The Category of Intrigue in Contemporary Narratology

Valerij Tiupa


The article considers Paul Ricoeur’s innovative investigation of the category “narrative intrigue”. An attempt at translating the term from the language of philosophical generalizations into the language of theory of literature is made. Ricoeur’s attention is focused on the correlation of the plot and readerly reception, i.e. on the “event of telling” as an aspect of the plot. An intrigue as fundemental interest of narration is tension in a row of events that triggers certain receptive expectations and presupposes a certain satisfaction of these expectations. Organizing readerly reception, a narrative intrigue interrupts a story and unites its fractal episodes into one utterance. These multidirectional actions are inavoidable because the time of telling and “the told time” are not only unequal but different in terms of quality. The time of story is multidimensional and continuous, while the speech discourse is one-dimensional and discontinuous. A narrative intrigue in the text is a system of episodes whose boundaries indicate a fractal break of the narrated world: temporal, spacious or actantial, or two or three simulnaneous breaks. A chain of these elements of turning the story into an intrigue becomes a certain system characterized by a logic of increases or decreases; recurrent alternations, repetitions or similarities; contrast. Some episodes take up the marked positions: initial, final, central or the position of “golden ratio”. The article views the cyclical, liminal and cumulative plot schemes as already known in literary theory types of the plot. A possibility of existence of one more narrative intrigue, the intrigue of revelation, is also indicated.


intrigue; intrigue of revelation; liminal intrigue; narrative; plot; readerly engagement


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