The presentation of the mind in narrative fiction.
The speech category approach of mainstream narratology does not give an adequate account of
the form or the function of presentations by narrators to readers of fictional characters' minds. It:
privileges the apparently mimetic categories of direct thought and free indirect thought over
the diegetic category of thought report;
views characters' minds as consisting only of a private, passive flow of consciousness,
because of its overestimation of inner speech; and
neglects the thought report of characters' states of mind.
I suggest a radical reconceptualization, using the parallel discourses of Russian psycholinguistics
and the philosophy of mind to fill the gaps left by narratology. For example, Vygotsky, Luria,
Volosinov and Bakhtin show that inner speech is social in origin, dialogic in nature, and directs
and regulates our day-to-day behaviour. Also, the philosophy of mind emphasises the importance
of dispositions to behave in certain ways.
A functional, teleological approach to fictional presentations of the whole mind, both states of
mind and inner speech, analyses the purposive nature of characters' thought: their motives,
intentions and resulting behaviour and action. It also shows how readers read plots as the
interaction of characters' 'embedded narratives': their perceptual and conceptual viewpoints,
ideological worldviews, and plans for the future.
The embedded narrative approach is a theoretical framework which:
considers the whole of a particular fictional mind, thereby avoiding the fragmentation of
views characters' minds, not just in terms of passive, private inner speech presented in direct
or free indirect thought, but in terms of the narrator's positive linking role in presenting
characters' social, engaged mental functioning, particularly in the mode of thought report;
highlights the role of the reader in constructing the plot by means of a series of provisional
conjectures and hypotheses about characters' embedded narratives.