Joint attention, semiotic mediation and literary narrative

Lively, Adam ORCID logoORCID: (2016) Joint attention, semiotic mediation and literary narrative. Poetics Today: International Journal for Theory and Analysis of Literature and Communication, 37 (4) . pp. 517-538. ISSN 0333-5372 [Article] (doi:10.1215/03335372-3638042)

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In this paper I discuss the importance for narrative theory of the concept, drawn from developmental psychology, of “joint attention”. In the first part, I explain the basic concept and its significance for the emergence of narrative in young children. In the second part I draw out the implications of this genetic approach for our understanding of the nature of narrative signification: where classical narratology is based on a chain of representational and “communicative” dyads (signifier/signified and sender/receiver), joint attention integrates these functions into a triadic semiotic by which the sign mediates between three poles: the producer of the sign, the receiver of the sign and the object of their joint attention. In the third part, taking Boccaccio’s Decameron as an example, I illustrate how this approach to the semiotics of narrative elucidates aspects of literary narrative that are obscured by the classical semiotic. Joint attention offers affordances for quasi-recursive re-contextualization, since the object of joint attention may consist of another act of joint attention: literary narrative can create complex joint attentional structures by which the story is “seen” through nested perspectival prisms of embedded narrative and character.

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > School of Media and Performing Arts > Media > English Language and Literature
Item ID: 20036
Notes on copyright: The attached version is a final draft - if quoting, please refer to the final published version.
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Depositing User: Adam Lively
Date Deposited: 15 Jun 2016 10:42
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 21:26

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