I’ve become sorta familiar with R. Alan Culpepper’s Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel: A Study in Literary Design through reviews from such persons as D.A. Carson but as of yet I haven’t actually read the thing.
…that might not seem an especially auspicious way to begin this, but it’ll have to do- I’m only using it as a bridge to something else, anyway…
Anywho, while returning an item to the library on Thursday I decided, apropos of nothing, to skim over the copy of Culpepper’s book I saw on the shelf. I instantly gravitated to and read most of an early chapter on time and John’s manipulation of it within his narrative, exponentially becoming more and more monumentally pumped with every paragraph. The epiphany flashed in successively brighter stages as I made my way through the chapter: Why not borrow some Johannine techniques in order to sow some serious temporal dissonance into Chrononaut? Thank you, providence! That was why I had been directed to that aisle- in furtherance of my quest to cultivate techniques to fit what I wanted to accomplish with Chrononaut. Of course, I’m still working out all that I want to accomplish with it, but the study will undoubtedly help in uncovering those objectives as well.
Culpepper acknowledged in the chapter on narrative time that his primary source was a book entitled Narrative Discourse: An Essay On Method. My old hipster reflexes instinctively bristled as I read that, embarrassed I had never read it before, much less heard of it. Who was this Gerard Genette guy? Some French deconstructionist, no doubt. Gallic misgivings aside, I felt the hook sinking in as I read Culpepper’s praise of Genette’s work and its significance for a literary analysis of John’s gospel, specifically his treatment of modalities and hierarchies of time within a narrative. Snap, son! I knew in that moment I needed to find this book. After all, how a story is told is nearly as important as what a story tells because the story’s what is communicated in large part through the how. The construction of the narrative (and here I am well reminded that story and narrative are not wholly synonymous) has to be suited towards both the story’s meaning and the story’s plot. This is the grammar I’m trying to learn in order to render meaningful relationships between events that bear no linear connection in time.
To my delight, the branch I was at had a copy biding its time on the third floor, waiting for me to tune in to its homing beacon and tap into its reservoir of insight. The introduction informed me that Genette fleshes out his theory with constant reference to Marcel Proust’s epic Remembrance of Things Past, probably the most temporally dislocating non-science fiction novels you will ever struggle (joyfully) through. When I read that he analyzes time in Remembrance of Things Past on both a micro- and macrostructural scale I began drooling in a Pavlovian ecstasy. If Genette’s analysis of the mechanics of plot and the dynamics of narrative time is half as penetrating as Culpepper claims, then I have serendipaciously (serendipitously?) happened upon a stellar resource for constructing a narrative strategy for Chrononaut.
Holla at ya boy.