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The Rhetoric of Fiction

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  1,072 ratings  ·  52 reviews
The first edition of The Rhetoric of Fiction transformed the criticism of fiction and soon became a classic in the field. One of the most widely used texts in fiction courses, it is a standard reference point in advanced discussions of how fictional form works, how authors make novels accessible, and how readers recreate texts, and its concepts and terms—such as "the impli ...more
Paperback, Second Edition, 552 pages
Published February 15th 1983 by University Of Chicago Press (first published 1960)
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really liked it 4.00  · 
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Paul Bryant
Jun 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: litcrit

I read this some years ago and it was completely impressive, all about tellin' and showin' and modernism wishing to drive out the author's voice and very not reliable narrators and four kinds of realism and Henry James and how tears and laughter are aesthetically frauds, god damn them to hell.

Years later when I thought of this book a little something popped into my head. I saw a scarecrow in a field - peering closer I saw he had my face... and he was grinning glassily and... singing.

I could wh
Manuel Antão
Dec 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1981
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Narrative Voices: "The Rhetoric of Fiction" by Wayne C. Booth

(Original Review, 1981-03-28)

When Booth came up with the idea of the "unreliable narrator," he wasn't speaking to writers; he was reminding critics and teachers and readers in general of something every decent writer of fiction has always known: that a narrator is a voice, and a voice is a character, and is still a character - a created fictional person - whether it has a nam
Sep 19, 2009 rated it liked it
Not all literary theorists choose to focus on rhetoric, of course, but Wayne Booth is particularly interested in exploring the means by which authors persuade their readers. Booth begins his book by commenting on some of the “rules” that have been promulgated about fiction writing, first discussing the admonition that the author must “show” rather than “tell.” Booth cites many examples of fine fiction that seems to violate this rule, ultimately concluding that the distinction itself is simplisti ...more
Mar 21, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: grad-class
Exam reading. Most of you probably don't care to read this. I won't be offended.

This is pretty much THE bible for rhetorical literary criticism, which is, I discovered through the course of my PhD coursework, how I actually think of literature but didn't have the language for until recently. (My dissertation is going to be about applying this framework in secondary English. For those of you who care. Which isn't too many of you.)

However, this particular text, for my purposes, was only super us
Feb 05, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Insofar as the title of Booth's book is The Rhetoric of Fiction, and that "rhetoric" is both the carriage of argument over words and the lack thereof, it is completely appropriate that Booth's book ends with him advancing the argument that his book has been about morality in fiction and acknowledging that most "modern" (his word) fiction is modern precisely in the lack of such morality.

Booth's survey of fictional technique is both deep and broad, and is a fantastic spur to read some (and this is
Mattia Ravasi
Nov 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of Narratology's most daunting curses is that everyone (me too!) believes they know what it is about, except that they don't. First and third person narration, sure, basic shit, right? Except that NO!

Admitting at the same time the limitations of the field (and not pretending it is an exact science) while pretending it be treated with the methodological approach of an actual science, The Rhetoric of Fiction is a veritable gold mine explaining several key concepts in narratology. A must read f
Joshua Arnett
Jan 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Just when you think Booth isn't going to present any anecdotes about his friend in his youth beating off to the orgy scenes in Brave New World BAM!--there it is--page 389.
C.E. Crowder
Nov 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I picked up and read "Rhetoric" from the perspective of an author-wannabe, so my copy is now scored with underlines and margin notes that will enable me to keep my interpretations and its key points straight when I browse through it later for reference. It goes beyond grammer/syntax advice, beyond plot/character/theme construction, to explore what actually makes a good novel a good novel. I'm not taking away any hard and fast lessons - Mr. Booth largely dispenses with the possibility of such thi ...more
Nov 24, 2010 added it
Shelves: theory-criticism
A systematic and even-handed study for which I rate him up there with Bakhtin. Convergence of critical analysis and craftsmanship in the modern novel, particularly in and after Henry James. If one were to be so impudent as to simplify this book into any takeaway message, it is that one must take the middle way without generalizations, that we must remember the tautological fact: "If you do such-and-such badly, it will be bad." Not that any method or technique is true or false, but that it must b ...more
Aug 30, 2012 marked it as to-read
Wayne Booth first described the "unreliable narrator":

"An unreliable narrator is a narrator, whether in literature, film, or theatre, whose credibility has been seriously compromised.[1] The term was coined in 1961 by Wayne C. Booth in The Rhetoric of Fiction.[2] This narrative mode is one that can be developed by an author for a number of reasons, usually to deceive the reader or audience.[1] Unreliable narrators are usually first-person narrators, but third-person narrators can also be unreli

Wayne C. Booth este poate cel mai cunoscut dintre membrii Școlii de la Chicago, care prin anii ’60, se opuneau grupării Noua critică și a fermei convingeri a acesteia că opera literară este un obiect estetic autosuficient și autoreferențial, a cărei valoare trebuie căutată mai ales în limbaj și structură și al cărei autor poate fi ignorat. Pentru criticii neo-aristotelieni de la Chicago însă, stilul era doar un aspect, un material de construcție de importanță secundară în ansamblul operei.

Jan 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lit-criticism
It's a daunting book. Readable certainly and not too pretentious, but daunting in its comprehensive nature. The technical jargon in places doesn't pause to explain its complexities. It helped me to look up words from time to time, beginning with the literal definition of rhetoric. If you can brave the first few chapters, though, your understanding will kick in as the more applicable points "build out" to explain themselves. I found myself faltering at some headings, but by paragraph's end and wi ...more
Mary Catelli
This is a how-to-write book. Despite the clever disguise as a geeky academic textbook complete with bibliography and footnotes -- and the disguise is so thorough that it actually is a geeky academic textbook complete with bibliography and footnotes.

Anyway, it's about how writers actually do get readers to view the characters and circumstances the way they want them to. How we maintain interest in the story. Whether some demands about novels really don't make sense as shown by the way that many n
Anna Hiller
Admittedly, I am only about 30 pages into the book, and I realize that the original edition was written in 1961, but I find myself balking at the notion of "the author's voice" (I guess I've read too much Barthes) and also at the preponderance of the male pronoun when it comes to discussing the author (too much feminist theory). But when I take all of my poststructuralist leanings away, I find that this book will be eventually very useful for teaching formal approaches to fiction, as its tone, s ...more
Jan 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If you want to know how to read a novel, read this book.

I never thought there was anything substantial to "reader response theory," but Booth's criticism is a perfect balance of measuring the concrete techniques used by an author with the subejective responses they produce. This book will give you the tools you need to have a richer and deeper reading of any novel.
Apr 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
As usual, Booth is both perceptive and perplexing. I think much of what he says of authorship can't be denied. On the other hand, I DON'T think he is right about many things, V Woolf for once. It seems that he always sees so clearly and craves detachment
Michael Shilling
Jun 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Raises lots of deeply fascinating and complicated questions about narrative shaping. Reading a book like this proves that there is no such thing as "realism" in literature.
Steve Owen
Feb 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Seems so fundamental to understanding the intellectual, moral, and emotional aspects of distance, I'm surprised it's not taught more often at the undergraduate level.
Jim Bisso
Aug 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
A great meta-novel book.
Dec 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
A classic in literary criticism; anyone interested in ways of reading literature should read this through.
Robert Day
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ch01 - Showing & Telling. In essence, the author cannot be anything but present in his story and most choose which things must be told so that a story can be shaped. Then, if time and space permit, showing can take place too.

Ch02 - Hard work, but rewarding. This chapter was about the ins and outs of making a story realistic. Not as easy as it sounds.

Ch03 - In which the virtues of objectivity and subjectivity in a writer are discussed. Much is said. In conclusion - love and hate can be used i
Bill FromPA
Apr 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: lit-crit
I have rather mixed feelings about literary criticism. These writers are far more credentialed and experienced than I am in reading and understanding literature, yet I end up more often than not thinking that they're doing it wrong. It would seem pretty obvious from the weight of expertise that I must be the one who's misguided, but somehow I seldom end up being convinced to change my mind. So it was with Wayne C. Booth and The Rhetoric of Fiction, as described below.

Part I: Artistic Purity and
Sirius Black
Jul 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kitap oldukça geniş çaplı bir araştırma, okuma ve analiz barındırıyor. Buradaki retorik, yazarın okuru nasıl yönlendirdiği üzerine. Booth, gösterme-anlat, yazarın müdahelesi ve gayri-şahsi yazar temalarını işleyerek aslında tek bir doğru yöntemin olmadığını gösteriyor. Tam da bu noktadaki sıkıntı, o uzun analizler ve hünerli tespitlerin sonunda aslında hiçbir doğrunun olmadığını öğrenmek. Bu yolu ya da şu yolu takip etmenin hiçbir anlamı yok. Her eser kendine uygun olan yolu kullanırsa başarıya ...more
Lina Csillag
Jul 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Here lies some spoilers - wish I knew before I started. It is definitely best fit for a student of litterature, or an aspiring author, but nonetheless, there is some common ground with film fiction regarding the communication between author/director and reader/audience. It's most exciting parts, in my opinion, are the analysis of the different kinds of narrators, and the relation between narrator and author - something that's definitely handy knowledge to carry around and have in the back of my ...more
Georgia Butler
Jan 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been reading this book, in parts, for years and have finally (I think) tied all the parts together. As a writer, I find Booth's analyses of the narrative voice intriguing, though perhaps at times over explained. A side benefit to this book is its bibliography of literature, critical commentary of which has opened my eyes to the merits of books I might never has sought out, for instance, Tristram Shanty (now on my "to read" list).
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wayne C. Booth is always a pleasure to read; plenty of worthy insights, here.
Jeff Keehr
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great book. He dissects great books to show how the author achieves his various effects.
Mary Ellen Woods
This was a tough read but did give insight into the way a critic looks at fiction.
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a pretty good book for those who are majoring in literature. It spotlights elements in the process of reading that one may not pay attention to. I didn't like how the author seemed to have a sense of superiority all over. It's as if he knows better than anyone else how to analyse novels. Nevertheless, it's worth reading.
Dec 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a touchstone book for me, as influential as the best class in literary criticism I have taken. When I take up novel to read, I feel I am entering into a contract with the author. This contract begins with "let me tell you a story." My part of the contract responds with "OK, count me in." I will honor the contract as long as the author does the work required. This work is what Booth describes, sort of like building a house - the foundation must be firm, the load bearing elements must hold ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Retorika proze 2 16 Aug 27, 2013 02:04PM  

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