CS Alum, Sean Yeager, presents at International Conference on Narrative

June 05, 2019

Recent Critical Studies alum, Sean Yeager, just presented their research on Assata Shakur's autobiography at the 2019 International Conference on Narrative in Pamplona, Spain. The abstract for their paper, titled "Interpreting Assata's Temporal Space: A comparative analysis across narratological forms" is below:

This paper examines the temporal space of Assata Shakur's autobiography, Assata. A narrative's temporal space may be visualized by plotting its fabula — the timeline of events within the story — against its syuzhet — the order in which they're presented to readers. The resultant graph is unique to each text, with the vertical axis corresponding to the characters' timeline and the horizontal axis corresponding to the reader's chronology. This method visualizes Gérard Genette's theories from Narrative Discourse on order, duration, and frequency. At last year's conference, Susan Lanser defined narratological chronotopes to describe the discrete relationship between fabula and syuzhet in a given scene. In my study, each narratological chronotope corresponds to at least one line segment, causing the narrative to occupy a subspace of the two-dimensional plane defined by these temporal axes. The analysis of temporal spaces enhances traditional close readings by revealing underlying narratological structures.

The motivation to focus on Assata is threefold. For one, Shakur uses many descriptive timing cues, which makes a detailed visualization of her experimental autobiography possible. For another, Shakur's manner of rebounding between past and present mirrors the structure of Citizen Kane. I interpret the two arcs of Assata's story through the lens of Hortense Spillers's distinct concepts of body and flesh. Finally, in comparing these two temporal spaces, I will probe Genette's thesis in "Fictional Narrative, Factual Narrative," that there is no fundamental distinction between the narratological forms available to works of fiction and works of nonfiction.