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Book: On Verbal Art

Chapter: Openings in Fiction: An Approach to Verbal Art Based on Hallidayian, Cognitive and Hasanian Principles

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.29812


Comparatively little systematic research has been done in openings in fiction, although beginnings of narratives are very important for steering the reader's perception and interpretation. The purpose of this article is to provide a fresh view on this field by approaching it from a systemic functional perspective. The article proceeds on the assumption that narrative beginnings are systemic because their writers must choose from a system of alternative strategies: The expository information must be conveyed either in a concentrated, continuous initial block or in smaller units over several pages, and the story must start either ab ovo or in medias res. In addition to that, narrative openings have to fulfil three general functions - that of enacting a bond between narrator and reader ( = the social function or "narration-frame"), that of conveying meanings about an outer or inner world ( = the experience-conveying function or "story-frame") and that of suggesting an intended interpretation ( = the textual function or "theme-frame"). While traditional narratives tend to fill these frames on the first pages, modern narratives often keep many slots of the frames open for a long time to activate their readers and make them guess and grope for possible meanings.

Chapter Contributors

  • Peter Wenzel ( - pwenzel) 'RWTH Aachen University'