Narrative Unreliability as a Literary Device and Reception Shift




Sarah Waters, narrative unreliability, homodiegetic narrator, discordance, reception, metamorphosed genre


The primary aim of the article is to gain a better understanding of narrative unreliability as a literary device in reception perspective. While previous studies have focused mainly on textual incongruities, argued for an encoded strategy on the part of the implied author or have embraced a reader-oriented model; the present study attempts to analyze the concept of unreliable narration as a convergence of both the rhetorical and cognitive/constructivist models in genre identification. The object of the analyses is Sarah Waters’ novel “The Little Stranger”, in particular its metamorphosed genre with the elements of historical sketch, mystery, poltergeist/ ghost story, mysticism and detective intrigue. The author’s narrative strategy is specified by the multiple readers’ responses. Despite the explicit Gothic modality, the historical context makes it possible to implement the author's conceptual intentions. Sarah Waters chooses a subjective narration type, when the homodiegetic narrator performs a dual function: both the narrator-observer and the character. In his unreliable narratives, the complementarities of misreporting, misinterpreting, underreporting and misevaluating are traced. Narrative unreliability in the novel serves as a kind of disguise for the mental aberrations of the homodiegetic narrator, so that the peculiarities of his narration cause doubts about his adequacy, freeing the reader from his influence and making it possible to create various interpretations of the story. Consequently, narrative unreliability here directly affects both the genre identification and the range of reception shift from the implicit reader to the text (implicit communication), and from interpretive frames to the implicit author and reverse, that allows to apply a convergence of rhetorical and cognitive/ constructivist methods in the novel analyses.

Author Biography

Aliona Matiychak, Yuriy Fedkovych Chernivtsi National University

Department of Foreign Languages for Humanitarian Colleges

Yuriy Fedkovych Chernivtsi National University

2 Kotsiubynskiy Street, 58012, Chernivtsi, Ukraine


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How to Cite

Matiychak, A. “Narrative Unreliability As a Literary Device and Reception Shift”. Pitannâ lìteraturoznavstva, no. 99, June 2019, pp. 135-50, doi:10.31861/pytlit2019.99.135.