Narrative perspective

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The narrative perspective of a narrative text ( epic ) is an answer to the question “Where does the narrator see and speak ?” Or “What can the narrator know?”. In literary studies there are also numerous models of narrative perspectives , corresponding to the various narrative theories . The narrative perspective can be distinguished from the narrative attitude .

Different narrative perspectives

According to FK Stanzel, there are three different basic types of narrator in narrative theory with regard to narrative behavior :

  • First-person narrative situation
  • authorial narrative situation
  • personal narrative situation

For a detailed description of these basic types: see typological model of narrative situations .

A neutral narrator is also used occasionally, but this does not play a major role in literary studies in general nowadays.

Neutral narrator (neutral narrative form):

The neutral narrator usually appears in factual texts. He neither comments on current events nor overlooks the past and future of the world depicted. A neutral narrator is usually found in texts in which direct speech predominates (example: “I gave you the form yesterday,” he said with a worried face ). Furthermore, this type of narrator is not part of the character world and only describes what is externally visible. Such a narrative situation is usually found in drama. Due to his great reluctance, this narrator is inconspicuous and is considered less relevant in the search for the meaning of a story - especially in the drama.


In narrative theory or narratology , the narrative perspective is usually one of several categories that you need to analyze a narrative text. Stanzel differentiates between person, mode and perspective. The concept of the narrative perspective relates to the relationship of the narrator to the main character and the narrated world, the author plays no role in this context.

In a first-person narration , the question of the narrative perspective is apparently easier to clarify. The emphasized subjectivity marks a restricted point of view , because a first-person narrator cannot know everything about the world being told. In contrast, an authorial , i.e. omniscient narrator has unlimited access to all information in the narrated world, as in Goethe's elective affinities . In many treatises, perspective is understood to mean spatial and temporal distance as well as subjectivity and objectivity, i.e. not just access to information, but also evaluation. The model of focussing by Genette , which strictly distinguishes between mode ( who sees ) and voice ( who speaks ), is therefore more selective .

In English, the narrative perspective is also referred to as the point-of-view . The point-of-view in literary studies must be clearly differentiated from the cinematic point-of-view shot , because the point-of-view describes an attitude that reproduces the gaze of a figure, whereas in literature, the point-of-view is used understood the perspective for whole scenes or the whole text. In contrast to the observer perspective , the narrative perspective focuses not only on what an observer perceives, but also on what he wants to report and how.

The term perspective is a metaphor , because literature is actually only told with words. The medium of literature can not only "tell" ( telling or reporting ), but also "show" ( showing or scenic representation ). Through a dialogical form of representation or a detailed description of an environment, the reader can get the impression or the illusion that he “sees it for himself” or that he participates directly in the events without a mediating narrative instance. Roland Barthes calls this the “reality effect”, Genette calls it the “ mimesis illusion”, since according to Plato, mimesis in the true sense can only refer to the imitation of literal speech.


The art of storytelling is precisely to play with unclear points of view. Often, contradicting narrative locations such as the simultaneity of internal and external perspectives ( mise en abyme ) meet . Therefore, attempts to classify narrative perspectives and to record them with models and typologies can only ever partially succeed. However, such abstractions can be useful as an aid to understanding.

Narrative perspective at Stanzel

A common scheme is the typological model of narrative situations by Franz K. Stanzel . It differentiates whether narrator characters have an inside or outside perspective (perspective), whether the narrator is identical to the figure or not (person) and whether a narrator figure clearly appears (mode). At the mode level, he therefore also differentiates the narrator from a reflector figure, which usually means the main character from whose perspective the story unfolds.

A concrete example, which in Stanzel's circle of types is based very closely on the ideal-typical model of personal narration, would be the experienced speech , in which there is no narrator's voice to be distinguished from the character speech . Here the narrator would not be identical to the character, as in the first-person narration, but would have an inner perspective.

Narrative perspective with Genette

In contrast to Stanzel, Gérard Genette distinguishes between mode ( who sees? ) And voice ( who speaks? ). The terms distance and focalization relate to the mode, the term diegesis to the voice. The focalization describes what the narrator knows about the character and the narrated world, the distance (or proximity) can be derived from the type of speech (direct speech, indirect speech, etc.).

According to Genette, the narrator can appear as a character in the plot, i.e. be part of diegesia, or not. Both narrative situations can be further differentiated into "events analyzed from within" and "events observed from outside":

Events analyzed from within Events observed from outside
The narrator appears as a character in the plot 1. The hero tells the story 2. A witness tells the story
The narrator does not appear as a character in the plot 4. The omniscient narrator tells the story 3. An outside narrator tells the story


  • Mieke Bal: Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative . University of Toronto Press, Buffalo 1997, ISBN 0-8020-7806-0 .
  • Gérard Genette: The story . UTB, Stuttgart 1998, ISBN 3-8252-8083-7 .
  • Harald Haferland: Narrator . In: Gert Ueding (ed.): Historical dictionary of rhetoric . Darmstadt: WBG 1992ff., Vol. 10 (2011), Col. 274-291.
  • Herbert Kraft : Excursus: About authorial and personal storytelling . In: ders .: Cheated out of Schiller . Pfullingen (= Neske) 1978.
  • Herbert Kraft: Kafka. Reality and perspective . Bern (= Peter Lang) ² 1983.
  • Fabienne Liptay / Yvonne Wolf (eds.): What's wrong now? Unreliable storytelling in literature and film . Edition text + criticism, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-88377-795-1 . contents
  • Franz K. Stanzel : Theory of storytelling . UTB, Göttingen 1995, ISBN 3-8252-0904-0 .
  • Franz K. Stanzel: Baufformen des Romans , Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht Verlag, 8th edition Göttingen 1964, ISBN 3-525-33212-2 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. See Franz K. Stanzel: Baufformen des Romans , Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht Verlag, 8th edition, Göttingen 1964, ISBN 3-525-33212-2 , p. 16f. See also the summary in Edgar Mertner : The literary text and its analysis. In: Bernhard Fabian (Hrsg.): An English basic course for an introduction to the study of literary studies. Athenaeum Fischer Verlag, 2nd rev. Edition Frankfurt a. M, 1973, ISBN 3-8072-2012-7 , pp. 148–205, here p. 186ff.
  2. He or I? Who narrates?
  3. ^ Franz K. Stanzel: Theory of storytelling, Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht Verlag, Göttingen, 6th unaltered edition 1995, ISBN 3-8252-0904-0 , pp. 70, 162f., 191ff., Pp. 204f
  4. Gérard Genette: The story . UTB, Stuttgart 1998, p. 118. See also the explanations by Peter Freese : On the methodology of the analysis of short stories in English lessons at upper secondary level . In: ders. Et al., The Short Story in English Lessons in Upper Secondary School Theory and Practice , Schöningh Verlag, Paderborn 1979, p. 51.
  5. Gérard Genette: The story . UTB, Stuttgart 1998, p. 132