Narrative in Question Seminar 5

Wednesday 10 May 2017, 4.00PM to 5.30pm

Roger Marsh (Music): 'Poor Yorick - singing Laurence Sterne.'

Conveying a detailed narrative text in music is much harder than one might suppose.  The moment words are conjoined with music, the competing demands of musical line, musical rhythm and musical texture all conspire to reduce the intelligibility of text.  There have been many different attempted solutions to this problem.   This composer has tried most of them, with varying degrees of success.  In Poor Yorick (2013), an unpromising section of prose (ironically from a notoriously non-linear narrative) is translated by the simplest of means for the voices of the Hilliard Ensemble.

Peter Lamarque (Philosophy): 'Transparent and opaque modes of reading narrative.'

The paper will introduce the terminology of 'transparency' and 'opacity' in this context and reflect briefly on some of the motivation behind it. Narratives of all kinds, fictional or non-fictional, can be read and appreciated in different ways relative to the interests brought to them. If we are interested primarily in character and incident, rather than in mode of presentation or narrative device, then we read ‘transparently’: we look in effect ‘through’ the presentation to a ‘world’ depicted. Our interest rests on the assumption that the same world, more or less, might be depicted through alternative forms of representation. If, in contrast, our interest is in narrative content as-presented-in-this-form then our reading is ‘opaque’. We respond to the content as given perspectivally and allow that the ‘world’ to which we attend is uniquely characterised only in this mode of presentation. Literary reading or reading ‘from a literary point of view’ is characteristically opaque but opaque reading is not restricted to literary works or works of fiction, but can apply to any narrative. The distinction between transparent and opaque reading is important for many reasons: it accounts for differing conceptions of narrative ‘worlds’, it explains content identity as interest-relative, it suggests an intriguing complexity in narrative 'reference', and it affords subtly different modes of narrative evaluation.


Narrative in Question is an ICNS research programme for Spring and Summer terms 2017, bringing together visiting speakers and York researchers with narrative-related interests. The core events are a series of seminars and guest lectures, and a culminating workshop featuring international contributors and a workshop focussed upon developing an interdisciplinary research project.

The idea for the programme is that the question of narrative provides a conceptual hub for dialogue amongst participants with widely divergent individual research agendas. The seminars will feature individual research projects in which the issue of narrative is fundamentally at stake. All project participants share a concern to put narrative in question, whether as a theoretical concept, as a mode of discourse or cognition, as a particular corpus or tradition, as a set of formal devices and techniques, as a use of specific media, or as a research methodology.

See the full programme of events

Location: Seminar Room BS/008, Humanities Research Centre, Berrick Saul Building, University of York Campus West

Email: richard.walsh@york.ac.uk

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