Paralipsis and Intention(ality)


Toker, Leona. “Paralipsis and Intention(ality).” Neohelicon (2021).


When Gérard Genette drew the distinction between “voice” and “focus” in narrative, he pointed to two kinds of deviation from the monitoring of narrative details based on focalization. One is “paralepsis,” that is, giving the reader more information than is available to the focal character; the other is “paralipsis” – giving the reader less information than the focal character possesses. This paper suggests that the content of paralipsis – what the focal character knows but the reader is not told – is often the intentions and concrete plans of the focal character. The paper discusses the ending of Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities (1959) as a paradigmatic case: the precise intentions of Sydney Carton are not disclosed to the reader; the second reading is therefore qualitatively different from the first reading; and the intentions of the author (the implied author or even the historical author) for this temporary gap invite interpretation and raise the issue of the reasons and the causes for this feature of the narrative as a communicative act.

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