Abstract

When a fictional character is in a state of delirium, his or her madness can coincide with an alternative architecture of the fictional world. In that case, a narrative delirium breaks into the text and narrative strategies direct present in the character's delusional world view. In this paper, the particular interplay of mental and narrative particularities in the delirium will be discussed. First, I will suggest a definition of ‘narrative delirium' that enables us to see the phenomenon in its full dimensions. The following ingredients are essential to the definition: alternative relation to reality, alternative coherence, psychological motivation, pathological background and the strong conviction of the subject. Also, the narrative delirium can be understood as an alternative possible world and as an embedded narrative. It challenges our cognitive abilities in a specific way, since we are encouraged to read (parts of) the fictional world as the product of a single, ‘deviant’ mind. To explore these aspects, structuralist as well as postclassical tools are required. Second, an investigation of the semantic, syntactic and pragmatic embedding of the delirium in the larger design of the narrative is very instructive for the interpretation of specific texts. The workings and the effects of the narrative delirium stem from the way it is embedded on three levels (meaning, structure and function). By investigating its embedding in the narrative I aim to clarify the rhetoric and the ideology of the delirium in narrative.

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