. 6).

  43. Heinze (2011, p. 218).

  44. Cf. Alber (2009, pp. 82–93).

  45. Cf. Alber (2013, 2014).

  46. Ryan (2012, p. 376).

  47. Ibid. pp. 376–378.

  48. Cf. Nielsen (2013, 2014).

  49. Alber (2014, p. 893).

  50. Cf. Shang (2015).

  51. For significant contributions to ethical narratology, cf. Berning (2013), Müller (2015), Newton (1995) and Phelan (2014).

  52. Jin (2010, p. 28).

  53. Ibid. p. 41.

  54. Ibid. p. 276.

  55. Ibid.

  56. In regard to the concept “ethical environment”, cf. Nie (2015, p. 91).

  57. Tong (2011, p. 289).

  58. Jin (2010, p. 276).

  59. Alber (2011b, p. 211).

  60. Nie (2015, p. 88).

  61. Cf. Phelan (2007, p. 11, 2014, p. 531).

  62. Ibid.

  63. Richardson (2015, p. 7).

  64. Wittenberg (2013, p. 1).

  65. Alber (2014, p. 893).

  66. For globalization and world literature, cf. Miller (2011).

  67. Wang (2014, p. 419).

  68. Cf. Damrosch (2003, 2009) and Wang (2011).

  69. Brown (2011, p. 363).

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Acknowledgments

I am very grateful to Brian McHale and Ning Wang for their insightful comments on the draft of this article and helpful suggestions for improvement. This work was supported by the National Social Science Fund of China (Grant Number: 14DB082, and 14BWW039).

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Shang, B. Unnatural narratives in contemporary Chinese time travel fiction: patterns, values, and interpretive options. Neohelicon 43, 7–25 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11059-016-0327-z

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