Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Navigation

The Poetics of Plot

The Case of English Renaissance Drama

1985
Author:

Thomas G. Pavel
Foreword by Wlad Godzich

The Poetics of Plot

A unique methodology for plot analysis focusing on an important body of English Renaissance dramas.

A unique methodology for plot analysis focusing on an important body of English Renaissance dramas.

The Poetics of Plot presents a powerful, simple, and elegant grammar of plot; it synthesizes a good deal of narratological work; and it provides numerous good examples.

Gerald Prince, University of Pennsylvania

Thomas Pavel has written extensively on poetics, linguistics, and narratology. In this book he proposes an original theory and methodology of plot analysis—a reading that draws upon the most fruitful aspects of literary structuralism and upon contemporary linguistic models (specifically generative grammar). Theorists have tended to use formal plot analysis to examine relatively simple literary artifacts, like folk tales and short stories; Pavel, however, applies his model to a group of English Renaissance tragedies and demonstrates that plot analysis can make a major contribution to the understanding of sophisticated literary texts.

Pavel leads the reader through step-by-step analyses of increasingly complex plot structures as he explicates Marlowe’s Tamburlaine I, the Jew of Malta, Doctor Faustus and Edward the Second; Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy; The Arden Feversham; and, finally, Shakespeare’s King Lear. He has chosen these plays for their chronological proximity, yet their diversity allows for contrasts and typological considerations. The inclusion of most of Marlowe’s tragedies enables Pavel to gain new insights into a single writer’s strategies of plot construction.

The Poetics of Plot moves beyond the establishment and application of a new theory of plot to address broader issues in cultural studies: the role of linguistic models in literary studies, the nature and function of agency in plot advancement and history, the universal features of plot organization, and the relation of plot patterns to period styles and dominant modes of organized knowledge. In his foreword to The Poetics of Plot, Wlad Godzich sketches the historical context in which Pavel’s discussion of plot appears and makes explicit the way that the study of plot challenges both the presuppositions of linguistic analysis and the status of action in philosophical thought.

The Poetics of Plot

Thomas Pavel is professor of literature at the Universite du Quebec a Montreal. Wlad Godzich teaches comparative literature at the Universite de Montreal and is co-editor, with Jochen Schulte-Sasse, of the series Theory and History of Literature.

The Poetics of Plot

Lucid, rich, and consistently thought-provoking. Marks a decisive advance in formal plot analysis.

Poetics Today

The Poetics of Plot presents a powerful, simple, and elegant grammar of plot; it synthesizes a good deal of narratological work; and it provides numerous good examples.

Gerald Prince, University of Pennsylvania