Monday, September 19, 2011

Asch: Author vs. Narrator

We have dissected the paradox of agent/cy from almost every angle thus far this semester. However, Nathan Asch's narrative entitled In Search of America proposes a new question that I would like to to touch on before we move on. When reading Asch's piece, I found myself contemplating the role of the speaker in the narrative. While I am not certain that this is not an autobiographical account (from research I presume it is not), the question still remains: What is the function of the speaker or narrator? Further, how does the narrator fit in to our conclusions about the agent in literature? Here are just a few thoughts, bare with me...

When considering the role of the agent, I remind myself of what the basic definition of an agent is: something, or someone, that has the power to illicit an effect. While we have all agreed that in some respects audience legitimizes an agent (an author/writer), the writer themselves can indeed accomplish the goal of an agent. In writing In Search of America, Asch acts as an agent to promote and (as Barthe would agree) channel ideas. But in fictional narratives, the relationship between author (or the agent) and text is made more complex by the presence of the narrator. To me, it seems almost impossible for the writer to separate his (or her) own voice from that of his characters. To do so would violate the authors agency in a text. At least in Asch's text, it seems to me that Asch himself, as the writer, lends himself and his agency to the voice of his narrator. The purpose of the text is not typically shared by the author himself, but through his construction of characters, particularly the narrator. While the author and the speaker do not occupy the same role in literature, fictional narratives like Asch's provide an illustration of the speaker can operate as the writers agent, aimed at promoting a specific effect from the audience.

This all leads me back to Ong. According to Ong, the author constructs his or her writing around their conceptualization of the reader. In conceptualizing the reader, the author creates the narrator as a tool that he feels fit to promote or illicit the intended effect on the audience. This , for me atleast, sort of brings full circle the idea that in fictionalizing the audience, the author is also, in some respects, fictionalizing himself. Asch's In Search of America is a prime example of of an authors ability to do just that.

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