The creation of fictional worlds in the two short story cycles "Dubliners" and "Our Village"

Term Paper, 2019

23 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. The theory and methodology of world-making
2.1 The endo-narrative level
2.2 The exo-narrative level
2.3 The meta-narrative level
2.4 A short overview of the analytical criteria used in this paper

3. Narrative modes in James Joyce’s Dubliners
3.1 Using words to mirror a city
3.2 Of narrative composition and deformation
3.3 Symbolism and allegory in Dubliners

4. Mary Russell Mitford’s Our Village as provincial fiction
4.1 A collaged variety of the countryside
4.2 The symbolism of place
4.3 A Utopian world

5. Conclusion

List of Works Cited

1. Introduction

In a sense, all of our lives are a construction. We compose narratives in order to impose meaning and coherence on the chaotic variety of our experiences. “We work at understanding events and people by constructing stories to interpret what is occurring around us” (Short 9). And we try to protect ourselves with a web of explanations and significances that may act as a shield against the undecidability of our existence.

Thus, the way that we contrive the stories of our lives directly influences our experiences. For, these stories do not only allow us to disentangle the chaotic entirety of human actions at least to such a degree that the world becomes sufficiently manageable for the individual person to lead an ordered existence. They also make it possible to stain the gray matter of our experiences black or white.

But if we can agree that the stories we construct in our minds serve as a lens through which we perceive ourselves and the world live in, we might also believe Pheng Cheah when he claims that “literature creates the world and cosmopolitan bonds […] because it enables us to imagine a world through its powers of figuration” (27). According to him, literature is “not merely a product of the human imagination or something that is derived from, represents, or duplicates material reality” (35). It is also a method of world-making that permits the construction of alternative realities.

We have probably all experienced how it feels to be drawn into a story world and totally forget that we are really just staring at a white page with a number of black marks disposed over it. Somehow, the narrators seem to be able to structure a sequence of events in such a way that we do not only comprehend them “in terms of cultural canonicality” (Bruner 71), but also accept them as part of our very own experience. We start to feel empathy for the characters and imagine the environment that they inhabit as if it was a real phenomenon.

The problem is only that we do not yet understand how this process of world-making actually works. That is why this term paper seeks to explore the creation of fictional worlds in the two short story cycles Dubliners and O ur Village. Naturally, it requires a lot of effort to analyze world-making in a literary text: there are so many criteria that need to be examined. But despite these difficulties, I still venture to take a deeper look at the different modes of fictionality, because I believe that such an inquiry will help us discover the operation principles of world-making. And due to their collaged variety of world views, short story cycles might be the ideal research objects if we want to determine what makes fictional worlds credible.

In order to reach this goal, I will first introduce my own theory and methodology of world-making that will focus on a large set of criteria at the endo-narrative, exo- narrative, and meta-narrative levels. The described criteria will then be set to use in the analysis of the two short story cycles. The main points for examination during this process will be mood, emotionality, rhetoric and narrative strategies, since I regard them as the most fundamental aspects that contribute to the credibility of a story world. Thus, I hope to evince both the elements that might make a fictional world real/concrete and any eventual interferences which may be detrimental to the credibility of the stories.

2. The theory and methodology of world-making

Kathy Short once wrote that „stories are much more than a book or narrative—they are the way our minds make sense of our lives and world.” Ever since human beings have learned to speak and write, they have constructed stories in order to “move between local and global cultures and to explore the ways in which people live and think in cultures that differ from [their] own” (9). Through the practice of world-making, they hoped to create a social space that people could access at any time when they needed comfort, understanding, or diversion.

But despite all efforts to gain an understanding of the processes and preconditions of world- making, literary scholars have not yet been able to provide convincing explanations for this phenomenon. That is why I propose a new kind of research that incorporates Goodman and Nünning’s first investigative approaches/ methodologies but explores a greater number of possible variables. These variables will be assigned to three layers or “planes of examination”, which I call the endo-narrative, exo-narrative, and meta-narrative levels.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Fig. 1. Levels/layers of the story world.

2.1 The endo-narrative level

Vera and Ansgar Nünning once outlined what basic aspects and narratological features they believe to be key factors for a research into world-making: “it is through a careful examination of the key concepts, metaphors, narratives, and other symbolic forms that we can gain an insight into the mechanisms of construction that are involved in our cultural ways of world-making” (22). In their opinion, endo-narrative elements like themes, motifs, and ideational patterns form the basis for all types of world-making because they convey an all-encompassing sense of the story world.

However, these propositions nevertheless cannot be seen as fully sufficient because they do not adequately represent the multidimensionality and complexity of world-making. Of course, the different mental phenomena within a given text deserve great credit for weaving the ideological fabric of the fictional worlds. If we feel entitled to claim that Dubliners and Our Village both broach the issue of home and belonging, it is probably because they communicate certain concepts of affiliation and offer “imaginative access to an individual’s experientiality of home” (Butter 365).

But despite the central role that these “thematic universals” (Short 126) play in the process of constructing a story world, they are not the only entities that make the presented scenes and settings come alive with meaning. At the endo-narrative and meta- narrative levels, too, we can find several literary patterns that provide a sense of coherence to the loose patchwork of semantemes and literary building blocks which may then be assembled by the readers.

2.2 The exo-narrative level

For the purposes of the following examinations, this term paper defines the exo- narrative level of a given text as “all those literary forms and patterns that contribute to the saturation of the story world”. For, it is not only the ideational content which makes a fictional world credible: According to Arthur Jacobs, who studied the neurocognitive processes involved in the development of ‘fiction feelings’, literary patterns like allusion or repetition can also have a high immersion potential which virtually draws the readers into the text world (7). Thus, I would like to analyze how the narrators in Dubliners and Our Village employ rhetorical devices in order to create a sense of coherence and familiarity that help the readers to settle into the ideational environment described by the author.

Considering that all story worlds are built upon the foundation of a materia or ideational source, which the narrator then has to make tangible by the means of his artistic skills, this term paper deems it necessary to examine how the literary form and genre of a given text may influence the credibility of its fictional world. Somehow, Joyce and Mitford are both able to manipulate language in such a way that whole landscapes and neighborhoods arise before the reader’s inner eye. But it is not yet clear how these textual building blocks must be combined so as to render the story world an immersive environment.

Naturally, it is not possible to recreate an entire city through language alone since our words can never fully capture the complexity of the real world. And yet, these authors are able to saturate their stories with sufficient detail that we seem to recognize at least some aspects of our lives within the web of syllables.

How is it possible to capture aspects of our complex reality by poetological methods? Which rhetorical devices are particularly suitable for the representation of worldly phenomena? And how can a narrator encourage his readers to take an active role in the creation of the story world? These are some of the question that this term paper seeks to answer with regard to the two present short story cycles. To do so, it will make use of Goodman’s famous five ways of world-making (Goodman 1–6):

(1) Composition and decomposition
(2) Weighting
(3) Ordering
(4) Deletion
(5) Supplementation and deformation.

However, it will also take a closer look at other literary patterns and rhetorical devices at the exo-narrative level which may allow the narrator to reproduce fragments of “reality” in such a way that they become perceptible to the recipients. Because the trajectory of storytelling always influences how we perceive the story world and its characters.

2.3 The meta-narrative level

According to David Herman, “interpreters seeking to use textual cues to reconstruct a story world must also draw inferences about the communicative goals that have structured the specific occasion of the telling, motivating the use of certain cues in favor of others and shaping the arrangement of the cues selected” (17).” He argues that the construction of a fictional world is not completed when the author has written down the last word of the underlying text, but that it depends upon the readers, as well, who have to suspend their disbelief and settle into the story world. Thus, they enter an interactive relationship with the narrator that is built upon a set of distinct instructions and originative liberties. On the one hand, the readers are bound by textual cues and conventions which limit their imagination and reduce the number of possible outcomes (Pettersson 110). But on the other hand, they are free to add their own associations and personal experiences. The narratorial focus may guide them as they use their imagination to make the story world arise—the main part of the creation, however, is usually coined by the readers’ own ingenuity. Without the associations and personal impressions that they add to the textual cues, the fictional world would remain a barren construction of semantemes. And in this way, the concomitance of narrator and reader input becomes essential for the success of the project.

However, there is also a second way that meta-fictional conditions affect the believability of the story world. If the narrator can make his words sound so sincere and powerful that they elicit emotions from the readers, these mental states will then create “the basis for typical scenarios of fiction feelings: empathy for characters or events, sympathy for a protagonist, suspense and occasionally increasing curiosity and arousal in the context of the ‘what happens next’ question or hope concerning a positive outcome and joy/relief when it has happened” (Jacobs 16). Because emotional content engages the affective empathy network of our brains, poignant stories or scenes “can drag readers easily into the ‘text world’, making them forget the ‘real’ environment around them” (Jacobs 8).

Thus, this term paper also seeks to contribute exemplary insights into the role that our emotions play when reading a book.


Excerpt out of 23 pages


The creation of fictional worlds in the two short story cycles "Dubliners" and "Our Village"
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
short story cycles, Joyce, Dubliners, world-making
Quote paper
Ann-Kathrin Latter (Author), 2019, The creation of fictional worlds in the two short story cycles "Dubliners" and "Our Village", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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