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The Rhetoric of Fiction


The Rhetoric of Fiction Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The first edition of The Rhetoric of Fiction transformed the criticism of fiction and soon became a classic in the field. One of the most widely used texts in fiction courses, it is a standard reference point in advanced discussions of how fictional form works, how authors make novels accessible, and how readers recreate texts, and its concepts and terms—such as "the implied author," "the postulated reader," and "the unreliable narrator"—have become part of the standard critical lexicon.

For this new edition, Wayne C. Booth has written an extensive Afterword in which he clarifies misunderstandings, corrects what he now views as errors, and sets forth his own recent thinking about the rhetoric of fiction. The other new feature is a Supplementary Bibliography, prepared by James Phelan in consultation with the author, which lists the important critical works of the past twenty years—two decades that Booth describes as "the richest in the history of the subject."

About the Author

Wayne C. Booth (1921-2005) was the George Pullman Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago. His many books include The Rhetoric of Fiction, A Rhetoric of Irony, The Power and Limits of Pluralism, The Vocation of a Teacher, and Forthe Love of It, all published by the University of Chicago Press.

Table of Contents

Foreword to the Second Edition

Preface to the First Edition


Part I: Artistic Purity and the Rhetoric of Fiction

I. Telling and Showing

Authoritative "Telling" in Early Narration

Two Stories from the Decameron

The Author's Many Voices

II. General Rules, I: "True Novels Must Be Realistic"

From Justified Revolt to Crippling Dogma

From Differentiated Kinds to Universal Qualities

General Criteria in Earlier Periods

Three Sources of General Criteria: The Work, the Author, the Reader

Intensity of Realistic Fiction

The Novel as Unmediated Reality

On Discriminating among Realisms

The Ordering of Intensities

III. General Rules, II: "All Authors Should be Objective"

Neutrality and the Author's "Second Self"

Impartiality and "Unfair" Emphasis


Subjectivism Encouraged by Impersonal Techniques

IV. General Rules III: "True Art Ignores the Audience"

"True Artists Write Only for Themselves

Theories of Pure Art

The "Impurity" of Great Literature

Is a Pure Fiction Theoretically Desirable?

V. General Rules, IV: Emotions, Beliefs, and the Reader's Objectivity

"Tears and Laughter Are, Aesthetically, Frauds"

Types of Literary Interest (and Distance)

Combinations and Conflicts of Interests

The Role of Belief

Belief Illustrated: The Old Wives' Tale

VI. Types of Narration


Dramatized and Undramatized Narrators

Observers and Narrator-Agents

Scene and Summary


Self-Conscious Narrators

Variations of Distance

Variations in Support or Correction


Inside Views

Part II: The Author's Voice in Fiction

VII. The Uses of Reliable Commentary

Providing the Facts, Picture, or Summary

Molding Beliefs

Relating Particulars to the Established Norms

Heightening the Significance of Events

Generalizing the Significance of Events

Generalizing the Significance of the Whole Work

Manipulating Mood

Commenting Directly on the Work Itself

VIII. Telling as Showing: Dramatized Narrators, Reliable and Unreliable

Reliable Narrators as Dramatized Spokesmen for the Implied Author

"Fielding" in Tom Jones

Imitators of Fielding

Tristram Shandy and the Problem of Formal Coherence

Three Formal Traditions: Comic Novel, Collection, and Satire

The Unity of Tristram Shandy

Shandean Commentary, Good and Bad

IX. Control of Distance in Jane Austen's Emma

Sympathy and Judgment in Emma

Sympathy through Control of Inside Views

Control of Judgment

The Reliable Narrator and the Norms of Emma

Explicit Judgments on Emma Woodhouse

The Implied Author as Friend and Guide

Part III: Impersonal Narration

X. The Uses of Authorial Silence

"Exit Author" Once Again

Control of Sympathy

Control of Clarity and Confusion

"Secret Communion" between Author and Reader

XI. The Price of Impersonal Narration, I: Confusion of Distance

The Turn of the Screw as Puzzle

Troubles with Irony in Earlier Literature

The Problem of Distance in A Portrait of the Artist

XII. The Price of Impersonal Narration, II: Henry James and the Unreliable Narrator

The Development from Flawed Reflector into Subject

The Two Liars in "The Liar"

"The Purloining of the Aspern Papers" or "The Evocation of Venice"?

"Deep Readers of the World, Beware!"

XIII. The Morality of Impersonal Narration

Morality and Technique

The Seductive Point of View: Céliné as Example

The Author's Moral Judgment Obscured

The Morality of Elitism

Afterword to the Second Edition: The Rhetoric in Fiction and Fiction as Rhetoric: Twenty-One Years Later


Supplementary Bibliography, 1961-82, by James Phelan

Index to the First Edition

Index to the Bibliographies

Product Details

Booth, Wayne
University of Chicago Press
Booth, Wayne
Booth, Wayne C.
History, criticism and surveys
History and criticism
Composition & Creative Writing - Fiction
Semiotics & Theory
General Literary Criticism & Collections
Fiction -- Technique.
Edition Number:
2nd ed.
Edition Description:
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
Professional and scholarly
8.08x5.33x1.50 in. 1.33 lbs.

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