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Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel

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Agenzia Nazionale di Valutazione del Sistema Universitario e della Ricerca: Classe A

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Volume 2007, Issue 165


Reconsidering the unreliable narrator

Per Krogh Hansen
  • Center for Narratological Studies in the Institute of Literature, Media, and Cultural Studies at the University of Southern Denmark.
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Published Online: 2007-07-31 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/SEM.2007.041


The concept of the unreliable narrator is among the most discussed in current narratology. From being considered a text-internal matter between the personified narrator and the implied author by Booth, or the implied reader by Chatman, cognitive and constructivist narrative theorists like A. Nünning have described it as a reader-dependent issue. The detection of a narrator's unreliability is an act of ‘naturalization,’ he claims, with reference to Culler.

This article concentrates on this long and ongoing debate and considers the different approaches critically with special attention to the position of A. Nünning. In the final section, a four-category taxonomy for the different textual strategies that establishes unreliable narration is suggested. The headlines for the taxonomy are intranarrational unreliability, internarrational unreliability, intertextual unreliability, and extratextual unreliability.

Keywords: unreliable narrator; narration; narratology

About the article

Per Krogh Hansen

His research interests include narratology and Danish and Norwegian Literature. His recent publications include ‘When fact becomes fiction: On extratextual unreliable narration’ (2005); ‘Recent Norwegian realism bites the dirt’ (2005); and ‘A real story? On Hans Christian Andersen's sense of narrativity and his double narratee’ (2005).

Published Online: 2007-07-31

Published in Print: 2007-06-19

Citation Information: Semiotica, Volume 2007, Issue 165, Pages 227–246, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/SEM.2007.041.

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